Video: Employment Law Roundup for 2021
Jeff Greene, a Partner in our Employment and Benefits Group, gives a quick video guide to the most notable employment law developments and cases in 2021.

 

In this roundup video Jeff Greene, partner in our Employment & Benefits Group, gives a quick guide to the most notable employment law developments and cases in 2021. Topics discussed in this video include the following:

New Code of Practice on Bullying at Work

The Health and Safety Authority and Workplace Relations Commission jointly prepared a new Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work (Code).  The Code provides practical guidance on how to identify, prevent and manage workplace bullying. Although failure to comply with the Code is not an offence, employers should review their existing policies and procedures to ensure they meet the standards established by the Code, such as implementing the recommended steps that employers should take to prevent bullying as well as updating the informal and formal processes to be followed when they receive a complaint.

For more information on the Code, read the full article here

First Reported WRC decision on COVID-19 in the Workplace

Early in 2021, an employee was found by the WRC to be constructively dismissed when her employer rejected her request to work from home at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The employee's resignation was found to be justified because of a breach of the implied duty on the employer to ensure a safe place to work. The case does not establish a right to work from home but instead it very much reiterates longstanding principles regarding constructive dismissal.  However, the decision does highlight the importance of meaningful engagement with employees when they request such arrangements.

For more information on the decision, read the full article here.

New Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect

On 1 April 2021, the WRC's Code of Practice for Employers and Employees on the Right to Disconnect (Right to Disconnect Code) was published.  The Right to Disconnect Code recognises that an absolute ban on employees working, or contacting employees, outside their normal working hours is not sustainable, however this should be the exception rather than the norm. The Right to Disconnect Code does not create new law but complements existing working time and health and safety legislation and is admissible in evidence in proceedings.  Nevertheless, employers should review their existing policies and procedures to ensure they are aligned with both the new obligations under the Right to Disconnect Code and the existing employment legislation which the Right to Disconnect Code complements.

For more information on the Code, read the full article here.

Narrowing the Gap – Gender Pay Gap Reporting Becomes Law

Gender pay gap legislation was finally signed into law in the Summer of 2021.  The aim of the Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021 is to provide transparency on the gender pay gap in Ireland and incentivise employers to narrow the gap.  Employers will be required to publish details of the pay differences between male and female employees once regulations specifying the required reporting requirements have been made. While those regulations are still outstanding, reporting obligations are expected to begin on a phased basis, starting in 2022 for companies of 250 or more employees, and eventually extending each year until companies with 50 or more employees will be required to commence reporting in 2025.  

For more information on the Act, read the full article here.

Important Whistleblowing Decision - Baranya v Rosderra Meats Group Limited

The Supreme Court issued an important decision by finding that a personal health and safety matter could be considered "relevant wrongdoing", and therefore potentially be a protected disclosure.  The employee had lost in the WRC, Labour Court and High Court.  The Supreme Court was critical of the Code of Practice on Protected Disclosures for misstating the law in this instance, and in overturning the previous decisions, the Supreme Court remitted the matter back to the Labour Court to determine again in light of the Supreme Court's guidance. It remains to be seen how this ruling will be reflected in the upcoming Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill 2021, which we expect to see in Q1 2022. 

Two important matters from 2021 not covered in Jeff's video are: 

The Supreme Court decision in Zalewski v Adjudication Officer and Others

In this case, the Supreme Court found that the exercise of powers by adjudication officers of the WRC was an administration of justice within the meaning of Article 37 of the Constitution. While upholding the constitutional validity of the WRC, the Supreme Court declared that certain aspects of the WRC procedures were unconstitutional.  Consequently, following emergency legislation, WRC hearings which were previously heard in private with evidence heard orally and not given under oath, are now heard in public with evidence given under oath. 

This decision may have implications for other bodies who may exercise quasi-judicial powers determining the rights or entitlements of individuals, as they may also be 'administering justice'. There are also consequences for employers and employees, because now that hearings will be held in public there may be adverse publicity and reputational repercussions involved in WRC hearings.

New Construction Industry Sectoral Employment Order made by Minister

The Sectoral Employment Order (Construction Sector) 2021, due to come into operation on 1 February 2022, schedules new minimum pay rates for workers in the construction sector and amends rates for pension and sick pay schemes. The new rates will apply from 1 February 2022 to 31 January 2023 and could potentially have a negative impact on the cost of a development or works. 

For more information on the order, read the full article here.

For more information on any of the above developments or if you need assistance with an employment law query, please contact Jeffrey Greene or your usual William Fry contact.

Click here for our video and article about upcoming Employment and Pensions development in 2022.

Contributed by Jasmine Feehan

 

 

Key Contacts

Jeffrey Greene Partner

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