Employment Law

What is Employment Law?

Employment Law refers to the body of laws enacted to protect the rights of employees in the workplace. Our jobs are the source of our livelihoods and can determine the quality of life we enjoy, losing a job through unfair dismissal or otherwise can remove the very foundation upon which we have built our lives upon, threatening both your financial security and your future career. When employment rights have been breached, the forum for determining the extent of the breach is often the Workplace Relations Commission.

We can advise you in but not limited to the following areas of employment law:

  • Claims for Unfair Dismissal
  • Claims for Constructive Dismissal
  • Claims for Harassment & Sexual Harassment
  • Claims for Workplace Bullying
  • Claims for Workplace Stress
  • Grievances & Disciplinary procedures
  • Claims for Working Time and Pay Related Matters
  • Redundancy

What is Unfair Dismissal?

Every employee who has accumulated one year’s continuous service has the right not to be the subject of an unfair dismissal. A dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 – 2015 is deemed to be unfair unless an employer can demonstrate that the dismissal resulted wholly or mainly from at least one of the following grounds:

(a) The employee’s capability, competence or qualifications for performing the work which he/she was employed to do;

(b) The dismissal was the result of the conduct (such as dishonesty, poor attendance);

(c) The redundancy of the employee (Such a redundancy must be genuine as it can often be in reality an unfair dismissal cloaked in the guise of a redundancy);

(d) The continuation of employment would result in the contravention of statute;

The burden of proving the above is placed upon the employer to establish that a dismissal was justified. Importantly, regard must be had to the reasonableness of the employer in imposing the sanction of dismissal. Even in circumstances where a dismissal falls within the above grounds, the employer must act in accordance with fair procedures by satisfying procedural requirements. The manner upon which the decision to dismiss was taken will be examined to determine whether the dismissal was unfair in light of the individual facts of a case. Compensation for an unfair dismissal allows for up to 104 weeks remuneration in respect of the employment from which an employee has been dismissed from and in cases of dismissals arising as a result of having made a protected disclosure, the cap on compensation is 260 weeks.

What is constructive dismissal?

This occurs when an employee resigns due to the conduct of their employer which has resulted in a work environment you could not reasonably be held to put up with any longer or the employer has committed a serious breach of contract. This may arise where the employer exposes you to health and safety concerns or refuses to pay you. In this situation, it is essential that you seek legal advice before you resign to ensure that you follow the correct course of action. A valid resignation without first attempting to resolve a grievance may result in your claim falling short of a constructive dismissal leading to a loss of compensation you would otherwise deserve. It is important to note that not all resignations are valid and some may result in a finding of unfair dismissal against an employer.

Harassment, Sexual Harassment & Discriminatory Dismissal

Harassment may be distinguished from bullying insofar as harassment relates to discriminatory treatment based on the nine grounds described below.

Harassment is defined under the Employment Equality Acts as unwanted conduct with the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile and degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person. In addition to sexual harassment, harassment may occur in circumstances where it is related to the following grounds including (Gender, Civil Status, Family Status, Age, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Disability, race and membership of the Traveller Community).

Harassment is defined in section 14A of the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2015 which states: “(i) references to harassment are to any form of unwanted conduct related to any of the discriminatory grounds, and (ii) references to sexual harassment are to any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, (iii) being conduct which in either case has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person (iv) Without prejudice to the generality of (a), such unwanted conduct may consist of acts, requests, spoken words, gestures or the production, display or circulation of written words, pictures or material

As outlined above, the Employment Equality Acts provide protection for a person subjected to harassment based on the nine grounds outlined above which includes sexual harassment. In the event that you are dismissed and the dismissal results wholly or mainly from one of the nine grounds and/or in circumstances where an employee has exercised their right to statutory leave for example under the maternity protection acts then and in that event a dismissal is deemed to be automatically unfair. It is essential that any potential complaint is submitted within specified time limits. Please contact us today to discuss your claim further.

Bullying

Bullying has been defined as repeated and inappropriate behaviour which has the effect of violating a person’s right to dignity at work. The behaviour must be repeated, inappropriate and it must undermine a person’s dignity.

Examples of bullying include:

(a) Exclusion with negative results

(b) Isolation of the intended target by influencing others to do the same by threatening their interests

(c) Verbal abuse/insults

(d) Undermining at work

(e) Excessive monitoring

(f) Repeated manipulation of a person’s job targets

(g) Blame for things beyond a person’s control,

The result of the above may lead to symptoms such as lateness, excessive sick days, poor work performance and depression. The employer also has a statutory obligation under Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act 2005 to prevent such behaviour in the workplace. If you feel you have been the subject of the above, you may have a claim for *personal injuries and a breach of statutory duty.

Actionable Work Related Stress

Workplace stress can occur when the demands placed upon an individual are such that a recognisable injury results. An employer is under a duty to provide a safe place of work and to ensure that precautions and/or measures have been taken to prevent causing an injury. Workplace stress may arise in an organisation due to poor work practices, poor working relationships, lack of control or high demanding tasks. Importantly the injury caused whether it is physical or psychological must have been foreseeable. Work Related Stress can result in a person suffering from but not limited to, heart disease, depression, anxiety, increased absenteeism, low work morale, reduced productivity. Workplace stress is an important health and safety matter in any workplace. In the event that an employer has failed in their duty to you resulting in an injury, a claim may be brought for work related stress.

Redundancy

In the event that you have been made redundant and you have at least 104 weeks service in employment then and in that event you will be entitled to statutory redundancy which allows you two weeks’ pay for each year of service subject to a cap of € 600.00 per week and one additional weeks pay.

Redundancy may occur in the following situations:

(a) The fact that the employer has ceased or intends to cease to carry on business,

(b) The fact that the requirements of the business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind have ceased entirely or diminished

(c) A redundancy must be reasonable and the selection of an employee for redundancy must be fair. In the event that you have been made redundant in circumstances where the basis upon which or the procedure by which you were made redundant was flawed then and in that event you may have a claim for unfair dismissal. The employer must demonstrate that the dismissal was connected to a genuine redundancy and not a dismissal disguised as a redundancy.

What other rights do I have in the workplace?

We can also advise you on non-contentious matters.

You have many entitlements under employment law legislation, some of which are outlined below:

(a) Terms of Employment (Information )Act 1994 entitles you to written terms of employment the absence of which may entitle you to compensation;

(b) ) The Payment of Wages Act 1991 which prevents unlawful deductions from any pay due to you whether the pay is statutory or contractual.

(c) Minimum Terms of Notice, statutory periods of notice under employment legislation

(d) Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, this places a statutory ceiling on the hours you are legally allowed work in a working week a breach of which may entitle you to compensation

(e) Data Protection/Workplace Privacy

(f) Wrongful Dismissal, this does not depend on one year’s continuous service and may be distinguished from an unfair dismissal in this regard, In such circumstances you may take a claim under your contract of employment

If you feel that you have grounds to take any of the above claims please contact us and we will guide you through the legal process.

If you would like legal advice on any area of employment law, you can call us on (01) 833 8147 or alternatively you can email us at info@collierlaw.ie and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

*In contentious business a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage of any award or settlement.