Working from Home – Legal and Contractual Considerations

With working from home being a key means for many workers and organisations to keep going during the coronavirus outbreak, I wanted to remind you of some areas that still need to be considered:

Ireland has moved into 'delay phase' of coronavirus | Lovin.ie
  1. Review your homeworking policy. Make sure it addresses how employees will be supervised, how the organisation and line managers will communicate with them and how performance and output will be monitored. The homeworking arrangement may be confirmed by a consent form, detailed homeworking arrangement or by amendments to the employee’s contract.
  2. Confirm employee rights. Homeworkers must be treated the same as office-based staff, with equal access to development and promotion opportunities. Consult the relevant trade union, if any, to ensure equal treatment for these workers. In the current context, it may be prudent to expressly state that any changes are temporary and that the employee will, if applicable, return to office-based working once the situation ends. 
  3. Confirm contact methods and regularity. Advise homeworkers to establish when and how they will have contact with their manager; reporting in at regular times can also help combat isolation and stress. 
  4. Providing equipment. There is no obligation for employers to provide computer or other equipment necessary for working at home, although, given the latest Government advice, employers should do what they can to enable home working. It is prudent to list the equipment that has been supplied in the home working agreement, consent or policy. Remember that provision of equipment could be a reasonable adjustment for some disabled employees and may be the safest option for those with existing health conditions or pregnant employees at this time. 
  5. IT and Broadband. Employers should confirm in the contractual arrangements if the employee is expected to cover the broadband cost (plus heating and lighting) or if the employer will contribute towards these costs and, if so, to what extent. The employer should also confirm any IT support (likely to be remote at this time) and responsibility for repair or replacement if the employee’s equipment is used. 
  6. Think about health and safety obligations. Employers are responsible for an employee’s health, safety and welfare, even when working from home. Employers need to make sure that homeworkers are knowledgeable about health and safety and that they comply with the organisation’s health and safety policy. Employers may remind staff that they should ensure a suitable and safe environment where they can focus on work. Remind employees that they should continue to comply with your sickness absence policy and report their sickness to their line manager when they are sick and unable to work. 
  7. Carry out risk assessment. Employers should usually conduct risk assessments of all the work activities carried out by employees those working from home. However, at this time undertaking physical risk assessments of each employee’s home will not feasible and so employers could use electronic risk assessment questions instead. It is the employee’s responsibility to address any flaws in the home revealed by the assessment. The Health and Safety legislation also puts some responsibility on the home worker to ensure that they and members of the household are not endangered by work activities undertaken at home. 
  8. Review working time and length of period. Will employees need to be available for work during strict office hours or work a specified a set number of hours per day? There may be more flexibility over working hours in a work from home arrangement, but working time regulations should still be complied with, including the working week and daily rest break. Instruct managers to look out for signs of overwork. 
  9. Clarify salary, benefits, insurance, tax. Salary and benefits should obviously remain the same during a period of homeworking, although changes to expenses may be appropriate if normal travel expenses and allowances are no longer needed. Usually it is the employee’s responsibility to check that no issues arise with their mortgage provider, landlord, local authority, Revenue or their home insurer when homeworking. In this unprecedented situation it is hoped that any issues, for example increases in house insurance premiums, would be minimal but it is prudent for employees to check. Employers also need to check that insurance covers business equipment in the homeworker’s premises. 
  10. Data protection. Employers should make sure data protection obligations are maintained and employees using their own computer should still process information in compliance with data protection principles. Employers should remind employees about home security, confidential information, passwords, shredding etc. 
Two more coronavirus cases confirmed in Northern Ireland | Newstalk

Note: many thanks to CIPD Ireland for providing the information

A Number of Leave that employees can apply for

Parents have a right to time off work to look after their children. Parents have several different types of statutory leave entitlements, for example, maternity leaveadoptive leavepaternity leaveparental leave and parent’s leave.

This table explains the differences between the types of leave for parents.

