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Employment & Benefits Update: Important Employment Law Developments for 2019

11 January 2019

Regulation of casual working

The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 was signed into law by the President on 25 December 2018. It delivers on the Irish Government’s commitment to strengthen rights for vulnerable workers and to increase the regulation of precarious employment. The Act comes into force in early March 2019 and introduces a number of important new protections for employees, including:

  1. An obligation for employers to inform employees in writing, within five days of commencement of employment, of the following core terms of employment:
    • The full name of the employer and employee
    • The employer’s address
    • The expected duration of the contract
    • The rate/method of calculating pay
    • What the employer reasonably expects the normal length of the employee’s working day and week will be

Employers who fail to comply, or who deliberately provide false or misleading information, are liable to a fine of up to €5,000 and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.

  1. Minimum payments for low-paid employees who are called into work, but sent home without work. These employees will now be entitled to at least three times the national minimum wage in certain circumstances.
  2. A ban on zero-hour contracts, except in cases of genuine casual work, emergency cover or short-term relief work.
  3. A new right for workers on low-hour contracts, who consistently work more hours than provided for in their employment contracts, to be placed in a band of hours that reflects the reality of the hours that they have worked over the last 12 months. Notably, however, the Act allows employers to refuse to increase an employee’s contractual hours in certain circumstances, including where:
    • There have been significant adverse changes to the business; or
    • There have been emergency or unforeseeable circumstances; or
    • Extra hours were due to a temporary situation which no longer exists

In addition to these protections, the Act introduces robust safeguards against victimisation for employees who try to invoke their rights under the Act.

Increase to national minimum wage

As previously set out in our Budget 2019 summary, the national minimum wage has been increased to €9.80. The increase came into force on 1 January 2019, as provided for in the National Minimum Wage Order 2018.

Employment permits

The Employment Permits (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2018 were signed into law by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation on 13 December 2018. The 2018 Regulations amend the Employment Permits Regulations 2017 to provide for the provision of an additional 750 permits for meat processor operatives.

Conclusion

The Act will have significant implications for employers. Employers may now face increased employment costs, restrictions on their ability to use flexible working arrangements and potential criminal prosecution for non-compliance with the new requirements.

Employers who engage workers on a casual basis should immediately begin planning to ensure their practices comply with the Act. Employers also need to ensure that all employees are in receipt of the new national minimum wage, where applicable, in circumstances where the new national minimum wage came into effect on 1 January 2019.

Employers involved in the meat processing sector should take note of the increased availability of employment permits in that sector.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of these developments and the potential impact on your business, please contact a member of our Employment Law & Benefits team.


The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.

Discuss your employment law queries now with Melanie Crowley.

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