Catch up on whats new and interesting at The HR Suite.

The HR Suite is managed by Caroline McEnery who has over 20 years' experience in providing HR Services to business throughout Ireland. Our blog is full of interesting articles which may help you/your business learn and grow.

The current Irish legal position is that forced retirement is discrimination on the grounds of age which must be objectively justified by a legitimate aim of the business and that the means of achieving this aim are necessary and proportionate.

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With the recent challenges people have faced with the Covid-19 pandemic, some employers may want to put some support in place for employees who may be having difficulties outside of work that they feel they can’t get involved in or help with.

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Bullying and Harassment is an area that can cause concern for even the most experienced of people managers. If an employee comes to you to say they feel they are being bullied or harassed, the first step is to refer your employee to your Company Policy on Dignity and Respect at Work or Bullying and Harassment.

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Absenteeism is a substantial cost for every business in Ireland. There are a number of phases the employer can take in order to address long term absence.

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Many of us, encounter varying degrees of stress throughout the course of our working days. However, when faced with unprecedented times like COVID-19 this causes additional stressors and affects individual’s well-being. Workplace stress occurs “when the demands of the job and the working environment on a person exceeds their capacity to meet them”.

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What are my obligations as an employer towards employees with the current spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19, in the event of a public health crisis emerging in Ireland?

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Mental health and wellbeing are getting a lot of focus in Ireland. I was hoping to get some advice on how to incorporate some aspects into my workplace to help improve wellbeing?

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I've been notified of an inspection from the Workplace Relations Commission – is there anything that I need to prepare?

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I hired an employee 6 months ago, initially he seemed to be getting on well and there were no issues with his performance. All of a sudden, there are worrying issues and he isn’t meeting the Company standards. We have an 11-month probationary period outlined in his contract but I have not spoken to him about his performance yet. What should I do?

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Here at The HR suite, we have been working hard to make sure that we continue to respect your privacy rights in a best practice manner, based on the previous data protection legislation and the new GDPR privacy rules came into force on May 25th.
So, here's a quick run-through of what it all means for you as an HR Suite customer.

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Retirement is a fundamental headline employment issue in light of the recent increase of the state pension age from 65 to 66, and the impending further increases to 67 and 68 in 2021 and 2028 respectively. The issue of retirement is one which comes up regularly for employers and has attracted much recent attention due to case law.

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Below is a short guide on what you should do in advance of such an allegation surrounding Sexual Harassment in the workplace.

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The topics of disability and reasonable accommodation has become a forefront topic HR of late. For the purpose of this article, we will focus disability in employment.

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The Government accepted the recommendation of The Low Pay Commission and has announced that an increase to the minimum rate of pay will take effect from 1 January 2018. The minimum rate of pay from 1 January 2018 will be €9.55 per hour. This corresponds to an increase of 3.2% on the current rate of €9.25 per hour. The Low Pay Commission recommended in June 2017 that the National Minimum Wage for an experienced adult worker should be set at a rate of €9.55 per hour. If your organisation uses the inexperienced worker rates these will increase pro-rata additionally.

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According to Retail Ireland it is estimated that a typical organisation can lose up to 5% of its annual revenue through employee fraud. The statistics outlined that 39% of retailers have experienced theft of stock by employees.

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There are exactly 86400 seconds in each day but to use this time effectively it is important to be clear about what you are doing. To manage your time effectively it is important to identify key areas of your job, the elements you consider to be priorities. Remember it is imperative to focus on the things that matter the most and are of most value. When planning tasks for the day and week remember to do so according to priority versus tasks that you enjoy doing. The next step is to break tasks into manageable smaller tasks. These tasks should be spread out over your daily and weekly plan. Ensure you set realistic timeframes and review it throughout your working day.

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Many of us encounter varying degrees of stress throughout the course of our working days however it can cause serious illnesses if an employee suffers from prolonged bouts of stress. Stress is unique to each individual and is not specific to any particular job. Stress means a negative reaction to pressure, accompanied by fear of not coping, loss of control and lack of support. It is a physical and emotional experience and can effect blood pressure, hormone activity, digestive disturbance and sleep patterns to name but a few negative effects of stress.

It is important to note that stress is a "state" and the effects differ from person to person. Workplace stress occurs "when the demands of the job and the working environment on a person exceeds their capacity to meet them". There are varying factors which cause work related stress such as poor communications, bullying and harassment, work overload, long or unsocial hours, etc. It goes without saying that work related stress impacts both the employee and the organisation. For the employee it can impact them physically and mentally. This may result in them calling in sick, or taking a leave of absence from work. For the employer it leads to a loss of manpower, productivity, efficiency, and customer service to name but a few. Employers have a duty of care to employees and this is reinforced in the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005. It would be wise for employers to have a procedure in place to tackle the issue should they identify an employee experiencing such stress.

This not only empowers the employer to take action to help the employee, but it also shows the employee experiencing stress and other co-workers that the company cares and that they are willing to help alleviate such stresses. Policies and procedures that can be put in place to protect and support employees can include Dignity at Work, Grievance and Discipline Procedures, Performance Management systems and Employment Assistance Programmes. Employers should ensure that demands that are placed on employees are reasonable. It is best practice that if employers become aware of staff members suffering from stress, they take action immediately to ascertain the cause and identify ways of removing the stressor. Often one of the first instances of when an employer becomes aware that an employee is suffering from stress is when they receive a sickness certificate from the employee.