LeaveWho gets it?How long?Is it paid?
Maternity leaveFemale employees26 weeks and up to 16 unpaid weeksYes, Maternity Benefit is paid for 26 weeks
Adoptive leaveAdoptive mothers, men adopting alone24 weeks and up to 16 unpaid weeksYes, Adoptive Benefit is paid for 24 weeks 
Paternity leaveNew parents of children under 6 months of age (but not the mother of the child)2 weeksYes, Paternity Benefit is paid for 2 weeks 
Parental leaveParents and guardians of children under 1222 weeksNo, it’s unpaid 
Parent’s leaveParents of children under 1 year of age (or in first year of adoption2 weeksYes, Parent’s Benefit is paid for 2 weeks 

Minimum Wage

Since 1 February 2020, the national minimum wage is €10.10 per hour, as set out in the National Minimum Wage Order 2020. Wage rates are solely based on age.

The national minimum wage does not stop an employer from offering a higher wage.

What you should know about Redundancies

Do you think you need to make employees redundant? 

Are you wondering whether there is anything you can do to avoid this? 

Want to know what your options are? 

Let’s look at the law surrounding redundancy. 

Firstly, you need to understand that there are two types of redundancy situation recognized in Irish law: 

  • A collective redundancy situation and a non-collective redundancy 

This blog is about non-collective redundancy only. That is, a situation where you, as an individual, are at risk of losing your job by reason of redundancy and it is not a collective redundancy situation. 

What is a redundancy?

A redundancy will exist if the circumstances fall into one of the 5 definitions set out in the Redundancy Payments act 1967. These are: 

  • For the purposes of subsection (1), an employee who is dismissed shall be taken to be dismissed by reason of redundancy if for one or more reasons not related to the employee concerned the dismissal is attributable wholly or mainly to— 
  • ( a) the fact that his employer has ceased, or intends to cease, to carry on the business for the purposes of which the employee was employed by him, or has ceased or intends to cease, to carry on that business in the place where the employee was so employed, or 
  • ( b ) the fact that the requirements of that business for employees to carry out work of a particular kind in the place where he was so employed have ceased or diminished or are expected to cease or diminish, or 
  • ( c ) the fact that his employer has decided to carry on the business with fewer or no employees, whether by requiring the work for which the employee had been employed (or had been doing before his dismissal) to be done by other employees or otherwise, or 
  • ( d ) the fact that his employer has decided that the work for which the employee had been employed (or had been doing before his dismissal) should henceforward be done in a different manner for which the employee is not sufficiently qualified or trained, or 
  • ( e ) the fact that his employer has decided that the work for which the employee had been employed (or had been doing before his dismissal) should henceforward be done by a person who is also capable of doing other work for which the employee is not sufficiently qualified or trained, 

If your termination falls into one of these categories it is a genuine redundancy. If it does not then it may not be a genuine redundancy, it may be a sham. 

Lay off or Short Time

A lay off or short time might give rise to a right to the employee serving a notice claiming redundancy. However, the employer can serve a counter notice if he believes he will be able to provide work within 4 weeks of receiving the notice from the employee. 

This work must last for at least 13 weeks. 

Notice of Redundancy 

The employee is entitled to at least 2 weeks’ notice of the proposed dismissal (section 17 Redundancy Payments Act 1967). This is a statutory minimum and you are entitled to a greater notice period in accordance with your contract of employment, if it is contained in your contract. 

Where an employer is unable to pay redundancy 

There is a scheme run by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection called the Insolvency Payments Scheme. Provided certain criteria are met an employee may be paid from this fund. 

Disputes about redundancy terminations 

If an employee has any dispute about his/her redundancy they can bring their claim to the Workplace Relations Commission. 

Employer’s conduct during redundancy decision 

The employer is obliged to act reasonably in arriving at the decision to terminate the employment by reason of redundancy. He should have given the employee the opportunity to put forward suggestions to save his job or to do alternative work or suggest ways that the business could be run more efficiently to obviate the need for a redundancy. 

He should also have used some type of objective criteria by which to decide to make one employee redundant as opposed to another. If the employer has a choice between more than one employee, then the choice of who will be terminated must be made fairly. 

The key for the employer is to act fairly and reasonably and look at all options short of redundancy. If he has done this, however, the redundancy decision should be sound and capable of withstanding a claim of unfair dismissal. 

The Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019

The Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019 is due to come into effect from 1 September 2019.

