NERA advice on employees affected by bad weather

Disruption of normal employment arrangements due to weather

 If an employee cannot come to work  due to adverse weather conditions, is the employer obliged to pay the employee?

If an employee is unable to present for work due to weather disruption there is no legal entitlement for that employee to be paid.  Any alternative arrangement is a matter for agreement between the employer and the employee.

 Can an employee take annual leave days to cover the unforeseen absence from work?

Employers may permit employees to take annual leave for those days, in which case they would be paid.  Normally an employer must give one month’s notice to employees where s/he wants an employee to take annual leave, however the employee may agree to a shorter time frame (e.g. to facilitate the taking of annual leave while stranded due to weather).

 Can an employee take unpaid leave to cover the unforeseen absence from work?

This arrangement is a matter for agreement between the employer and the employee.  However the employee might need to check the impact on their ability to claim social welfare benefits for a period of unpaid leave.

 What happens where a roster has to be changed at short notice?

Normally the employee shall be entitled to notice of at least 24 hours of a roster change.  However this does not apply where the change is subject to unforeseen circumstances justifying a change in the notified times. 

 What happens where the employer is unable either to open the premises because of weather conditions or where there is no work?

 If the employer has put employees on a period of ‘layoff’ because there is no work available and where the employer is clear that the layoff is of a temporary nature and that the employee can expect to return to work in the future, the employer is not obliged to pay employees.  However those employees who are eligible may be entitled to Social Welfare benefits.

 Complaints in relation to non Payment of Wages may be taken to the Rights Commissioners in the normal way.

 NERA Information Services

1 December 2010

Dispute Resolution; an opportunity to influence the next government?

Let’s get a discussion started on what measures the dispute resolution community, if I might call it that would like to see in the next Programme for Government.

Here is the text of what is in the Four Year National Recovery Plan (Page 33). This is in the somewhat limited context of bringing professional costs down. A broader focus on dispute resolution an all walks of Irish life might be a more positive approach

Action Points

Provide for a more structured approach to mediation in the legal system and promote further the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution taking into account recommendations of the Law Reform Commission in its Final Report 2010 on the subject.

A package of measures to reduce legal costs will be implemented, including

  •  increased use of tendering by the State;
  • prioritising publication and enactment of the Legal Costs Bill; and
  • additional proposals for legislation to reduce legal costs, drawing on the recommendations of the Legal Costs Working Group and the Competition Authority.
  •  Provide for increased use of arbitration and mediation.

As always, turning these fine words into reality will be a task in itself, but a first step will be to ensure that the parties which might make up the new government are also committed to them.

Also, it is a chance to look at dispute resolution in the employment law area. Kieran Mulvey says the LRC is inundated. It takes a year to get to the EAT.

I have some thoughts on these problems which I will return to shortly. Yours are more than welsome.

The Christmas Party, great craic but……

 I know, I know, the party poopers are at it again. (That’s the author over there, by the way)

But the Christmas party (or other social; events, or work events away from the normal workplace) give rise to obligations and may be covered by employment rights law. Bullying legislation refers to behaviour ‘at the place of work or in the course of employment’ and while a single act will not constitute bullying the same does not apply to harassment, and that normally means sexual harassment.

This is defined (in broad terms) as inappropriate or unwanted verbal or physical behaviour and could result in a complaint by a victim of such behaviour under the company  ‘Dignity at Work ‘ policy (if you don’t…you should have one). 

And after the ‘rake of pints,’ shots and general bravado the insight necessary to distinguish between acceptable and unaceptable behaviour may diminish, with consequences for colloeagues who have clear legal entitlement to be free of certain types of  unacceptable behaviour.

And while these comments have focussd on sexual harassment there are other aspects to dignity at work which may also be offended. We now have minorities in Ireland whose right to equal treatment is enshrined in law (and a pity in many ways we have to rely on the law for that measure of  decency and equality of treatment!)

And the employer may be liable for such behaviour if he has not taken reasonable steps to prevent or address it.

The Small Firms Association notes in its November bulletin that:

‘Employers must be aware that the party venue is basically an extension of the office and that they remain responsible for the well-being, protection and behaviour of employees during such events.  Employers should make note in a work function invitation that appropriate behaviour is required at the party.’

Good advice from Avine and her team. If you need more contact and see Equality page on this site

Ten million reasons for alternative dispute resolution

Who can say where the truth really lies? 

But the complaint was subjected to the full rigour of due process.  

There was an investigation, admittedly which found that allegations of wrongdoing were unfounded. Carried out by a solicitor. And yet a combination of circumstances resulted in the respondent (I nearly said victim) ending up on the receiving end of a €10 million payout…………for now. How did they end up where they did. 

What lessons do we learn from this? 

Taking the benign view of this you wonder how the hell it ever got so far. I’m an advocate of full investigations when complainants feel aggrieved. It’s what our culture of fair procedure demands and it is often the precursor to happy and successful outcomes. 

Bit I’m a much greater advocate of the merits of the intervention of a competent mediator to sort these things out some way south of an award of €10 million. The report of the Law reform Commission on ADR gives good examples of amicable settlements reached through a mediation process.

Continue Reading →