Contract of Employment
There is an erroneous belief that a contract of employment does not exist unless its terms are contained in a written document. However, anyone who works for an employer in Ireland for a regular wage or salary automatically has a contract of employment regardless of whether it is written or not. A contract of employment can be as detailed or as uncomplicated as the parties wish it to be. An employer is obliged by law to provide an employee with a written statement of certain terms of employment within the first two months of the commencement of the employment. This Statement of Terms of Employment does not in itself constitute a contract of employment.
Disciplinary & Grievance Procedures
There have been many instances where an employee dismissed with apparent justification has successfully taken an action against his employer. This generally arises because of the employer’s failure to have proper procedures in place in relation to dismissal or failing to adhere to them. The Labour Relations Commission has published a Code of Practice which, although not legally binding, provides that an employer should have written grievance and disciplinary procedures and that employees should be provided with copies when employed.
Changes in Employment Contract
(Including Reductions in Pay/Hours)
Changes to an employment contract can result from a change in the law but otherwise variations must be agreed between the employer and employee. It is essential that both parties consent to any such changes. Where agreement is reached the employee must be provided with a document noting the changes within one month of their coming into effect. To ensure the viability of a business, some employers have reduced wages or working hours. However, even where the future of a business is at risk an employer cannot unilaterally reduce the pay or working hours of an employee. There must be an agreement between employer and employee. [The Oirachtas passed legislation to permit reductions in public sector pay, obviating the need for an agreement].
Redundancy occurs when an employee loses his job due to circumstances such as the closure of a business, a reduction in employee numbers, a reorganisation of the business or of the methods of working. An employee may be entitled to bring a claim for unfair dismissal where he considers that he was unfairly selected for redundancy or where a genuine redundancy situation did not exist. In most cases an employee who has been in continuous employment for a period of two years will be entitled to a redundancy payment.
Lay-off and short time
Legislation provides for a redundancy in working hours in two situations namely ‘lay-off’ and ‘short time’. These concepts are designed to operate as temporary measures only. Lay off means a total suspension from work for a period of time whilst short time arises where the employee’s remuneration is reduced by at least 50%. Where an employee is laid off or on short time and there is no indication of a return to full time working, he may, in certain circumstances, give his employer notice of his intention to seek a statutory redundancy payment.
Workers’ Rights in Take Over and Merger Situation
Where a business is taken over by another employer as a result of a legal merger or transfer the rights of employees are protected by law. The new employer is obliged to employ the existing employees’ and the terms and conditions in the employee’s employment contracts are automatically transferred to the new employer. Existing pension rights do not transfer to the new employer.
Where an employee’s contract of employment is terminated by his employer or the employee terminates his employment, because of the conduct of the employer, the employee may, under certain circumstances bring a claim for either unfair or constructive dismissal. It is important that the employee should avail of a grievance procedure if one exists before leaving his employment. An employee must be in continuous employment of his employer for at least 12 month in order to bring such an action (with certain exceptions for equality related dismissals).
Employment law is a specialist area of Law with over 30 pieces of employment legislation. This text gives a quick summary of contracts of employment whilst noting that an employment contract requires that both parties, employer and employee, agree to its terms and to any subsequent variation in those terms. Litigation often arises where either party departs from those terms without consent.
For employment law advice and assistance relating to work contracts, dismissals etc., please contact us on +353 (0)21 425 1843 or via our contact form.
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