This legislation extends the period of unpaid parental leave, increases the age of the child, and provides for parents who have already taken parental leave, to receive the additional eight weeks of leave. The main points of the Act are that:

  • From 1 September 2019, a parent will be able to take up to 22 working weeks of unpaid parental leave, an extra four weeks on top of the current 18 weeks
  • From 1 September 2020, a parent will be able to take up to 26 working weeks of unpaid parental leave, a further four week extension
  • The age of a qualifying child increases from 8 years to reaching the age of 12 years
  • Any parent who has already availed of their current entitlement of 18 weeks will be entitled to avail of a further eight weeks of parental leave.

From November 2019, the government proposes to make paid parental leave available to new parents in employment or self-employment, on top of existing maternity, paternity, unpaid parental leave and adoptive leave entitlements. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan published the general scheme of the proposed legislation to outline the arrangements to provide the benefit from November 2019 in the Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019.

Summary of Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019 

The Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019 is the most recent effort by the government to deliver on its commitment to increase paid parental leave in the first year of a child’s life. The Government estimates that up to 60,000 parents could benefit from the scheme in a full year.

Eligibility

Each parent of a child born on or after 1 November 2019 will be entitled to take an individual period of paid parental leave once they have been with their employer for a year. An employee on parental leave will be treated as if they were still in employment and their absence will not affect their rights or entitlements. The leave cannot be transferred between parents and provision is made for adoption and same-sex couples.

Duration 

The proposed leave will initially be for two weeks per parent and must be taken within 52 weeks of the birth of the child, or in the case of adoption, the date of placement of the child. The leave must be taken in periods of not less than one week in duration. The government proposes to increase paid parental leave to seven weeks for each parent by 2021.

Application

Written notification must be provided by the employee to the employer to take parental leave. This notification should be given to the employer as soon as is reasonably practicable, but not later than four weeks before the leave commences. There is no discretion on the timing of the leave for the employer. A notification to take parental leave may be withdrawn in writing by the employee and a four week notification period would again apply.  However where an employee postpones the leave, they simply provide the alternative dates, with no specific notice requirement.

A lot of complexity is proposed in the legislation as it outlines separate rules to manage:

  • Commencement of parental leave in the case of early confinement
  • Postponement of parental leave 
  • Postponement of parental leave in event of sickness of relevant parent
  • Postponement of parental leave in event of hospitalisation of child
  • Entitlement of employed surviving parent to parental leave on death of their partner
  • Entitlement to leave on the death of a child
  • Entitlement to parental leave beyond 52 weeks

While these are necessary scenarios to deal with, the differing rules and lack of a requirement to engage with the employer will make this leave very difficult to plan for and manage in the workplace.

Payment

The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection will make the accompanying Parental Benefit payment of €245 per week. The legislation will lay out the rules of entitlement with regard to Parental Benefit payments, a benefit that will not be transferable in any part between parents.

Increased potential for confusion in area of family-friendly benefits

While CIPD Ireland welcomes initiatives that provide for increased flexibility in the workplace there is potential for confusion as this is another type of leave that will be allowed for, with the system allowing for paid and unpaid maternity and adoptive leaves, unpaid parental leave, paid paternity leave and now paid parental leave. With each leave type having separate application procedures and rules governing approval, it will take a lot of effort to ensure employers fully understand their obligations, and employees understand their rights.  

This complexity and confusion will also mitigate against real flexibility for parents, as a real benefit of the current unpaid parental leave is the capacity for many parents to opt for a shorter working week, and spread the financial cost over a longer period. The complexity an variation will make it more difficult for managers and HR to be able to support parents at work.

What can employers do to prepare for the new scheme? 

Although parental benefit will be paid by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, the Bill will put pressure on employers to top-up pay, and will be particularly burdensome for small and medium enterprises. This is likely to be heightened as the period of leave increases up to seven weeks by 2021. Companies will need to consider this in light of their current practice of topping-up maternity, adoptive or paternity leave, to ensure there is no gender bias. 

Procedures should be reviewed to ensure that an appropriate system is in place to assess the implications and manage the workforce planning and the administrative impact of managing this leave. 