Once this occurs, the employer should write to the employee immediately expressing concern regarding the nature of the illness. The employer must take steps to establish the cause of the stress and remove it, if practicable, for the employee's health and safety. There are a number of actions which an employer can take in dealing with work-related stress. One such action is to refer an employee for an Occupational Health Assessment which will provide them with objective medical advice on the employee's condition. Another action is to identify the causes of stress, be they working hours or workload and take steps to alleviate them. The employer can also offer the employee sick leave, annual leave or unpaid leave to take time to recover from the stress related illness.

Other alternatives include a move to a different position or department which does not have the same stressors as their current role. Each individual case is unique to the individual circumstances and each employer must bear this in mind in evaluating the best course of action to tackle the issues. If an employer fails to take action when made aware of an employee suffering from work related stress, they then can become liable for damages as they failed to adhere to their duty of care. If an employer is aware that an employee is susceptible to stress and fails to take necessary precautions to protect them, the employer is liable for any damages arising from their failure to act. A happy workforce is a productive workforce and companies need to be more aware that each employee has a personal as well as a work life.

Sometimes it may be the impact of either work or personal issues which causes stress, or a combination of both. This is why it is a good idea to have one to one appraisals with employees from time to time to get a better insight into the employees work life and should any issues arise, it can be taken from there. Appraisals and employee meetings allow for a better rapport to be built with the employees and pave the way for more communicative relationships.

Bullying and Harassment is an area that can cause concern for even the most experienced people managers. Following her recent interview on Newstalk, Caroline McEnery, Managing Director of The HR Suite, was inundated with queries in relation to this often delicate and difficult topic. The purpose of a Dignity & Respect at Work Policy is to create a working environment that is free from bullying and harassment. The Labour Relations Commission Code of Practice on addressing bullying in the workplace defines bullying as: "repeated inappropriate behaviour, direct or indirect, whether verbal, physical or otherwise, conducted by one or more persons against another or others, at the place of work and/or in the course of employment, which could reasonably be regarded as undermining the individual's right to dignity at work.

An isolated incident of the behaviour described in this definition may be an affront to dignity at work but, as a once off incident, is not considered to be bullying" It may involve single or repeated incidents ranging from extreme forms of intimidating behaviour, such as physical violence, to more subtle forms such as ignoring someone. It can often occur without witnesses. Harassment is defined as "any act of conduct which is unwelcome and offensive, humiliating or intimidating on a discriminatory ground including spoken words, gestures, or the production, display or circulation of written material or pictures" Sexual Harassment is defined as any form of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature which has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity and creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for the person. Many forms of behaviour can constitute sexual harassment.

A single incident may constitute sexual harassment. The first step in drafting a Dignity & Respect at Work policy is to ensure that both bullying and harassment are clearly defined. It is also important to outline the scope of the policy and to address who it applies to and in what scenarios. For example, the policy should apply to employees both in the workplace and at work associated events such as meetings, conferences and office parties, whether on or off the premises. The policy should also apply to harassment not only by fellow employees but also by a customer or other business contacts to which an employee might reasonably expect to come into contact within the course of their employment. There should be an informal and formal procedure to deal with the issue of bullying or harassment at work. Any employee who makes a complaint of bullying or harassment should have the option of which procedure they wish to follow.

Of course, it is often preferable for all concerned that complaints of bullying or harassment are dealt with informally whenever possible, as an informal approach can often resolve matters with minimal time and interruption to normal work. As a general rule therefore, an attempt should be made to address an allegation of bullying or harassment as informally as possible by means of an agreed informal procedure. The objective should be to resolve the difficulty quickly and effectively, with the minimum of conflict and stress for the individuals. Though described as informal, it is still important to note that there should be a predetermined, written procedure for dealing informally with a complaint of bullying of harassment.

This could involve instructing an employee who believes he or she is being bullied or harassed to explain clearly to the alleged perpetrator(s) that the behaviour in question is unacceptable. If the complainant finds it difficult to approach the alleged perpetrator(s) directly, there should be an option to seek help and advice, on a strictly confidential basis, from their Manager or someone in the organisation. The above contact person should listen patiently, be supportive and discuss the various options open to the employee concerned.

A complainant may decide, for whatever reason, and must always have the option, to by-pass the informal procedure. If an informal approach is inappropriate or if, after the informal stage, the bullying or harassment persists, the formal procedures should be invoked. Again, these need to be predetermined written procedures that employees are made aware of through a Company Handbook or Company Policies and Procedures document. There can be slight variations to the formal procedure from company to company, but all procedures need to ensure that the following principles are adhered to:

The complainant should make a formal complaint, in writing. The complaint should be confined to precise details of actual incidents of bullying or harassment, for example, state the name of the alleged perpetrator, the nature of the complaint, dates and times, witnesses, and any action that the complainant may already have taken, if any.
The alleged perpetrator(s) should be notified in writing that an allegation of bullying has been made against them. They should be given a copy of the complainant's statement and advised that they shall be afforded a fair opportunity to respond to the allegation(s), within specified time limits.
Both parties must have the right to be accompanied by a representative at all meetings.
The complaint should be subject to an initial examination by a designated manager or senior person in the organisation, who can be considered impartial, with a view to determining an appropriate course of action.
No assumptions should be made by the Company about the guilt or otherwise of the alleged harasser, or about the motivation or intent of the complainant.
An appropriate course of action at this stage, could be exploring a mediated solution or a view that the issue can be resolved informally. Should either of these approaches be deemed inappropriate or inconclusive, a formal investigation of the complaint should take place with a view to determining the facts and the credibility or otherwise of the allegation(s).

