Employment Law in 2020 – What to Expect?

by Tríona Sugrue, Knowledge Lawyer in the Employment Law Practice Group at A&L Goodbody.

Gender pay gap reporting

The coming year will likely see the introduction of gender pay gap reporting in Ireland which will initially affect employers with 250 or more employees and eventually those employing 50 or more. This will require employers to publish salary information along with a narrative explaining the rationale for any gender pay gap. The gender pay gap is the difference in the average hourly pay of men and women across the organisation. In preparation for its introduction, employers should begin a payroll audit or a “dry run” to explore the potential impact of mandatory gender pay gap reporting. This may well require the input of a number of stakeholders, such as HR, payroll, legal counsel and public relations advisors and performing a “dry run” will ensure employers are prepared.

Pay increases

The minimum wage is due to increase to €10.10 from 1 February 2020. While this will not directly affect many employers, particularly in certain sectors, there is potential for a knock-on effect of pressure on employers in terms of wage increases generally.

Bullying at work

A new Code of Practice for employers and employees on the management of bullying at work is being jointly developed by the Health and Safety Authority and the Workplace Relations Commission. When finalised and published it is likely to increase the spotlight on bullying in the workplace and employers’ obligations in this regard. Employers should ensure they have up to date policies in place which are effectively communicated to staff.

Parental leave

Further extension on 1 September 2020 will bring parental leave entitlement up to 26 weeks (from 22 weeks). Employment handbooks and family leave policies should be updated to cater for this extension to parental leave.

EU Directive on work-life balance

The EU Work-Life Balance Directive contains a number of provisions on work-life balance, including a right for parents and carers to request flexible working arrangements. Employers should consider how a new employee’s right to request flexible and remote working hours might affect their operations, particularly with regard to monitoring employee working time.

Tracking employees’ working hours

The Court of Justice of the European Union delivered a ruling (CCOO v Deutsche Bank SAE) that has put the spotlight on tracking employees’ working hours. The CJEU warned employers of their obligation to have an ‘objective, reliable and accessible system’ that records working hours. This has been closely followed by a decision of the Irish Labour Court (Stablefield Limited v Ana Lacramiora Maniu) which held that the burden is on the employer to prove that it is in compliance with the legislation. Where an employer does not keep adequate records of employee working hours, it will be extremely difficult to successfully defend claims of excessive working hours. The employee in this case was awarded €22,000.

SEAR

The Central Bank is proposing to bolster ‘Individual Accountability’ and to introduce a ‘Senior Executive Accountability Regime’ (SEAR). The introduction of the regime will have significant implications for senior employees and the HR functions of regulated institutions. Compliance with this regime will most likely require changes to employment contracts and policies and the introduction of a new HR procedure. The reform will provide regulated institutions with an opportunity to improve the clarity, understanding and operation of individuals’, committees’ and teams’ roles and responsibilities within their organisation.

Retirement age

The Employment Equality Acts currently permit the setting of a mandatory retirement age where certain conditions are fulfilled. As state pension and mandatory retirement have become key Election 2020 issues, we may see reform of the law relating to mandatory retirement.

About the author
Tríona has many years’ experience in advising on all aspects of contentious and non-contentious employment arrangements. Her expertise includes the provision of ongoing support to HR managers in relation to internal reorganisations and rationalisations, terminations, audits of employment-related documentation and transfer of undertakings. She has vast experience representing employers and employees in employment disputes including applications for injunctions, actions for breach of contract and personal injury for stress and bullying; and all claims under employment legislation before the Workplace Relations Commission, the Labour Court and the civil courts.
Having completed a Degree in Law and German at UCC and a Masters Degree in European Law at UCD, Tríona qualified as a solicitor in 2006. She subsequently completed the Diploma in Employment Law at UCD in 2007.
Tríona is a Lecturer and Tutor in Employment Law to students at the Law Society of Ireland.

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