By Dónall Breen - 29 May 2020
This week in the Republic of Labour Law
Welcome to our May edition of Republic of Labour Law, a monthly newsletter in which we distil the most important Irish legal and HR updates from the last month in 500 words or less.
If you do business in Ireland, this should be your one stop shop for what you need to know.
What I am referring to is that we are now approaching phase two of the government plan. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would strongly recommend looking at the Irish government’s five-phase plan for reopening society and business.
Phase 2 means that anyone who can work safely while maintaining a two-metre distance can go back to work. The good news for employers is that this gives some certainty around when you might return to normal. Phase two is expected to begin on 8 June but the plan is being assessed on a regular basis. However, as the rate of Covid infection and deaths continues to fall in Ireland there seems to be no reason for a delay.
So, what do you do if you are going to open your business again soon? First, read the government’s Return to Work Safely Protocol. The guidance is helpful, practical and pragmatic and is a great starting point if you don’t know what to do yet.
One question we are often asked is whether you can take employees’ temperature once the office reopens? The answer is that the government says it is allowed ‘in accordance with public health guidelines’. Currently there are no guidelines, but they are expected soon. In any event, if you do start taking temperatures make sure the data is handled correctly under data protection law. In short, that means deleting it immediately for most employees and only keeping it if you absolutely have to.
The other question we are often asked is about travelling to and from Ireland. The baseline position is that there is no travel ban into or out of Ireland, but anyone arriving from abroad must self-isolate for 14 days. Importantly, those arriving from the UK are not required to self-isolate, so the air bridge between the two islands remains open and (apparently) quite busy. If you or any of your employees do need to visit Ireland, you should read this government advice first.
Finally, in some non-Covid related news, the Irish employment tribunal system was found not to be unconstitutional by the High Court. By way of background, this is just the latest decision in a curious ongoing legal battle. The constitutionality of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is being challenged on the basis that, amongst other things, the statutory procedures of the WRC are so deficient that they fail to vindicate the constitutional right to a fair trial. In this decision, the High Court found that the WRC was not actually carrying out a judicial function and that the procedural deficiencies did not amount to a breach of a fair trial. The decision is expected to be appealed.
However, these cases do serve to highlight some interesting aspects of the WRC process. For example, WRC adjudicators do not need any legal qualifications or experience in order to get the job and there is no automatic right to cross examination.
So, as a little word of warning, if you are in a dispute with an employee that goes to the WRC – be prepared for procedures to be a little more relaxed that what you may be used to.
Until next time, wishing you all the best in this glorious weather.