Employer Resources Newsletter - January 2020
PHYSICAL AGENTS IN THE WORKPLACE
Physical Agents are sources of energy that may cause injury or disease. Examples include Noise, Vibration, Optical Radiation and Electromagnetic Fields.
Noise means unwanted sound or loud discordant or disagreeable sound or sounds.
The effect of noise on hearing can be temporary or permanent. Temporary deafness is often experienced after leaving a noisy place. Although hearing recovers within a few hours, this should not be ignored as it is a sign that continued or regular exposure to such noise could cause permanent damage.
Hearing loss is usually gradual due to prolonged exposure to noise. It may only be when damage caused by noise over the years combines with normal hearing loss due to aging that people realise how deaf they have become. Hearing damage can also be caused immediately by sudden, extremely loud noises, though this is not common.
Exposure to noise may also cause tinnitus, which is a sensation of noises (such as ringing or buzzing) in the ears. This can occur in combination with hearing loss.
Vibration means rapid movement to and from or oscillating movement.
Mechanical vibrations at work can expose workers to hand-arm vibration (HAV) and or whole-body vibration (WBV).
HAV is caused by the use of work equipment and work processes that transmit vibration into the hands and arms of employees.
Long-term, regular exposure to HAV is known to lead to potentially permanent and debilitating health effects known as hand-arm vibration syndrome, such as vibration white finger and carpal tunnel syndrome.
WBV is caused by vibration transmitted through the seat or the feet by workplace machines and vehicles.
Regular, long-term exposure to high levels of WBV is linked to lower back pain.
Optical radiation is another term for light, covering ultraviolet (UV) radiation, visible light and infrared radiation.
The greatest risk to health from optical radiation is probably posed by UV radiation from the sun. Exposure of the eyes to UV radiation can damage the cornea and produce pain and symptoms similar to that of sand in the eye. The effects on the skin range from redness, burning and accelerated ageing through to various types of skin cancer.
The second greatest risk to health from optical radiation is probably posed by the misuse of powerful lasers. High-power lasers can cause serious damage to the eye (including blindness) as well as producing skin burns.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) arise whenever electrical energy is used. So, for example, EMFs arise in our home from electrical appliances in the kitchen, from work processes such as radiofrequency heating and drying and in the world at large from radio, TV and Telecoms broadcasting masts and security detection devices.
It has been known for a long time that exposure of people to high levels of EMFs can give rise to acute effects. The effects that can occur depend on the frequency of the radiation. At low frequencies the effects will be on the central nervous system of the body whilst at high frequencies, heating effects can occur leading to a rise in body temperature. In reality, these effects are extremely rare and will not occur in most day-to-day situations.
Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) arise whenever electrical energy is used. EMFs arise in our homes from all sorts of electrical appliances and in workplaces from electricity generation and transmission, broadcasting, radio and telephone base stations, dielectric and induction heating, welding, electric furnaces and medical equipment.
Exposure of people to high levels of EMFs can give rise to acute (short term) effects. The effects that occur depend on the frequency of the radiation. At low frequencies the effects will be on the central nervous system of the body whilst at high frequencies, heating effects can occur leading to a rise in body temperature. In reality, these effects are extremely rare and will not occur in most work situations.
EU Directive 2013/35/EU on the minimum health and safety requirements regarding the exposure of workers to the risks from EMFs was transposed into Irish law on 1st July 2016 by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Electromagnetic Fields) Regulations 2016 (S.I. No. 337 of 2016). The Regulations impose a number of duties on employers.
- carrying out a risk assessment
- avoiding and reducing risks
- employee information, training and consultation
- health surveillance where appropriate.
All of the above are covered by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007 – 2016. For queries relating health and safety in the workplace, or HR and employment law matters, contact the team at Adare Human Resource Management – firstname.lastname@example.org / (01) 561 3594.
Employee made Redundant whilst on Maternity Leave
The Complainant commenced work with the Respondent in February 2017.