Although the Bill is at an early stage, it is a stated Government priority with the Department wanting to ensure that the new paid parental leave scheme will be operational from November 2019. CIPD Ireland is encouraging employers to understand the proposals, express their concerns and start preparing now for the introduction of this new leave

The Benefits of an Induction Programme.

I recently attended a workshop on Attracting and Retaining Talent and so felt my blog this month should be about one aspect of this subject – Induction.

For new employees, induction has a huge impact on their first impression of an organisation. Through effective induction practices, new starters will better understand their role, the organisation and its values. This in turn enables them to feel integrated with the business and become productive more quickly. 

The importance of induction metrics

As existing research suggests that induction processes are linked to employee retention, it’s key that line managers and people professionals prioritise the induction experience.  If you gather metrics you are able to measure the effectiveness of on-boarding for a business, as this will highlight where improvements can be made.

Metrics collected from the induction process can also be used to identify wider workplace issues and opportunities. The article I read illustrated this by outlining a case study from the banking sector. This organisation identified an increase in the turnover of new starters and exit interview data did not reveal the cause. Participant feedback from on-boarding programmes was available but hadn’t been used to diagnose the issue. This data could have shed light on the quality of training and support that new hires received when they joined, which could have impacted on their performance and satisfaction. 

When should data be collected?

Many organisations collect data at the end of an induction programme to evaluate its effectiveness. Whilst this is useful, it is also suggested that data should also be collected from the start to establish a baseline.  During the 1st year of the employees experience with an organisation for example collecting data 90 days and 180 days after a new employee joins, as well as immediately after the induction experience, will help track the long-term impact of induction and prove its value. 

Finally, induction data should be collected not only when a new person joins the business, but when employees move internally, for example with a relocation or secondment.

What type of data should be collected?

Data to collect include short-term metrics, both objective and subjective. These include employee satisfaction with the programme, induction training attendance, and performance or probation related metrics. 

Long term metrics can also be utilised to demonstrate the value of induction. These include the cost of employee turnover, the time taken for employees to become proficient, and the results of exit interviews. Focus Group feedback can be a very useful tool in understanding the impact of induction. 

The objectives of the induction programme should inform the type of data collected. For example, if employee retention has been identified as a challenge, both short term and long-term turnover metrics should be prioritised to discover the programme’s effectiveness.

Taking action on induction data

To prove the value of investing in induction programmes, I suggest a simple survey be carried out,   and the data collated be shared with your with line managers and business leaders. Companies need to take action to address issues. One example of this is through the creation of a taskforce that can refresh induction training, while also acting as an opportunity to share learning from parts of the business where induction is most effective. 

Of course, the value of people data extends beyond measurement surrounding induction. It allows people professionals to demonstrate the value of organisational practices to key stakeholders, and better solve business problems. Taking an evidence-based approach, of which organisational data forms a part, can ultimately aid better decision-making and improve business productivity. 

Bereavement Leave – how do we handle this in the workplace?

I read an article on bereavement, that Alice Murray recently wrote an article on in the Irish Independent and felt that it was something worth taking notice of:  

“Grief is an indescribable pain. Only people who have felt the jagged shock of it slice through them will understand just how horrendous it can be.

Self care, exercise and even personal hygiene are swept aside in the torrent of emotions.Suddenly the simplest tasks like finding a matching sock, completing a shopping list or even brushing your hair can require a Trojan effort.

Suddenly the simplest tasks like finding a matching sock, completing a shopping list or even brushing your hair can require a Trojan effort.

It’s one of the toughest human experiences that we have to endure, yet, there is still no legal requirement for Irish companies to provide their employees with bereavement leave.

For a nation that handles death so well (Irish wakes are praised the world over) we still don’t handle what comes next with any great compassion or understanding.

When a colleague returns to work after a death, the office falls quiet. No one wants to say the wrong thing, so, in turn they decide to say nothing. We ignore the emotional issue and hope that it goes away.

And that’s exactly what we’re doing by not legally enforcing paid bereavement leave for the people of Ireland. We’re avoiding what is a hard and painful topic. It’s simply not good enough.

Thankfully, some companies have compassionate bereavement leave policies in place already.