Although procedures will vary slightly between organisations, the important thing to remember is to ensure that your company procedure is followed. This procedure must be open and transparent and must be in line with the rules of natural justice.

Confidentiality is also a key factor in ensuring that a complaint of bullying or harassment is dealt with, with as little disruption as possible. It is important to ensure that the person dealing with or investigating a complaint of bullying or harassment is adequately trained and aware of the company's internal procedure. All employees must, by law, be issued a copy of the Company's Dignity & Respect at Work Policy within 28 days of commencing employment.

Best Practice HR management is to issue this immediately on commencement, along with the employee's contract of employment. If you require further information or advice on drafting a Dignity & Respect at Work Policy, or on any current issues, please do not hesitate to contact one of our HR Consultants on 01-901 4335 or on 066-7102887 or email us at

The start of a new year is the perfect time to conduct appraisals with your staff. The appraisals process benefits both staff, management and the business as it allows for clear communication in a two way process where both parties have equal opportunity to discuss the role, work performance, objectives and future goals. In advance of the meeting, the appraiser should inform their employees that they will be conducting a review with them approximately one week in advance.

The appraiser should provide the employee with the correct template paperwork and ask them to prepare a review of their own performance. Once staff have completed the appraisal form and returned it to management it should then be reviewed and assessed by the appraiser. By assessed we mean the appraiser should review how the staff have rated their skills, performance etc. The appraiser should outline in their own notes if they would rate the staff member higher than what they have rated themselves in each relevant category. Essentially the appraiser will be preparing their own review of the employee's performance. When conducting the meeting, both parties should be honest and fair in their review and feedback. Clear, relevant and achievable goals should be set for the year ahead and these should be agreed by both parties prior to the meeting concluding. At least one meeting should take place during the year to review the progress of the goals.

Following the correct process and using the right performance review forms ensures consistency in the process. Conducting performance appraisals in your business has numerous advantages it enables a structured framework to record feedback, it allows the appraiser to receive feedback and to give feedback to the employees on past performance and to set out objectives for the future. It allows the opportunity to identify training needs and to give employees an opportunity to improve. It has positive effects such as improving staff motivation, performance and commitment to the company.

The appraiser needs to have the skills, qualities and knowledge to conduct the review. Asking the right questions is essential. The appraisee should be asked to be open and honest and ask questions and give feedback - they should talk 70% versus 30% appraiser. Useful questions to ask during the process include open questions which encourage them to talk "how do you feel you are getting on". Probing questions should also be used and these questions provide specifics, uncover feelings and attitudes "Tell me more about working on that project". A constructive appraisal review has the following characteristics.

Achievement is recognised and reinforced. Past performance is reviewed. The appraiser listens actively. There is honest and open discussion, reflection and analysis. Action plans are agreed jointly. Characteristics of a poor review meeting involve the appraiser focusing on appraise negatives and failures. One where the appraisee has no input and that is controlled by the appraiser, ends with disagreement and no set join objectives. A bad review meeting is one in which the appraisee leaves feeling demotivated by the process. In conducting the appraisal the appraiser must ensure that they:

Control the environment-schedule adequate amount of time.
State the purpose of the discussion-explain that it's a two way process to allow for open communication.
Ask for the employee's opinion-use appropriate questioning techniques. Probing and open questions.
Outline review of their performance-be specific and give corrective and positive feedback.
Build on the employee's strengths-ask the employee to name his or her strengths. The appraiser should outline their opinions of those strengths.
Ask for employee's feedback-listen to what the employee has to say.
Set specific goals-the appraiser must outline areas for improvement, identify training needs.
Close the discussion- the appraiser must summarise the meeting, both parties should sign the appraisal form. The appraiser should thank the employee and explain next steps.

After the appraisal it's important to follow up correctly:

Arrange any necessary follow up meeting.
Write up key points on the appraisal.
Write up targets/objectives which have been agreed.
Copy of all notes and forms to be placed in employees file.
Plan to conduct another meeting in 6 months' time to ensure the staff member remains focused on achieving their objectives.

It is important to remember that the review meeting is only a small part of the process which should be occurring continually throughout the year. Managers and staff should continually review their progress against goals, make adjustments as necessary, and recognise achievements. Managers should give their team feedback to ensure that the organisation gets the most out of their most valuable resource - their people.

If you have questions on performance appraisals or any HR issues you need to talk through please contact the HR Suite on 0667102887.

Joint Labour Committees [JLC's] determine terms and conditions of employment for workers in particular sectors and are legally binding. The abolition of the JLC's in July 2011 left retailers on tenterhooks awaiting the recommendations. In 2012 the government introduced legislation to facilitate JLC review. The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012 reformed the Joint Labour Committees' wage-setting mechanisms and came into force on 1st August 2012. On January 29th 2014 Mr Bruton then signed an order giving effect to recommendations from the JLC Review. The order provides for the abolition of 2 JLC's bringing the number of JLC's to the current 8: Dublin Hotels, Law Clerks and for amendments to be made to the existing Establishment Orders; Contract Cleaning, Hairdressing, Hotels [Outside Of Dublin and Cork], Security. The JLC's are arguably not responsive to changing economic needs nor promote job creation. Workers are already protected by national primary legislation of which there are 40 pieces including minimum wage legislation. From being deemed unconstitutional to reinstatement, the JLC roundabout continues for employers in 2017.