She and her co-workers received an email on the 27th March from the Respondent stating that it had been unsuccessful in its bid to renew a cleaning contract it had with the secondary school in which she worked. The contract was due to terminate on the 29th March. The email stated that the transfer of undertakings regulations would apply and that her contact details would be forwarded to the new contractor. She turned up at the workplace on the 29th March at 16:00, but was told at 18:00 that the new employers would not apply the TUPE regulations.
The Complainant went on maternity leave on 14th April. This was due to terminate 14th October 2019. Her employer made her redundant on 18th April while she was still on maternity leave. The Respondent confirmed that his company lost the contract to clean the school in question.
Two days before the expiration of the contract he was told by the new contractor that it would not accept a transfer of his employees to carry out the new contract. He emailed the Complainant on 15th April advising her that she was being made redundant and the basis on which she would receive a redundancy payment of €1080.00 and payment in lieu of notice of €432.00; a total of €1512.00. This was followed by a letter on 18th April confirming those details. The employment then ceased.
This is a complaint under the Maternity Protection Act 1994. This Act is a measure to protect women who are on maternity leave against a number of possible detriments, the most important of which is the loss of their employment while on this period of protected leave. There is little doubt that this is what happened here.
The Complainant’s evidence was her maternity leave began on 14th April 2019 some two weeks after the Respondent lost the contract which has given rise to the claim.
The Respondent had a fairly vague expectation which he communicated to his own employees and to the company which successfully tendered for the contract that the Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employees (TUPE) regulations would apply. This is not the first case in which such a presumption was made.
It was noted by the Adjudication Officer that it seemed remarkable that an employer with no legal qualifications would proceed to pronounce on the applicable law, and without taking prior legal advice in an area of law acknowledged even by professional practitioners to be complex. Should an employer proceed to act on the basis of this presumption, this brings then into very hazardous territory.
However, having discovered that the new contractor was not similarly minded, he proceeded on a different tack, and now accepting that the Complainant remained an employee made her redundant. He did so the day after she commenced her maternity leave.
It was decided that the purported redundancy is void. The Complainant continues to be and remains an employee of the Respondent, and it is ordered that she be facilitated with a return to work with effect from the conclusion of her maternity leave.
On the basis that she retains the sum of already paid by way of a purported redundancy and notice payment of €1512.00, the Respondent is ordered to pay the Complainant €2808.00, the combined total of which is compensation for the breach of her rights under the legislation and not subject to taxation or other deductions.
Complainant successful and awarded monies for the upset caused
ADJ – 00018449
The Complainant commenced employment on 22nd November 2017 and his employment ceased on 3rd October 2018. The employer submitted that his employment was terminated because of downsizing in the organisation and this also affected other employees.
The worker detailed that he was engaged in a contract whereby the employer did not give him any guarantee of hours. He made a complaint about tasks he was asked to do while working at a client site during the middle of 2018. He was moved to another site and received limited hours thereafter.
It was stated that he found out through a letter that there was no more work for him that and that no appropriate procedure applied to the termination of his employment.
The employer disputed that the worker had been treated unfairly. It was outlined that his employment was terminated due to a downsizing exercise and thus redundancy was the reason for the termination. The worker did raise an issue verbally around May/June 2018 but did not submit anything in writing and continued to carry out his duties. Others were also impacted by the downsizing exercise.
It would appear that the employer was going through a downsizing exercise. It was unclear from the evidence what criteria was applied with regard to who was selected for redundancy. The worker found out through a letter in the post that his position had been terminated, which was inappropriate.
This complaint relates to section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969 and the worker was awarded €850 for the upset caused and the absence of any evidence of procedure in the termination of his employment.
Note on WRC:
The establishment of the Workplace Relations Commission on the 1st October 2015 is the most radical restructuring of employment legislation over the last 30 years. Organisations are encouraged to understand all facets of the WRC, how it now operates and what to expect when required to defend a claim at the third parties.
The establishment of the Workplace Relations Commission has resulted in the combined functions of the Labour Relations Commission, Rights Commissioner Service, the Equality Tribunal, the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA).
In addition to this the Labour Court has been reconfigured in order to hear appeals.