Last year, Facebook announced that it had extended its bereavement policy. Doubling its leave, Facebook now offers up to 20 paid days off for employees who have lost an immediate family member or 10 days of leave for an extended family member.

Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, who lost her husband in 2015, wholeheartedly supports the measure. In a Facebook post last year she outlined why.

“Amid the nightmare of Dave’s death when my kids needed me more than ever, I was grateful every day to work for a company that provides bereavement leave and flexibility,” she wrote. “I needed both to start my recovery. I know how rare that is, and I believe strongly that it shouldn’t be. People should be able to work and be there for their families.”

However, we all can’t work at Facebook. What about the people that work in the local café or bank? Is their grief any less real?”

Statutory bereavement leave is common across Europe and around the world; however bereavement leave in Ireland is a discretionary leave, and here is no statutory obligation to provide it.

Many companies do offer up to three days paid leave for the death of close family members, and some companies provide more than this.

A close family member is usually defined as a spouse or civil partner, daughter, son, parent, sister or brother and may include grandparents or in laws.

In the event of death of grandparents, in laws, aunt or uncle one day may be granted.

Any leave the employee will be entitled to will generally depend on what is set out in their Contract of Employment or Employee Handbook. However, leave can also be determined by what is deemed to be custom and practice within the Company.  If employees have been given additional paid time off for bereavement in the past, it will be considered unfair not to give this time off to another employee, so the policy the Company has in place on Bereavement Leave should be applied consistently.

I would advise all companies to a have a policy on bereavement leave in place and have it outlined in the employee handbook.  

We all do not handle grief in the same manner, and employees need to be supported at this time.  From an employer point of view, bereavement leave makes good business sense.  An employer that wants to build staff morale, build employee engagement, promote workplace wellness and earn staff loyalty has got to put their staff first so they can garner rewards later.

The Benefits of Motivation

Motivation is rather obscure isn’t it? Some days you feel it, and other days you can’t seem to get motivated at all. Well you are not alone.  If you are not feeling particularly motivated some days, you can be sure your employees are not always motivated either!

Why is workplace motivation a good thing? Motivation is a powerful energy that drives and excites employees, which results in their maximum contribution. Setting and achieving goals, clear expectations, recognition, feedback, as well as encouraging management all contribute to an increase in motivation. It flourishes in a positive work environment, which is why so many leaders want to learn new ways to motivate their workforce.  

Here are thoughts about employee motivation, what people want from work, and how you can help employees attain what they need for their work motivation.

Fair Payment

Some people work for their love of the work; others work for personal and professional fulfilment. Other people like to accomplish goals and feel as if they are contributing to something larger than themselves, something important, an overarching vision for what they can create. Some people have personal missions they accomplish through meaningful work.

Others truly love what they do or the clients they serve. Some like the camaraderie and interaction with customers and co-workers. Other people like to fill their time with activity. Some workers like change, challenge, and diverse problems to solve. As you can see, employee motivation is individual and diverse.

The bottom line is that almost everyone works for money. Whatever you call it: compensation, salary, bonuses, benefits or remuneration, money pays the bills. Money provides housing, gives children clothing and food, sends teens to college, and allows leisure activities, and eventually, retirement. Unless you are independently wealthy, you need to work to collect a pay cheque.

Motivation – why it is beneficial

Surveys and studies dating back to the early 1980s demonstrate that people want more from work than money. An early study of thousands of workers and managers by the American Psychological Association clearly demonstrated this.

Managers predicted that the most important motivational aspect of work for people they employed would be money. Instead, it turned out that personal time and attention from the manager or supervisor was cited by workers as the most rewarding and motivational for them at work.

In a “Workforce” article, “The Ten Ironies of Motivation,” reward and recognition guru, Bob Nelson, says, “More than anything else, employees want to be valued for a job well done by those they hold in high esteem.” He adds that people want to be treated as if they are adult human beings who think, makes decisions, tries to do the right thing, and don’t need a caretaker watching over their shoulders.

While what people want from work is situational, depending on the person, his needs and the rewards that are meaningful to him, giving people what they want from work is really quite straightforward. The basics are:

Control of their work inspires motivation: including such components as the ability to have an impact on decisions; setting clear and measurable goals; clear responsibility for a complete, or at least defined, task; job enrichment; tasks performed in the work itself; and recognition for achievement.

