Employment Law


Employment Contracts

Contracts of employment are the basis on which the relationship between employers and their employees are built. A contract of employment is a formal legal contract between a specific employer and a specific employee, which must be signed by both parties. Some aspects of the relationship are governed by statute law, but there are also written terms and conditions of employment which relate to an individual situation.

For employees, it is important to seek professional legal advice before signing an employment contract, because sometimes the wording and details can be unclear to the employee. Employment contracts that at first seem straightforward may, on closer inspection, require further negotiation, or cause the employee to rethink accepting the position altogether.

A contract of employment is also a vital legal tool for any employer, especially in times when jobs are scarce. The great advantage to an employer is that there are many items which can be included to protect the business.

Because contracts of employment and employee handbooks are important legal documents, it is advisable to seek the advice of a solicitor who can either draft these on your behalf or make sure that an existing handbook is up to date. At Julie Breen Solicitor, we can advise you on all aspects of drafting a contract of employment for employers, of reviewing terms and conditions of employment for an employee.

Workplace Relations Commission

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was established on 1st October 2015 and took the place of the Employment Appeals Tribunal as the forum of first-instance for employment disputes.

The WRC has a multi-faceted role in the regulation and compliance with workplace legislation. If you are involved in an employment dispute, you can refer your complaint directly to the WRC by completing an on-line form. The focus of the WRC is resolve disputes at a local level with as little adversary between the parties as possible. The WRC offers mediation, adjudication and inspection as just some methods of resolution.

At Julie Breen Solicitor, we have successfully advised and represented clients, both employees and employers, at many WRC hearings.

Unfair Dismissal

Unfair Dismissal can occur where your employer terminates your contract of employment, with or without notice or You terminate your contract of employment, with or without notice, due to the conduct of your employer.

Unfair dismissal cases are a very common matter brought to the WRC and usually result in the parties attending at a hearing to put forward their arguments.

The WRC does not normally award costs against either party, but it does make a determination and may award reinstatement, reengagement or compensation up to two years remuneration. A decision will be issued within approximately 8 weeks and will be posted to parties and to their representatives.

If either party decide that they wish to appeal the determination of the WRC, then the appeal may be made to the Labour Court or the Circuit Court. The appeal court is determined by the nature of the complaint.

At Julie Breen Solicitor, we have the experience you need in engaging with this process. For further information and advice regarding this area, please contact us.

Redundancy

Redundancy means that a job has ceased to exist. The reasons for a job ceasing to exist may vary – it may be due to the financial position of the employer, lack of work, the business closing down or a reorganisation within the business, or possibly where the employer decides that different or additional skills / qualifications are required for the job. In order to qualify for a statutory redundancy payment, an employee must have at least 104 weeks of continuous service with the employer. Employees being made redundant have the right to time off during the notice period to find alternative work.

Employers who pay the statutory redundancy entitlement and give proper notice of redundancy (at least 2 weeks) are entitled to a rebate from the Social Insurance Fund. This employer rebate is reduced from 60% to 15% in relation to employees made redundant on or after 1 January 2012.

Any disputes over entitlement are referred to the WRC. Whether you are an employer who needs to make someone redundant or an employee who has been made redundant, if you have concerns about any legal aspects of the redundancy procedure then please contact us at Julie Breen Solicitors in Ferns and Enniscorthy.

Termination of Employment

Termination of employment issues have become commonplace in Ireland today. It is important for any small business to seek legal advice about the procedures involved, and the rights of employees and employers, when it comes to terminating employment.

We can guide you through this process, whether you are an employer or an employee.

The most commonly litigated aspect of employment law is cases involving the termination of the employment contract itself. Although most disputes in the workplace will be resolved without the need to terminate the employment contract, in some cases this may be the only reasonable avenue available.

Contracts of employment may be terminated in a number of ways including: agreement, dismissal, repudiation and frustration.

Agreement
Contracts of employment may be terminated with the consent of both parties. This may be the case in certain circumstances where the interests of both parties are served by the immediate termination of the contract of employment – for example if the employer is actively seeking to cut back on staff numbers, and the employee has been offered more lucrative terms with another employer.

Dismissal
A dismissal is legally defined as the termination of the contract of employment by the employer. In circumstances where an employee refuses to accept this termination, then he/she may decide to sue for unfair dismissal.

Repudiation
A repudiation of the employment contract occurs where either party fails to abide by the terms agreed.

In circumstances where an employee is the one alleged to have committed the breach, the contract is not deemed to be terminated – it is still at the discretion of the employer to retain the services of the employee. The reasoning behind this principle is to avoid rewarding employees who seek to prematurely end their contracts deliberately.

Frustration
The legal principle of frustration is defined where circumstances outside of the control of either party mean that the contract comes to an end, and any further contractual obligations are set aside. Examples of this would include such things as the destruction of the workplace, illness on the part of the employee, employee’s imprisonment or liquidation of the business.

Health and Safety in the Workplace

All employers have a legal responsibility to protect their employees, contractors and visitors from accidents and injuries. This obligation is expressed in Section 12 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, so that confusion as to who is / is not an employee need not deprive an injured person from getting proper compensation when injured in a workplace.

The employer’s duty includes ensuring the following:

  • that employees are provided with the necessary machinery and tools to complete the job, and that those tools and machines are to be maintained in a safe condition.
  • that the workplace must be kept in a safe, tidy condition with floors, doors and gates clean and clear and free from hazards.
  • that the employer is vicariously responsible for the negligence of his/her employees, meaning that a worker injured by the negligence of a fellow worker is entitled to compensation from the employer.

It is very important that employers are aware of their obligations to avoid any adverse outcomes in carrying out business.

This article aims to provide an outline of the main issues in Employment law. For more information or advice, please contact us at our offices in Ferns and Enniscorthy.