ROI Employment Law In Brief: July 2023

Posted in : Supplementary Articles ROI on 9 August 2023
Legal Island
Legal Island
Issues covered: Work Life Balance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023; RTÉ; Industrial Action; Breastfeeding Breaks

July was a month of rain, rain and more rain! At least we had Barbenheimer and the FIFA Women’s World Cup to entertain us together with plenty of activity in the Irish employment law landscape, including the RTÉ payments controversy, enactment of certain provisions of the Work Life Balance Act and WRC awards of €130K for constructive dismissal! We’ve highlighted below the key themes, to help you keep up to date with all the developments.

RTÉ Payments Scandal

If you weren’t living under a rock for the month of July, you’ll know about the examination of non-disclosure of payments at RTÉ and the subsequent resignation of Dee Forbes. The new Director General Kevin Bakhurst said it had created "one of the most shameful and damaging episodes in the organisation's history". Several Dublin pubs answered their customers’ calls and went as far as broadcasting Ryan Tubridy’s interview on the big screen before the Committee of Public Accounts.

The Committee of Public Accounts will resume its examination of matters regarding the transparency of RTÉ’s reporting of payments and related contractual, corporate governance, and accounting arrangements after the summer recess. Keep an eye on our Friday Round-Ups for the latest on this.

Employment Case-Law

In the case of Mario Kistner v Suirsafe Technologies Limited, the employee was awarded whooping €133,800 for constructive dismissal and non-payment of wages.The compensation award is one of the largest awards made by the WRC in a case of this nature. Colin Gannon, LK Shields Solicitors LLP provides us with an overview of what happened.

The High Court ruled against the Applicant in the case of Ammi Burke v Adjudication Officer and Workplace Relations Commission (Respondents) and Arthur Cox LLP (Notice Party). The case was a judicial review of an earlier decision of an Adjudication Officer in a claim under the Unfair Dismissals Act. The High Court found that the Applicant engaged in a blatant abuse of the court process which rendered it impossible to continue with the hearing of the case. Some practical guidance for employers:  in exercising fair procedures, be it in the High Court or as part of a workplace investigation or disciplinary procedure, allowing a party to be heard is essential, even if the arguments or evidence of that party “strain both patience and credulity.” However, there is a limit to the level of disruption which must be endured.

Need to quickly find a summary of an important employment law case? Our case reviewer & practising barrister, Paul Maier BL has been busy summarising other salient employment law cases. Make sure to check out all his concise case reviews and practical guidance for employers here.

Work Life Balance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023

Workers will now be able to avail of extended breastfeeding breaks and new unpaid leave entitlements as part of the Work Life Balance Act. The entitlement to breastfeeding breaks will be extended from the current period of six months up to two years. In addition, parents and carers will be entitled to a new right to unpaid leave for medical purposes. Lewis Silkin provides practical advice for employers in the retail sector on the steps they need to take in preparation for the commencement of the Act. Jennifer Cashman answers the question on how to handle an employee who has requested a reduction in working hours to facilitate breastfeeding breaks.

Industrial Action

Pilots at Emerald Airlines served notice of 24-hour work stoppage to take place ahead of the August bank holiday weekend. The pilots are members of IALPA, a branch of the Fórsa trade union.  Retained firefighters resumed strike action in a dispute over pay and conditions. Members of the retained service are part-time firefighters who are paid an annual retainer for being on-call. The Labour Court had recommended that the retainer be increased by between 24% and 32.7%. The SIPTU National Retained Firefighter Committee expressed their major disappointment at the terms of a Labour Court recommendation.

Youth Wages

According to the ICTU, instances of young workers being paid less than the standard minimum wage because they are assumed to have fewer financial responsibilities at home and to be less productive in the workplace are a throwback to the sort of discrimination women were made to endure in the 1970s.

However, the ISME had a different opinion…….

They said it is 'nonsensical' to suggest that subminimum rates of pay for young workers are discriminatory. The minimum wage is €11.30 an hour for workers aged 20 and older but lower rates apply to people aged 17 - 19. The Low Pay Commission is currently reviewing whether subminimum youth rates should be retained, removed or adjusted. The Low Pay Commission is expected to recommend an increase of 12% in the minimum wage to the Government. If the Government were to agree to the recommendation, it would see the national minimum wage increase from €11.30 to €12.70 per hour in the next budget.

That’s it for July – pray for a return of sunshine in August! 

This article is correct at 09/08/2023

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

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