Employment Law & Human Resources
At Morgan McManus, our Employment Law department provides a comprehensive service to Employers, the primary purpose of which is to pre-empt potential difficulties.
We can provide advice and assistance in ensuring as far as possible that disputes, be they with Unions or individual Employees, are dealt with in a manner which minimises the risk of falling foul of relevant legislation and case law, while endeavoring to ensure that the Employer’s objectives are achieved with the minimum disruption.
If an aggrieved Employee seeks a remedy by recourse to the Courts or to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), we provide a prompt and efficient service, the aim of which is to deal with the matter while causing as little disturbance as possible to the Employer and its business.
Specific Services Provided
The specific Employment Law Services which we provide are:
- jurisdictional Issues
- Contract Terms
- Restrictive Covenants
- Trade Secrets / Confidentiality
- Staff Handbooks
- Annual Leave
- Compromise Agreements
- Disability Discrimination
- Equality / Employment Claims
- Religious Discrimination
- representation at the WRC and other Courts
- Cross-Border Employers
Where you, as an Employer, have workers in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, you may incorrectly assume that the same law and Principles apply. This is not always the case and an incorrect assumption could lead to costly litigation. Our legal team will be able to advise you on the appropriate law which applies to your situation. For example, whereas an Employee may initially have been employed in Northern Ireland and signed his Contract of Employment in Northern Ireland, if he was subsequently posted to work in one of the Employer`s departments in the Republic of Ireland he may be entitled to sue in the Republic of Ireland Courts if the breach of law arose in that jurisdiction.
Often the determination of contractual terms and conditions is a necessity in defending a claim against and Employer. Employment legislation provides the Statutory Right to written particulars of employment for all Employees employed for over two months. If a written document is not in existence we can provide you with precedent documentation and Policies for your business, not only to ensure compliance with the legislation, but also clauses that can protect your business and it’s legitimate interests.
While Employment Contracts may contain terms which place restrictions on an Employee’s ability to work in a similar occupation or in his use of confidential information, restraint of trade (which is usually included in a Restrictive Covenant in an Employment Contract) is a severe encroachment on that individual’s freedom to contract and do business. A Contract which is in restraint of trade is void and unenforceable unless the Employer can show that it had a legitimate interest to uphold, that the restriction was reasonable and in the public interest. It will be deemed void if it goes further than was absolutely necessary to protect the above interests. It is important therefore that you take legal advice to cover the individual circumstances of Employment Contracts for Executives in your organisation.
Trade Secrets / Confidentiality
Particularly where confidential and sensitive information will come to the attention of your Employees in the course of their work, it is important that the Contract of Employment includes provisions prohibiting the Employee from revealing trade sensitive information to a Competitor in the event that the Employee left your employment to go to that Competitor. While rules of confidentiality exist under common law, it is easier to enforce those obligations under a written Contract of Employment in the event that it was necessary to issue Injunction Proceedings against an Employee.
We can draft your Staff Handbook to cover the following Policies:
- Data Protection
- Disciplinary Procedures
- Equality Adherence Procedures
- Grievance Procedures
- Bullying and Harassment Codes
- Sexual Harassment Codes
- E-mail/Internet Codes
- Holiday and Leave Entitlements
- Termination of Employment
As Annual Leave is a Statutory Right, failure to provide Annual Leave may provide to an Employee the right to claim Unfair Dismissal. The Employee would not be required to prove continuous employment of one year if the dismissal is on the grounds of asserting a Statutory Right. When Annual Leave can be taken and the procedure for requesting Annual Leave with depend on the Contract of Employment.
A Compromise Agreement (sometimes also referred to as a “Severance Agreement“) is a very effective avenue to create a binding settlement where an Employee has a valid Claim against his Employer for a Statutory or Contractual Breach. By entering into such an Agreement an Employer avoids costs and time going before the WRC or a Court. The Compromise Agreement usually sets out full terms of settlement between the Employer and the Employee and includes a clause which prevents the issuing or the continuing of Proceedings before the WRC or a Court. This creates the desired effect of a clean break between the two parties. A Compromise Agreement has statutory protection in Northern Ireland and England. There is no such statutory provision for Compromise Agreements in Ireland. To acquire this statutory protection in Northern Ireland and the UK certain requirements are necessary to ensure that the Compromise Agreement is a legally binding document on both parties and these also provide for the provision of independent legal advice to the Employee in the execution of same.
For many Employers, disabled Employees are recognised as valuable and equally significant members of staff. Thus the disabled workforce is increasing. The Equality legislation has introduced a number of protective measures for disabled workers. This means that an Employer must not treat a disabled individual any differently than he would treat any other member of staff.
The legislation requires the Employer to make reasonable accommodation to working conditions. This includes premises and working hours/practices and procedures.
Northern Ireland has some of the toughest Employment Laws in the world. The discrimination legislation in Northern Ireland is arguably more wide- ranging and far-reaching than anywhere in the world, especially in relation to Fair Employment.
The law requires that positive action be taken on the part of Employers including annual monitoring and tri-annual review. A similarly exacting regime has also commenced in the Republic of Ireland since the implementation of the Employment Equality Act, 1998 and amending legislation. Equal Opportunities Policies, Harassment Policies and Grievance Procedures can go a long way in defending a claim. Staff Handbooks should properly reflect the legislation and indeed be up to date as they offer a reference point not only for Employers but Employees alike.
If you are an Employer and are concerned about the policies required please contact any member of our employment team with your queries.
Equality / Discrimination Claims in Ireland are now dealt with by the Workplace Relations Connission (WRC), whereas they were previously dealt with by the Equality Tribunal before the enactment of the Workplace Relations Act 2015. The WRC deals with Equality disputes relating to:
- Gender: this means man, woman or transsexual
- Civil status: includes single, married, separated, divorced, widowed people, civil partners and former civil partners
- Family status: this refers to the parent of a person under 18 years or the resident primary carer or parent of a person with a disability
- Sexual orientation: includes gay, lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual
- Religion: means religious belief, background, outlook or none
- Age: this does not apply to a person aged under 16
- Disability: includes people with physical, intellectual, learning, cognitive or emotional disabilities and a range of medical conditions
- Race: includes race, skin colour, nationality or ethnic origin
- Membership of the Traveller community.
It is especially concerned with protecting the rights of Employees, allowing them to obtain employment and carry out their work without being subject to prejudice based on the above grounds. It applies not only to the conditions of employment but also to access and recruitment and also termination of employment.
Full advice can be given by Morgan McManus Solicitors to Employers in relation to any Equal Opportunities Policies, Harassment Policies and Grievance Procedures .
For Employers who have businesses in both jurisdictions and the consequent obligation to be mindful of the duties which exist in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, we have produced a Comparative Analysis of Employment Law North and South. Specific legal advice should however be taken in individual cases.