To belong to the in-crowd creates motivation: including items such as receiving timely information and communication; understanding management’s formulas for decision making; team and meeting participation opportunities; and visual documentation and posting of work progress and accomplishments.

The opportunity for growth and development is motivational: and includes education and training; career paths; team participation; succession planning; cross-training; and field trips to successful workplaces.

Leadership is key in motivation. People want clear expectations that provide a picture of the outcomes desired with goal setting and feedback and an appropriate structure or framework.

What You Can Do for Motivation and Positive Morale

You have much information about what people want from work. Key to creating a work environment that fosters motivation are the wants and needs of the individual employees. The most significant recommendation for your takeaway is that you need to start asking your employees what they want from work and whether they are getting it.

With this information in hand, you’ll be surprised at how many simple and inexpensive opportunities you have to create a motivational, desirable work environment. Pay attention to what is important to the people you employ for high motivation and positive morale. When you foster these for people, you’ll achieve awesome business success.  Celebrate wins…thank your employees for a job well done.  

Minimum Wage 2019 and New Zero-Hours Contracts

Since 1 January 2019, under the National Minimum Wage Order 2018, the national minimum wage for an experienced adult employee is €9.80 per hour. An experienced adult employee for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage Act is an employee who has an employment of any kind in any 2 years over the age of 18

 

Rates on or after 1 January 2019
Minimum hourly rate of pay % of minimum wage
Experienced adult worker €9.80 100%
Aged under 18 €6.86 70%
First year from date of first employment aged over 18 €7.84 80%
Second year from date of first employment aged over 18 €8.82 90%
Employee aged over 18, in structured training during working hours
1st one-third period €7.35 75%
2nd one-third period €7.84 80%
 3rd one-third period €8.82 90%

Note: each one-third period must be at least one month and no more than one year.

Example 1: John was aged 17 when he started work on 1 January 2015 so he was entitled to 70% of the minimum wage. His 18th birthday was on 1 April 2015 and after that he was entitled to 80% of the minimum wage as he was in his first year of employment after the age of 18. From 1 April 2016, he was entitled to 90% of the minimum wage as he was in his second year of employment since the age of 18. After 1 April 2017 he is entitled to the full minimum wage rate as he is an experienced adult worker for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage Act. (That is, he is not in the first 2 years after the date of first employment over age 18). You can find a definition of an experienced adult worker in this list of frequently asked questions on the national minimum wage.

Example 2: Mary worked for 6 months when she was 17. She went to college and, on 1 October 2015, at the age of 20 she started work. She was entitled to 80% of the minimum wage as she was in her first year of employment. On 1 June 2016 she turned 21 but her rate of pay did not increase as she was still in first year of employment after the age of 18. (Her 6-months’ work when aged 17 is not taken into account.) From 1 October 2016 she was entitled to 90% of the minimum wage as she was in her second year of employment. Mary changed job on 1 December 2016 but she was only entitled to 90% of the minimum wage as she continued to be in her second year of employment. She is not entitled to the full minimum wage rate until 1 October 2017. This is when her second year of employment ends.

Zero-hours Contracts

Anyone who works for an employer for a regular wage or salary automatically has a contract of employment. Contracts should be provided within 5 working days.

A zero-hours contract of employment is a type of employment contract where the employee is available for work but does not have specified hours of work. If you have a zero-hours contract this means there is a formal arrangement that you are required to be available for a certain number of hours per week, or when required, or a combination of both. Employees on zero-hours contracts are protected by the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 but this does not apply to casual employment.

The Act requires that an employee under a zero-hours contract who works less than 25% of their hours in any week should be compensated. The level of compensation depends on whether the employee got any work or none at all. If the employee got no work, then the compensation should be either for 25% of the possible available hours or for 15 hours, whichever is less. If the employee got some work, they should be compensated to bring them up to 25% of the possible available hours.

