As Ireland moves through the phased re-opening of businesses after the extended COVID-19 lockdown, there are a number of important areas that employers need to focus on in order to meet their obligations.
Every step must be taken to ensure your business opens safely for both customers and staff.
Brian Gill, Partner at Callan Tansey Solicitors has the following advice for employers:
- Start with the basics – the contracts of employment
- Go back and re-acquaint yourself with your employees’ existing contracts. They still apply and dictate to a large extent what you can and cannot do.
- Work with staff regarding any proposed changes to their terms and conditions.
- Resist the temptation to change an employee’s terms and conditions without their consent – to do so is unlawful without a variation clause in their contract. Even where you have such a clause it needs to be very tightly worded and very reasonably applied.
- If you haven’t taken the time to get written terms & conditions to all employees, use the upcoming period to do so.
- Existing obligations haven’t gone away
Pre- Pandemic legal obligations remain. The Safety Health & Welfare at Work Act (2005) requires the employer to have Risk Assessments and Safety Statements as part of their dual obligation to provide a safe place of work and a safe system of work. Ignore the need for these at your peril.
- New Obligations have been added and must be met
The Government has published two key documents which Employers need to familiarise themselves with:
- Recovery and Resilience: The Path Ahead
- Return to Work Safely Protocol
It is illegal for any business to re-open before it is entitled to.
- To Do List for Employers
In order to re-open within the law, it is important that every employer complies with their obligations as laid out in the Protocol document. Callan Tansey Solicitors have created a checklist to help you prepare your business for opening again. You can get a copy of that checklist here.
In the weeks and months ahead, communication and collaboration will be your best tools for a successful re-opening. When it comes to the law, know what you know but more importantly know what you don’t know and be sure that you know where to find the answers you need. A safe and successful return to work is your key objective and essential to that is your understanding of your legal requirements.
If you have any queries about any of the issues raised in this article please contact Brian Gill, Partner, Callan Tansey Solicitors LLP at BGill@callantansey.ie.