When starting your own business there are a hundred and one things that you need to attend to. If successful, employing staff can be one of these, the array of legalities when employing people can sometimes be overlooked.
All employers are legally bound to provide a contract of employment from the outset. They must have policies that cover all statutory rights including Discipline, Grievance, Flexible Working, Maternity, Adoption, Paternity, Parental Leave and Shared Parental Leave.
It is also useful to have policies in other areas as these set down the rules that the employer expects the employee to follow. It is an employer’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees and other people who might be affected by their business. Employers must do whatever is reasonably practicable to achieve this, and they should have a Health & Safety Policy and all the documentation to support it.
A solicitor’s advice from the outset can be useful and prevent issues in the future.
Regarding remote working for example, under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, employers must “make a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work”.
“Whilst they are at work” does not mean “on company premises”. Instead, “at work” means “whilst the employee is working”. The 1974 Act, and many other laws and regulations that have come later, does not make a distinction between workers on company property, workers in public or elsewhere, or homeworkers. The health and safety of all employees must be protected.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 goes further and states that “employers are responsible for the health and safety of homeworkers, as far as is reasonably practicable”. Employers should be in no doubt that they owe the same duty of care to homeworkers as they do to other staff.
If you run a business and have some or all your staff working from home, you must carry out a risk assessment on homeworker’s workspaces. After the assessment, you must implement the measures needed to help protect your staff. This could include supplying ergonomic furniture or tools, providing guidance about trip or fire protection and whatever other reasonable methods are required. You should supply employees with a suitable health and safety policy, review your Employer’s Liability insurance policy and update it if required.
Employees should recognise that they have responsibilities too. Homeworkers must complete the assessment accurately, to the best of their knowledge. Whether in the office or the home, even the most robust health and safety policies cannot prevent all accidents at work. Some accidents are simply not foreseeable, and others can happen even when all reasonable precautions have been taken. This is why the assessment and management of the avoidable risks is so important.
See below some important links to State laws which will inform and guide a prospective employer:
- Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994–2014
- General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 2018
- Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018
- Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996
- National Minimum Wage Act 2000
- Payment of Wages Act 1991
- Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973–2005
- Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015
- Organisation of Working Time Act 1997
- Sick Leave Act 2022
- Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (as amended)
- Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015
NB – This is a guide for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have an issue requiring legal advice, please contact any of the team at Nolan Farrell & Goff LLP, whose numbers can be found on our website www.nfg.ie, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.