Shannon Chamber HR is a dedicated HR and Employment Law Support Service for members of Shannon Chamber provided in partnership with Adare Human Resource Management, experts in Employment Law, Industrial Relations, Human Resources and Health & Safety at preferential rates.
Sarah Fagan, Managing Director at Adare Human Resource Management looks at some of the most recent updates on HR and Employment Law that employers should be taking note of.
Minister Provides Update on Gender Pay Gap Reporting
Minister for Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, Roderic O’Gorman, recently announced details of the introduction of gender pay gap reporting. It is expected that the commencement order for gender pay gap reporting obligations for Irish employers will be published in the coming weeks.
Employers will choose a ‘snapshot’ date of their employees in June 2022 and will report on the hourly gender pay gap for those employees on the same date in December 2022. The data collected will be based on employees’ remuneration for 12 months before this date. Employers are then required to submit this information to a designated public body and publish it on their organisation’s website within six months and before the end of December 2022.
Employers with 250 or more employees will be required to report their gender pay gap in 2022 and will be asked to include the following information:
- the mean and median gap in hourly pay between men and women
- the mean and median gap in bonus pay between men and women
- the mean and median gap in hourly pay of part-time male and female employees
- the mean and median gap in hourly pay of temporary male and female workers
- the percentage of men and of women who received bonus pay and benefits-in-kind
- the proportions of male and female employees in the lower, lower middle, upper middle and upper quartile pay bands.
Employers will also be required to publish a statement setting out the reasons for any gender pay gap and the measures being taken or proposed, to eliminate or reduce that pay gap.
This reporting threshold will decrease to a headcount of 150+ employees within the first two years of the Regulations and will then drop further, within the first three years of the Regulations, to employers with 50+ employees.
What does this mean for Employers?
If you are an Employer with 250 or more employees, you will have a short lead-in time this year for making your first gender pay gap report, so it is important that all use the time to put steps in place now. It is critical to ensure that you have the right strategy, framework and data for collating, computing, reporting, and ultimately communicating the required figures – and that you have determined the necessary steps to address any identified gaps.
Sick Leave Bill 2022 approved by Cabinet
A first time Statutory Sick Pay entitlement for all employees moved closer to enactment with the announcement yesterday, by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Leo Varadkar TD, that the Government has approved the publication of the General Scheme of the Sick Leave Bill 2022.
The Bill legislates for a statutory sick pay scheme for all employees, phased in over a four-year period. The new scheme will start with three days per year once the Bill is enacted, rising to five days in 2024, seven days in 2025, and ten days in 2026. The timeline has shifted slightly since the Government first announced details of the proposed scheme last year when it said there would be 10 days of sick leave by 2025.
The entitlement will be paid by employers at a rate of 70% of an employee’s wage, up to a daily maximum threshold of €110. The threshold is based on 2019 mean weekly earnings of €786.33 and equates to an annual salary of €40,889.
The rate could be revised by ministerial order in line with inflation and changing incomes and the legislation expressly states that this does not prevent employers offering better terms or unions negotiating for more through a collective agreement.
The employee will have to obtain a medical certificate to avail of statutory sick pay and the entitlement is subject to the employee having worked for their employer for a minimum of 13 weeks. Once entitlement to sick pay from their employer ends, employees who need to take more time off may qualify for illness benefit from the Department of Social Protection subject to PRSI contributions.
What does this mean for Employers?
It is expected that the scheme will come into force in September 2022 so there is immediate planning and budgeting required. If your business does not have a sick pay policy, one will be required.
If there is an existing policy in place, it will need to be updated in accordance with the Bill. It’s important to note that if an organisation’s sick pay policy is less favourable than that under the legislation, the policy needs to be modified so it is in line with the legislation.
The same is required for employment contracts and employee handbook if they include information on sick pay and sick leave.
Employers need to ensure correct processes and procedures are in place to maintain appropriate records for four years in relation to each employee who availed of sick leave. An employer who fails to keep correct records could be fined up to €2,500.
Finally, preparation for the introduction of the legislation should include communication with employers to ensure they are aware of their rights.
Codes of Practice published on Equal Pay & Sexual Harassment and Harassment at Work
The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) published two new Codes of Practice on Equal Pay and Sexual Harassment & Harassment at Work. The Codes of Practice provide guidance for employers, trade unions and employees to ensure equal pay is given for like work as well as protecting employees from sexual harassment and harassment in the workplace.
The provisions laid out in both codes are admissible in evidence in proceedings before the Courts, the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court.
Code of Practice on Equal Pay
The Code aims to provide guidance to employers and employees as well as representative groups on:
- The right to equal pay for like work
- Identifying and eliminating pay inequality
- Resolution of pay disputes
Irish equality law sets out nine protected grounds on the basis of which a person cannot be discriminated against, which are gender, marital status, family status, age, disability, sexual orientation, race, religion and membership of the Traveller community.
To establish a claim for equal pay under the legislation, an employee must show that they are performing “like work” with that of a chosen comparator, that they are receiving less pay for that work than their comparator and the reason for this is based on one or more of the nine grounds mentioned above. The Code outlines the various elements to be considered when assessing comparators.
Guidance is provided in the Code to help employers identify pay inequality and includes ways to eliminate it, including how to conduct a pay review incorporating a rational and objective job evaluation model.
The Code sets out how an employee who believes that they are not being paid equal pay for their like work should firstly raise this internally before proceeding to the Workplace Relations Commission or Courts.
Code of Practice on Sexual Harassment and Harassment at Work
The Code aims to provide guidance to employers, trade unions and employees on:
- The meaning of sexual harassment and harassment in the workplace
- How it can be prevented
- Steps to ensure procedures are in place to deal with the issue and how to prevent it reoccurring.
The Code highlights that people in precarious work and new workers, including immigrant workers, are particularly vulnerable to sexual harassment and harassment. Guidance is given to support employers in addressing and resolving complaints. Advice is also provided to support the development of a comprehensive, effective and accessible policy that will minimise sexual harassment and harassment in the workplace.
What does this mean for Employers?
Organisations should familiarise themselves with the details of both Codes of Practice and ensure policies are updated accordingly.
The same applies if your organisation has Employee Handbooks or an intranet. Any updates to policies need to be communicated to all staff as well.
Also, if there are any changes or updates to procedures around how employees report issues to do with harassment and sexual harassment, these also need to be communicated to staff.
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