The strategic aims of the new Workplace Relations Commission include an independent, effective and impartial workplace relations service, a more workable means of redress within a reasonable timeframe and an overall reduction in costs. The new Workplace Relations Commission is also anticipated to be more centralised, in terms of maintaining a database of case information, the end result bring a better service for both Employers and Employees and a much more streamlined, simplified process.
Adare Human Resource Management is one of Ireland’s leading Employment Law and Human Resource Management Consultancies. Our HR & Employment Law Support Services include:
- Advice on all Employment Law, Industrial Relations and HR queries or issues
- Review, Development and Implementation of Contracts of Employment and Employee Policies and Procedures
- Management and Employee Training - Dignity at Work, Anti-Harassment and Sexual Harassment, Conducting Disciplinary Meetings
- Investigations - independent investigations on behalf of Organisations in line with the relevant legislation and codes of practice
- Organisational Management or Change Management Initiatives – including review / development of Performance Appraisal / Management Systems and Organisational Development
IRELAND RISES TWO PLACES IN NARROWING THE GENDER GAP
Ireland has climbed two places to seventh position among the most advanced countries globally in narrowing the gender gap, according to a new report published by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
The study shows the State has closed 79.8 per cent of its overall gender gap with the latest data revealing considerable progress in reducing differences in areas such as economic participation and opportunities.
Iceland retains the top spot in closing the gender gap for the 11th year in a row at 87.2 per cent. It is followed by Norway, Finland, Sweden and Nicaragua. Other economies featuring in the top 10 include New Zealand, Spain, Rwanda and Germany.
Yemen is ranked last out of the 153 economies covered in the study, with Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and the Democratic Republic of Congo also faring badly.
According to the current trajectory for closing the gender gap across politics, economics, health and education, the overall global gender gap will close in 99.5 years, as against an estimated 107 years in the last report.
GENERATION Z’S VIEWS ON WORK AND CAREERS
While management consultancies and practitioner publications have been shining the spotlight on Millennials in the workplace over the past decade, the focus is now firmly shifting to Generation Z. Due to their young age, relatively little has been written about them until recently.
Born after 1995, most are still in ever-prolonged education with the first cohort having just left the nest to enter the world of work.
They are the first truly digital native generation feeling at home in cyberspace, which is in essence, the water they learned to swim in. They face a future working life of collaboration with artificial and augmented intelligence and the rise of the gig economy.
In a recent survey of over 400 college-aged Irish Gen Z-ers, 80% said they would still want to work that even if they had enough money to live as comfortably as they would like for the rest of their lives.
When asked what’s important for them at work, results were interesting and somewhat different from past international studies. Irish Gen Z-ers value and desire both intrinsic and extrinsic rewards and they want them pretty much equally. Intrinsic rewards could be interesting work or opportunities for personal growth, while extrinsic rewards could be salary, status or benefits. International studies of other generations revealed value clusters that focused mainly in one domain or the other rather than both equally.
The anchor of the Irish Gen Z’s dream career seems to be "lifestyle", with an emphasis on work-life balance closely followed by security and stability. This may be evidence of their experience as children of the recession. Gen Z-ers say that they will only feel successful in life if they can "balance their personal, family and career requirements". The second most frequent sentiment was "I dream of a career that will permit me to integrate my personal, family and work needs" while at the same time "having…a sense of security and stability".
A SIMPLE ‘THANK YOU’ GOES A LONG WAY IN WORK
Work and organisational psychology are key interests of Italian academic Annamaria Di Fabio, who teaches at the Department of Education and Psychology at the University of Florence.
One of topics she has studied in some detail is gratitude in organisations. This is now thought to be “crucial to employees’ efficiency, success, and productivity”, not least because it promotes positive relationships at work while lowering negative emotions in the workplace and enhancing organisational health and success.
What emerged from various conversations with newbies who’ve just started work right up to the 60-somethings who are coming to the end of it, was that most organisations needed to make a much bigger effort to show gratitude. People weren’t looking for their name in lights or fat bonuses for doing their job – far from it in fact.
They just wanted a level of recognition that indicated their efforts were not being taken for granted.
Appreciation is thin on the ground in many workplaces. Leaders don’t give credit where it’s due and seem to think that a pat on the back at the annual performance review will suffice.