As another year draws to a close, the Employment Law Team at McDowell Purcell is looking back on some of the key highlights and developments in employment law in 2014. We have put together for you a snapshot of the most important developments we have reported on in 2014:
The long-awaited whistleblowing legislation – the Protected Disclosures Act 2014 – was finally enacted in July 2014. The legislation is potentially one of the more significant employment law developments in years as it lifts the traditional 12 months service requirement for unfair dismissal claims. It also allows employees to claim compensation for unfair dismissal of up to five year’s remuneration on the grounds of having made a protected disclosure. For further information on this topic, please see our previous e-alert: Long-awaited legislation for the Protection of Whistleblowers has finally arrived.
In January 2014, the State Pension Age was increased from 65 to 66. While the raising of the State Pension Age does not substantially change employment law in relation to retirement ages, due to the fact that employees may have a gap in their income for a period of one year, the increase is likely to lead to more challenges to compulsory retirement at the age of 65. For further information on this topic, please see our previous e-alert: Mandatory Retirement – Where are we now?
In February 2014, the High Court found in the case of Elmes v Vedanta Lisheen Mining
that, notwithstanding the existence of a sick pay scheme which provided for payment of sick pay for a period of 6 weeks, the plaintiffs were entitled to sick pay for a period of 6 months based on custom and practise. For further information on this topic, please see our previous e-alert: Sick Pay and Custom and Practice Argument
Following the commencement of Section 4(13) of the Data Protection Acts 1998-2004 in July 2014, employers are prohibited from carrying out criminal background checks. For further information on this topic, please see our previous e-alert: Asking prospective employees for results of a criminal records check now an offence!
The Rights Commissioner Service and the Employment Appeals Tribunal held in a number of cases in 2014 that pay cuts could not be challenged under the Payment of Wages Act 1991. In reaching these decisions they relied upon the decision of the High Court in McKenzie and Anor v Minister for Finance and Ors  IEHC 461
which provided that “reductions
” from wages were distinct from “deductions
” in wages – only the later being prohibited by the legislation. However, at least one of these cases is currently being challenged in the courts. This is one to watch for 2015!
As to what to expect in 2015, we anticipate that the Workplace Relations Bill 2014, which is intended to radically overhaul the current system for resolving workplace disputes, will be enacted in early 2015.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from the Employment Law Team at McDowell Purcell!