The Equality (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2015 commenced on the 1st January 2016. This amended the rules on mandatory retirement and age discrimination which brought Irish legislation into line with European legislation. There is no set retirement age in Ireland. State pension has increased to 66 and will ultimately rise to 68 over the coming year but this does not imply that employers have an obligation to match retirement age to pension age. There are separate issues under Irish legislation. In setting a retirement age employers must objectively and reasonably justify the age with a legitimate aim and the means of achieving the aim are appropriate and necessary. Before the introduction of this legislation many companies offered fixed term contracts to those who had reached the mandatory age of retirement within the contract of employment. This method can still apply now however the FT contract must now be objectively and reasonable justified by a legitimate aim. Going into 2017 employers can expect more hesitation from employees towards retirement at 65/66 and expect case law to come to the forefront of this topical issue.

Industrial Action:
During 2016 our country witnessed a significant increase in the amount of industrial action in relation to pay restoration and pay increases with LUAS drivers, Dublin Bus drivers and secondary school teachers represented by the ASTI taking to the picket to demand pay increases. An Garda Siochana and Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation have also raised concerns about pay rates. It is expected that 2017 will see further industrial relations upheaval while the campaign for pay increases continues.

Budget 2016:
Budget 2016 put safety measures in place for Irish business which will hopefully result in trade within the country. For example Enterprise Ireland and the IDA are to get an additional E3 million in funding. Extending income tax relief schemes such as Special Assignee Relief Programme (SARP) and the Foreign Earnings Deduction were extended until the end of 2020, as well as a slight easing on the requirements of those schemes. The Start Your Own Business scheme was extended for another two years. The scheme aims to assist people with a business idea, assess their plan's viability and to decide if they should proceed with it or not. Capital Gains Tax was reduced from 20% to 10% on disposals of qualifying assets up to a limit of E1 million in chargeable gains. In addition assurances were given that Ireland's corporation tax rate of 12.5% will not be changed. Any strengthening of the economy will directly impact on recruitment of talent within the pool of candidates available. This may result in a war for talent which may have cost implications on smaller employers in trying to compete with larger business on the comprehensive range of benefits made available to employees.

Budget 2016:
The Workplace Relations Act 2015 came into law on the 1st October 2015. NERA inspectors are now known as the Workplace Relations Commission Inspectors and have heightened powers under the legislation. 2016 saw a heightened number of audits being conducted nationwide with particular focus on retailers. In 2017 employers can expect further unannounced visits as employees have a heightened knowledge of their rights under the legislation.

Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015:
This legislation allows for trade unions to refer to the Labour Court and 2016 saw the first test case under this amended legislation involving Freshway Foods and SIPTU. This case was the first to be processed by the Labour Court and it has provided a substantial increase in pay and conditions for a group of low paid workers. The recommendation from the Labour Court provided for binding increases in pay and conditions including additional annual leave based on service and a sick pay scheme in circumstances where it was noted that it was not the common practice of the employer to engage in collective bargaining. This is relevant to all employers going forward who decide not to recognise unions or who do not have an internal accepted body for them to negotiate with. This is a big decision with potential knock on implications for all industries for 2017 going forward.

The HR Suite can advise you and your organisation how to be proactive in managing the changes that are expected in 2017 that will impact on your business. If you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact us on (066) 7102887 or (01) 901 4335. The HR Suite - Pier 17, Dingle Road, Tralee, Co. Kerry Client Support: [086] 775 2064 Tel: [066] 7102887 Email:

With the Office Christmas Party Season now in full swing, employers must navigate their way safely through the festive period to avoid workplace headaches in the New Year. Office parties can present an ideal opportunity for employees to socialise and enjoy the Christmas season together before the holidays begin. Unfortunately it can have consequences that are not so jolly for those that manage HR sometimes. It is important to remember that employers can be held liable for incidents that happen at Christmas parties, even if the party is offsite and out of hours. If you consider the Christmas party a pre-Christmas worry consider putting the following steps in place:

Once the arrangements for the Office Christmas Party have been organised, take the opportunity to remind staff of company policies and procedures.
Re-issue the Discipline and Grievance policy and the Dignity and Respect at work policy.
Make staff aware that any incidents which breach company policy will be dealt with in the same manner, as if it happened on company premises during normal working hours.
Highlight that incidents of misconduct will be dealt with in line with the company's disciplinary procedure, which could result in dismissal in some cases.
Staff should also be reminded that alcohol must be consumed responsibly at Office Parties.

To help avoid the misuse of alcohol, ensure there is plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and food readily available. Staff members should not feel pressurised into drinking alcohol. You may also consider reminding staff that if they are engaging in social media tools that they should respect their colleagues and managements privacy. As an employer, remember that you have a duty of care towards your staff and therefore have a responsibility to ensure that they get home safely. Encourage employees to either pre-book taxis or to research late night public transport options. Keep in mind that Christmas is a Christian celebration and is not observed by every religion. Although some employees may not celebrate Christmas, these employees should not be discriminated against and should be given the choice to attend the Office Party. If an employee does not want to attend the Christmas Office Party, due to personal or religious beliefs, this choice should be respected by the employer.