For example, if you are required to be available for 20 hours per week, but you got no work, you would be entitled to be compensated for 15 hours or 25% of the 20 hours (that is, 5 hours), whichever is the less. In this case, 5 hours is the lesser amount. If, on the other hand, you got 3 hours’ work out of the 20, you would be entitled to be compensated by 2 hours to bring you up to 25% of the contract hours.

Stress in the Workplace – Can you take steps to reduce it?

A new ESRI (European Working Conditions survey) study, funded by the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), finds that job stress among employees in Ireland doubled from 8% in 2010 to 17% in 2015.  This is a jump of more than 50%.

The survey found that workers in Ireland were more likely to report the pressures of emotional demands and exposure to bullying, harassment and other forms of mistreatment but less likely to report time pressure than their Western European counterparts.

The study identified that job stress is more common among people experiencing high levels of the following workplace demands:

  • Emotional demands: (i.e., dealing with angry clients/customers or having to hide emotions while at work). Those experiencing high levels of emotional demands were 21 times more likely to experience job stress than those with the lowest levels.
  • Time pressure (e.g. never have enough time to get the job done, work to tight deadlines) : those with the highest levels of time pressure were ten times more likely to experience job stress than those under the least time pressure.
  • Bullying, harassment, violence, discrimination etc.: those with the highest exposure were eight times more likely to experience job stress than those with no exposure.
  • Long working hours: those working over 40 hours per week were twice as likely to experience job stress as those working 36 to 40 hours.

Employees were less likely to experience stress if they experienced support from co-workers and managers, felt that their job was useful or had a feeling of work well done. Employees in Ireland enjoy relatively high levels of support from managers and co-workers. However, these factors had less impact on levels of job stress than the demands listed earlier.

So what can employers do to support employees that maybe experiencing stress?

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.

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.

For Support please contact mryan@righthandhr.ie or on 086 822 5448

How to Use Emotional Intelligence in Recruitment

Emotional intelligence – a definition

Emotional intelligence refers to the ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Much in line with the nature vs. nurture debate, some researchers suggest that it can be learnt and strengthened, while others claim it is an inborn characteristic.

Peter Salovey and John D. Mayer have been the leading experts on emotional intelligence since 1990. In their influential article “Emotional Intelligence,” they defined emotional intelligence as, “the subset of social intelligence that involves the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ feelings and emotions, to discriminate among them and to use this information to guide one’s thinking and actions” (1990).

How can we use this to improve our recruitment processes?

We know that successfully landing a job is not purely based upon a candidate’s qualifications or IQ score. In addition to experience, what employers want is the right personality type, who will be able to fit comfortably in with the team.

When we interview candidates, we go through a number of active thought processes. Without realising it, we are measuring their responses, mannerisms and how well they put themselves across. What we are really doing is assessing their emotional intelligence. It’s that quality, honesty and ability to build rapport that is so often the key to them standing out from the other applicants – and this is the type of employee who ultimately helps the employer to improve staff retention and keep costs down.

What’s important is how we implement our understanding of emotional intelligence to improve how we increase the quality of our hires; whether we are looking for a new graduate recruitment consultant or we are sourcing the perfect candidate.

Get the description right

Firstly, when taking down a job description, focusing on the core behaviours is a vital element to sourcing the best person for the job. Think about what qualities they are looking for in an employee.

A bad job description will describe only specific qualifications required, and the responsibilities of the role. Whilst these might imply the core behaviours the candidate needs to demonstrate in interview, a much better specification touches on the person’s softer skills – a more successful specification might include:

  • Adaptable
  • Able to influence key stakeholders
  • Strong communication
  • Able to negotiate
  • Problem-solving
  • Articulate
  • Team player
  • Self-motivated

       An important part of any job description is an insight into the company culture – does the organisation have a strong social side? Is it a competitive environment? All these unique elements will suit different sets of emotional behaviours – and as the recruiter it is up to you to match the right type of personality to the organisation, as well as taking their experience into consideration. This approach will result in successful placements and promote stronger relationships with your clients.

In the interview stage, you are likely to gauge how emotionally intelligent someone is by their body language and how they articulate themselves. Don’t underestimate your gut feeling – if someone is saying all the right things, but for some reason you doubt their integrity or their confidence in themselves, it is worth thinking about whether they will give the same impression to the team.