Importantly, if a disciplinary incident occurs during a Christmas Party, ensure that you deal with it swiftly and fairly, in-line with the relevant company policy. Although it is a good way of reminding staff of the consequences of any negative behaviour make sure it's done in a helpful and constructive manner, so that it is not viewed negatively. Take this opportunity to also outline details of the party, details of transportation and the menu. The Staff party is a good opportunity for staff to bond as the year comes to an end. Morale can often get a lift at such events, as can team unity.

Creating personal connections outside of the work environment can help improve the general atmosphere and the attitudes displayed in the workplace. The staff party is also an opportunity for management to show recognition for the work well done by the company and its staff. This may increase motivation amongst the workforce and may help improve the quality of work going forward. Remember you don't have to wait until the big event to recognise staff member's accomplishments and milestones. Mini workplace celebrations can take place at different intervals during the year also and can help to continually keep staff engaged and motivated.

This might be recognising a project completed, big birthdays or personal achievements. You may also consider introducing a weekly activity which staff can get involved in. This may include a weekly pilates class or setting up a football league. That way you are also taking into account the wellbeing needs of your staff and creating a group opportunity to get them involved in physical activities. Today more and more organisations are realising the importance and benefits of having a well workforce considering the statistics being presented on today's prominent health issues such as obesity and depression.

Creating an open environment, by introducing some of these activities and creating awareness, will encourage staff to discuss their well-being and to share their experiences and ideas with their colleagues. It's important to remember that every organisation has a culture whether it is manged or not and that these events and celebrations can help create the culture that forms within your organisation. By actively managing the culture you may see significant positive differences in an organisations performance.

All the team at The HR Suite would like to wish all their readers Happy and Peaceful Christmas.

Severe weather challenges all of us and activities that we take for granted can become difficult or even hazardous when severe weather occurs. Ireland's previous extreme weather events have in some cases impacted on employers' ability to operate businesses, their ability to be able to provide work and employee's abilities to make it to work. As we all know extreme weather can happen at any time of the year here in Ireland. This time last year we experienced extreme storms which highlighted the need for employers and managers to be proactive in managing this aspect of workplace disruption.

Inclement weather refers to any kind of extreme weather - usually snow or ice, which might create hazardous driving conditions or significantly impair normal operations. It might also include severe storms, flooding or other natural perils. In general, organisations must continue certain operations during periods of bad weather due to the needs of clients, customers and other factors. However, it is advisable that all Companies have a plan which clearly defines how the organisation intends to deal with difficult weather situations. With winter now upon us organisations should consider some of the main aspects of their business that can be effected during adverse weather.

Place of Business: How could the place of work be affected i.e. the site and buildings. Is the location at risk of storm damage including flooding? Are water pipes insulated (including in and around vacant buildings)? Employers should check premises over weekends and holiday periods and review the companies' insurance cover. Contact insurance advisors in relation to any concerns you may have about your premises.

Employees: Can management introduce options that could minimise disruption e.g. working from home, teleworking or shift-work. Ensure the business has up-to-date employee contact details and that responsibility is assigned for planning and making preparations. Employers and management need to consider what has to be put in place to ensure employee safety across the place of work.

Customers and suppliers: Have a plan for communicating with customer's eg social media communication updates etc. Liaise with key suppliers with regard to arrival times of supplies and services. Ensure you consider customer and supplier safety within their access areas in the business. Assess how surrounding pavements and access points can be cleared in the event of snow and ice and make preparations for suitable equipment being available. Consider these key considerations for implementing a plan should the severe weather impact on your organisation this year. Common queries are outlined below that The HR Suite would receive from Clients in relation to disruptive weather.

Payment: There is no legal entitlement for an employee to be paid where they cannot attend work because of extreme weather conditions.

Annual Leave: Employers can ask employees to take annual leave for days of bad weather, in which case employees would be paid. In a normal situation there would be a month's notice of the employer's intention to have employees take annual leave, however the employee may agree to a shorter time frame given the unusual situation.

Unpaid Leave: If the employee cannot attend work due to difficulties in travelling to work etc. this is a matter for agreement between the employer and the employee. In some cases, the two parties may agree that it can be taken as a day of unpaid leave.

Roster Change: In a normal situation employees would be entitled to notice of at least 24 hours of a roster change. However, if adverse weather has affected your business and you have to change your roster to facilitate a later opening time etc. this time requirement does not apply in such unforeseen circumstances.

Layoff: If the organisation has suffered due to adverse severe weather and is unable to function due to repair work and restoration efforts - the employer can put employees on a period of 'layoff' as there is no work available. It is clear that this would be a temporary situation and that the employee can expect to return to work in the future once work has been completed to make the site safe and workable. In such a case the employer is not obliged to pay employees.

The HR Suite can advise you and your organisation how to be proactive in managing the potential disruptive nature of severe adverse weather that could face your business. If you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact one of our HR Advisors on 066 7102887.

As Christmas approaches and with a predicted spike in sales for retailers many retailers will increase their head count. To help you manage the process of seasonal workers I have done a check list for you to consider to which contracts you may offer and what legislation and policies to be aware of.

Fixed Term Contracts

A fixed term employee is someone who is employed under a contract which contains a specific start and end date or who is employed to carry out a specific task or project or the continuity of whose contract is contingent on a particular event such as the availability of continued funding from an external source. Employees on a fixed term contract must be treated in the same manner as permanent staff members.

Casual Contracts

A Casual Contract is an employee employed on a casual basis. Hours of work will be determined by mutual agreement between the Company and the employee. Hours of work will vary on a weekly basis depending on business requirements and the company will not guarantee a certain amount of hours of work that will be offered. The nature of a casual contract means that there may be periods when no suitable work is available and the Company will have no liability to offer work to the employee. The employee has the right to refuse or accept to work the hours offered. Employees are required to comply with the Company's system of recording hours of work and breaks in accordance with the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997. In relation to contracts it is worth remembering if there is no contract in place and if there is a dispute for some reason the employee status is not clear therefore it will be up to the courts to decide whether they are classed as employed or self -employed. If you have the right contract in place the employee will be clear when their contract has ended and therefore request their P45 at the end of their contract to avoid their details remaining on your Payroll system in the New Year.

Agency Workers

You may decide to outsource staff but be aware since the introduction of the Temporary Agency Workers directive 2012 if you hire casual workers through a recruitment agency be mindful that agency workers are entitled to equal treatment as if they were hired directly .They are entitled to equal treatment in relation to pay and working conditions if they are hired to the same or similar job of a direct employee.


Christmas is a busy period it is not unusual for companies that adhere to certain acts so well throughout the year but due to the madness of a busy Christmas period certain record keeping or policies fall through the cracks on the list of priorities.

Working Time Act

You should be mindful of the Working Time Act 1997 for you employees to ensure they are getting the statutory minimum entitlements for breaks and rest periods. You don't want to be in position to fail a Nera Audit when your employee's records are checked and Nera tend to choose to examine records during peak times.

Double Employment and Working Time

It is not unusual during Christmas for certain employees to attain more than one employer. Under Section 33 of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, employers are prohibited from employing employees to work on any day or during any week where the employee has worked for another employer(s) which can cause the employee to exceed hours worked permitted by the legislation.

Employees under the age of 18

If you hire and employee under the age of 18 an employer must obtain written permission to work from the parent / guardian. You must display a summary of the Protection of Young Persons Employment Act and also give a summary of the Act to the employee within 1 month of the commencement of employment. An employer must keep a record of the following details:

Full name;
Date of birth (copy of birth cert or passport);
Starting and finishing times of work;
Wage rate and total wages paid to each employee

Policies and Procedures and Training

Seasonal workers must be made aware of policies relating to health and Safety, Working Time Act etc. Employers are still liable to claims under the organisation of working time act, the Equality Act and Health and Safety legislation. It is important seasonal workers are aware of the company's policies and procedures and know what to do in event of such scenarios such as bullying or Harassment. It is also important they aware of policies such as Honesty as they will have access to stock or even cash. Ensure they are trained and up to date on policies such as selling alcohol and cigarettes. Don't be foolish and take the risk of not training employees in statutory training such as Manual Handling and Food Safety Training just because they may only work a 1 or 2 week period they still require the necessary training to be legally compliant.

Caroline McEnery has over 25 years HR experience she is a member of the Low Pay Commission and also an adjudicator on the Work Place Relations Commission. If you require further information please do not hesitate to contact one of our HR Consultants on 01-901 4335 or on 066-7102887 .

Today, October 10th is World Mental Health Day. It is estimated that nearly three in every ten employees will experience a mental health problem in any one year. Are you doing enough in your Workplace to support wellbeing at work? It has become increasing apparent that absenteeism, staff dissatisfaction at work and stress at work have become a significant factors for employers to contend with. This poses a concern in itself, separate to the significant cost of managing these for the employer. Improved workplace wellbeing can lead to sustained improvements within the workplace including increased creativity, improved employee loyalty, and better overall customer satisfaction. Ensuring wellbeing is inherent in the workplace will give rise to benefits such as enhanced recruitment, retention of healthy happy employees, decreased rates of illness/injury, reduced employee absenteeism, bettered productivity, enriched employee relations, increased morale and satisfaction. In light of this information, many employers are now concentrating on workplace wellbeing initiatives and have achieved considerable rewards from doing so.

People Management: A well-rounded approach to workplace wellbeing requires a focus on people management that focuses on assisting employees to:

Bolster employee personal resources i.e. health, resilience, optimism, self-esteem
Take pride in their roles within the organisational system
Generate a high functioning work environment, both as individuals and in collaboration with their colleagues as part of teamwork
Have a positive overall experience of work

Mental Health: As catalogued in recent literature and articles the area of mental health and stress is a large component of everyone's lives: 'one sixth to one third of the working-age population in the European region experiences symptoms associated with mental ill health such as sleep disorders, fatigue, irritability and worry' (Kuhn 2010:14-15). There is now an obligation on employers to incorporate and embrace health and safety systems into organisations which protect the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. It is advised that this area should be a facet of improving an organisations workplace wellbeing. Not only is it an area to which a stigma is still attached but this area can expose an employer's liability and impede on employee health and safety in the workplace. It is well noted that mental health issues impact on resilience in life both personally and in working relationships. Early intervention in mental health problems is imperative in ensuring better recovery outcomes. By reducing stigma and creating awareness within the workplace the organisation can be at the forefront of recognising what constitutes mental health, how to reduce workplace stress and how to assist others. This will place the organisation in a more positive position to significantly assist the management of mental health issues with its employees - the Company's most valuable resource.

Presenteeism: As Woody [Allen] says, 'Showing up is 80 percent of life.' Sometimes it's easier to hide home in bed. I've done both'.

Presenteeism is an issue which is highlighted as a becoming more prevalent in the workplace. In short it refers to the lost productivity resulting from real health problems when staff members with health problems attend for work despite illness, injury or distress. Employers often grumble of managing lost from people showing up but not performing at the top of their game and due to its silent nature, this issue can be both hard to monitor and even harder to address than absenteeism. Illness can impact on both the quantity and quality of work. It is difficult to distinguish if an employee has mentally checked out until performance and productivity indicate significantly otherwise. However it is important to understand the impact of presenteeism: it is much more damaging difficulty than absenteeism. If employees feel pressurised to attend for work unless they absolutely cannot then this encourages presenteeism amongst all staff. There are a number of ways that employers can reduce the prevalence of presenteeism and create a more productive working environment namely increasing knowledge and awareness. Organisations need to understand that a focus on the body, mind and environment to improve overall wellbeing in the workplace. Introducing methods which protect employee's wellbeing can help prevent a number illnesses which can help reduce absenteeism & presenteeism.

How Do I Introduce Wellbeing Into My Workplace?

Information: Provide information on general wellness ideas i.e. fitness classes, group walks after work, charity events i.e. Darkness into Light, nutritional ideas, following Operation Transformation etc.
Communication: Meet with employees on a regular basis one to one to discuss performance and goals.
Culture: Create an open environment for employees to learn about their own well-being and share ideas with their colleagues.
Develop Ideas: Have brainstorming sessions with your team for improving happiness and well-being at work.
Identify and Assess: Review the organisational systems e.g. material conditions, work, productivity, income levels, stability etc. Understand that these elements intertwine with employees wellbeing on factors such as autonomy, competence, feeling safe and secure, being connected with others to create happiness at work.
Training: Provide training on a number of topics to help reduce stress or to create awareness; time management, assertiveness, company culture awareness, wellbeing and mental health awareness, dignity and respect.

The HR Suite can advise you and your organisation how to be proactive in introducing wellbeing awareness to your organisation. If you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact us on 066 7102887.

We at The HR Suite are delighted to be supporting the Pieta House Masquerade Ball on October 21st. This is such a great cause and all proceeds are in aid of Pieta House. Tickets are available online at and if you wish to make a donation please contact Mary Stapleton-Foley on 066 7102887.

Having CCTV signage in place, visible to your employees, is a requirement when you use CCTV in the workplace. As well as this the reasons for the use of the CCTV must be outlined in writing to your staff in line with Data Protection Legislation i.e. to investigate theft in the workplace or for use during employee disciplinary investigations. No doubt the benefit of having a surveillance via CCTV cannot be overstated particularly in terms of proving evidential burden in criminal cases or disciplinary investigations involving employees or in proving damage suffered for civil cases.

Interestingly, the use of CCTV by employers in Ireland has increased significantly. Cases coming before the Workplace Relations Commission indicate high level of its use especially during the investigatory and disciplinary process. Recently, the Tribunal sanctioned an employer with E3,000 fine for secretly monitoring his employees and in another case E25,000 was awarded in favour of an employee who took an unfair dismissal case against his employer in circumstances where evidence from the CCTV was ruled as inconclusive - it didn't provide any clear or accurate evidence.

As beneficial as CCTV can be, it could sometimes be very risky for employers who fail to adhere strictly to the restrictions and rules imposed by the law. Employers have legitimate reason to protect themselves and their business when they install CCTV in the perimeters of their premises but must ensure they consider the rights of their employees also. The Data protection Acts 1988 - 2004 ensure that employers do not breach privacy rights of their employees. Considering this Employers are obliged to take due care in dealing with personal data of their employees. Having a clear policy on CCTV monitoring could save an employer from paying compensation for a potential breach of an employee's rights if CCTV footage of them is used incorrectly. Having a clear policy in place makes you and your employees aware of your own practices regarding CCTV.

Having company policies in place ensures transparency and clarity regarding company procedures for the employer and employee and any other party that may need to view company policies and procedures at any stage. Be aware of rights and responsibilities on:

Having a CCTV policy in place Retaining and disposing the CCTV footage recorded;
Carrying out monitoring in a fair manner;
Seeking consent and having a policy signed off;
Notices on CCTV in operation being on display for both employees and clients or customers;

Contracts of Employment are a legal obligation in Ireland since 1994. All employers must provide new employees with a written statement (contract) of their terms and conditions of employment within two months of starting employment. The statement (contract) of employment must include the following details:

Full names of the employer and the employee;
Full address of the employer;
Place of work, or where there is no fixed place, a statement that the employee is required to work at various locations;
Nature of work;
Commencement date of the employment;
Duration of the contract, either fixed or permanent;
Rate or method of calculation of remuneration and pay reference period;
Where an employee is in receipt of less than 150% of the national minimum wage, that the employee may, under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, request a written statement of the employee's average hourly rate of pay for any pay reference period in the last 12 months;
Payment intervals, e.g. weekly, monthly, etc;
Annual leave and other paid leave entitlements;
Hours of work (including overtime);
Details of rest periods and breaks;
Sick leave and pension arrangements, where applicable;
Notice requirements;
Reference to any collective agreements.

Always remember that any changes to the terms and conditions of employment must be negotiated with the employee. Be very careful about using template contracts. This is a legal document and each clause should be examined very carefully Make sure you issue the correct type of contract for the employee. Contracts should be issued in duplicate and an original signed copy should be held by employee and employer Remember that the contract should be accompanied by the mandatory policies from an employment law perspective: Discipline, Grievance and Anti-bullying Please contact us for any further information on Contracts & Policies on (066) 7102887

The purpose of a probationary period is to evaluate an employeeand#39;s performance in doing a job and potential abilities to determine their suitability for the position. The implementation of this evaluation is a process specific to the probationary period, but as with disciplinary procedures the principles of natural justice must apply. Any shortfall in performance should be discussed and documented during the course of the period. In this way the employee is made aware of the issue and is given an opportunity to improve.

A formal performance review meeting should be held between the employee and the manager at the end of the period. A Probation Policy should define what length the probation period is, to what length it can be extended and what notice period is required during this probation period. The employee must know in advance that their employment is subject to probation. The employment contract should specify a defined probationary period, which can be extended up to 11 months. Any offer letter extended to the employee should also confirm the probation period attached to the role.

It is advised that probation is a continuous process. A common issue The HR Suite encounter is leaving the management of the probation process till too late i.e. month 10 when the probation outlined in the contract is 11 months. It would not be deemed fair to start the process at 10 months and finish up in advance of the 11 month mark, bearing in mind the one week of notice the Employee is entitled to. It is advised all Employers are proactive in managing probation for all Employees.

The operation of good probation process requires the maintenance of adequate records. It is important to have a paper trail documenting each step of any probation including invitation letters. During the meetings it is important to document the discussion and to ensure that follow up documentation is sent confirming what was discussed in the meeting. Remember if it's not in writing it didn't happen. The HR Suite can advise you and your organisation in establishing and maintaining a proactive probation process in your organisation. If you require further information, please do not hesitate to contact us on 066 7102887 or 01 9014335.

Most employers are aware of their Health and Safety obligations towards their employees but do employers consider the Mental health and Stress factors which can imped on employee health and safety in the workplace? Mental Health issues impact on people's resilience in life and at work and employers are now required to include health and safety systems which protect the mental health and wellbeing of their employees. Improving workplace wellbeing helps people be more creative, more loyal, more productive and to provide better overall customer satisfaction. This requires a more rounded approach to people management that focuses on helping employees to:

Strengthen their personal resources i.e. health, resilience, optimism, self-esteem.
Take pride in their roles within the organisational system.
Generate a high functioning work environment, both as individuals and in collaboration with their colleagues.
Have a positive overall experience of work.

This area of wellbeing at work has been well researched and it has been found that 'one sixth to one third of the working-age population in the European region experiences symptoms associated with mental ill health such as sleep disorders, fatigue, irritability and worry' (Kuhn 2010:14-15). Early intervention in Mental Health problems is imperative in ensuring better recovery outcomes. By reducing stigma and creating awareness the employer and organisation will be in a position to significantly assist this recovery.

There are a number of ways that employers can create this environment, the key been knowledge and awareness. Although some larger organisations have introduced procedures for dealing with psychosocial risks this may not be as prevalent amongst smaller organisations. The following are methods that the employer can consider to ensure wellbeing in their workplace:

Provide training on a number of topics to help reduce stress or to create awareness; Time Management training, Assertiveness training, Company Culture awareness, Wellbeing and Mental Health awareness training, Dignity and Respect training.
Provide information on wellness ideas i.e. fitness classes, nutritional ideas.
Create an open environment for employees to learn about their own well-being and share ideas with their colleagues.
Develop ideas for improving happiness and well-being at work. For example, have brainstorming sessions with your team about what you could do that would help improve the culture of the company.
Meet with employees on a regular basis one to one to discuss performance and goals.
Identify and assess how the organisational system e.g. material conditions, work and productivity, income levels and stability etc. interacts with employee's personal resources e.g. autonomy, competence, feeling safe and secure, connected with others to create happiness at work. Do this for every employee.
Through our work as HR Consultants it has become increasing clear that absenteeism and staff dissatisfaction at work have become are major concerns for employers as well as a significant cost.

Presenteeism is another which is becoming more prevalent in workplaces and refers to productivity loss resulting from real health problems when staff with health problems continue to attend work despite illness, injury or distress. Illness affects both the quantity and quality of work. If employees feel pressurised to come to work unless they absolutely cannot then this encourages presenteeism amongst all staff. IBEC has stated that 11 million days lost through absenteeism every year at a cost of E1.5 billion which highlights that improving employee wellbeing is in everyone's best interest. With the prevalence of presentism employers are now seeing time also being lost from people showing up but not performing at the top of their game.

An office culture that actively encourages workers to take good care of themselves and each other allows employees to be honest about when they really feel up to doing their best at the office Introducing methods which protect employee's wellbeing can reduce this number and will help prevent a number of prevalent illnesses such as stress and work related stress or physical ailments that are induced by stress or poor mental health. Considering this organisations need to focus on body mind and environment to improve overall wellbeing in the workplace. The Benefits of ensuring wellbeing in the workplace are:

Enhanced recruitment and retention of healthy employees.
Decreased rates of illness and injuries.
Reduced employee absenteeism.
Improved employee relations, morale and satisfaction.
Increased productivity.

According to the findings by the Nutrition and Health Foundation (NHF), many of Ireland's workers want to become healthier and would like to see their employers playing a role in this. The HR Suite in conjunction with Nisus Fitness' 'Small Wins Campaign' have developed the Wellbeing at Work Initiative: WorkSmart.

WorkSmart examines the importance of focusing on body, mind and environment to improve overall wellbeing in the workplace and offers advice on training on how to improve the overall wellbeing of your workforce.