Newsletter – June 2021
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Remote Working-Health & Safety Risk Assessment
Working from home allows employees to work from a remote location that is not the main place of work of the Company and Regardless of whether it is full time or part-time a remote working health and safety risk assessment of the employee’s workspace needs to be carried out. So, employers are required to ensure their employees are not put at risk from longer-term health and safety hazards.
Now, what areas do employers need to be aware of when assessing and actually assess?
Is there a dedicated work station for the employee to work from?
Is the employee’s chair, screen and desk set up ergonomically?
Is the lighting in the work area sufficient?
(Taking into account the employees’ vision)
Is there adequate ventilation and heating where the work station is located?
What IT equipment is required for the employee to do their job?
Is there a dedicated person that the employee can contact about accidents or health related issues? And needs to be clearly outlined.
Is the employee required to carry out manual handling training?
If so when was this completed?
Is the employee required to carry out ergonomics training?
If so when was this completed?
Are eye tests provided as needed?
If so when was this completed?
Are all cabling and wiring maintained to ensure that they are not a trip hazard?
Has the employee been given a contact within the company if there are any electrical concerns or issues arising from company equipment?
Are electrical supplies checked on a regular basis by the employee on a regular basis?
Is there an emergency plan in place in case of a fire and is the employee aware of this plan?
Is the employee familiar with all fire and safety equipment within the home and is it in date?
It’s vital that every Business operating home OR remote working, weather full time or blended has both a home working policy agreement and risk assessment done.
Is WhatsApp a secure and appropriate tool of communication at work?
WhatsApp can be a very quick and easy way of getting a message out there.
However, Good communication is about delivering the right message to the right people at the right time, “If a message is urgent, messaging apps can often help deliver it in the quickest way possible and Messaging apps can be a great medium for group discussions
But it is advisable that social apps should be kept for social chat and fun- even if it is a work group.
The security of our data is also wildly more important now, having come into focus following the cyber security attack on the HSE and wats app, which is owned by Facebook, has been targeted by hackers in the recent past. In May 2019,
So, I would urge businesses to think twice before using WhatsApp to communicate with staff.
Firstly, “Companies can’t regulate WhatsApp groups. What I mean by this, is that someone in the group could share information about the company that is classified and access to that information can’t be revoked or controlled by the company.
Data shared from wats app with Facebook for example, includes your phone number, device ID, location, and some usage information.
This information will likely be used for more targeted advertising in future, and that has actually already happened between Facebook and Instagram.
So, there are very definite GDPR concerns for employers to think of if they are using a social app like wats app for communication purposes.
Security concerns aside, a message on WhatsApp is less formal than an email, because it’s sent on a social platform and using it to communicate with colleagues’ risks blurring work-life boundaries.
Being contactable all of the time can leave someone feeling a sense of being ‘always on’, – and making it more difficult to relax. So over time, sleep becomes more difficult, and mood and concentration and stress levels can be affected.
So in in this new phase of hybrid work – emails and contacts need to be far more regulated. For example – Contacts and email can be scheduled to arrive at work time. What is the best and most appropriate method?
Also The Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect was published in April.
The right to disconnect refers to an employee’s right to be able to disengage from work and refrain from engaging in work-related activity outside of normal working hours. That includes electronic communications, such as emails or other messages, including those received through platforms such as WhatsApp.
IBEC and CIPD Ireland recommend firms put a policy in place which advises employees on the correct use of instant messaging apps for work communications while also being mindful of the recently introduced Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect.
It’s often necessary to make clear where WhatsApp chats are intended specifically for work content.”
Some employers may use instant messaging apps for urgent, and typically exceptional, communications to staff such as notices about severe weather warnings, or emergency situations, but the purpose and extent of communications on instant messaging apps should be clear to employees, along with any expectation around responses to any messages.”
So, employers should give due consideration to the timing of their communication and potential for disturbance. And the recipient should understand that they will not be expected to respond until their working time recommences. It’s also important to always consider the tone/contents/context of texts and emails and other electronic communications.
There is an argument that if a worker receives a wats app notification from their employer on their time off, that they are not receiving their right to disconnect.
The advice is, have a formal policy that is understood so the lines are not blurred between work and social and think about GDPR risks and the always on problem a business may have if you operate these types of social platforms as means of communicating with your staff.
The work safely protocol was recently updated and it gives a clear indication of where we may be heading on the headache for workplaces dealing with vaccinated and unvaccinated workers in future. First of all, in the context of the COVID-19 national vaccination programme, the vaccine roll-out is currently a matter for Public Health and not the employer.
However, the updated protocol gives general advice related to the Biological Agents Regulation, which seems to be a big hint to where we are heading long term.
So, what does that mean?
Vaccination would remain voluntary. If a worker decided to not avail of the offer of a vaccination, the employer would review their risk assessment and decide whether the worker can carry out the work task without vaccination, and what other protective measures are needed.
There may be certain circumstances where it is deemed that an unvaccinated worker is not safe to perform certain work tasks and in such circumstances the employer may have no option but to redeploy the worker. So, the protocol suggests that redeployment in that instance would be considered.
This decision would need to be agreed between the employer and a medical practitioner in consultation with the worker.
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Biological Agents) Regulations 2013 and 2020 require that where a risk assessment shows there is risk to the health and safety of employees due to working with a biological agent for which an effective vaccine is available, a vaccination should be offered.
A worker does not have to accept the offer of a vaccination.
However, when offering a vaccination, the employer must inform the worker of the benefits and drawbacks of both vaccination and non-vaccination.
The worker can then decide whether to avail of the vaccination or not.
So, an unvaccinated worker, if not redeployable may run the risk of having to be made redundant as certain roles may suit redeployment scenarios but others won’t, such as for instance a chef in a restaurant kitchen. It may be impossible to redeploy in such a situation and therefore it will be difficult to avoid redundancies in such circumstances.
The Government has committed to bringing statutory sick pay into law by the end of 2021. This will be a major change for Irish employers.
Unlike many other European countries, currently in Ireland employers are not obliged to pay employees while they are on sick leave. it is left to employers to decide whether they will include paid sick leave as part of their own policies and that is set out in the employment contract.
Where employers do provide paid sick leave, the duration of the pay and the rate of pay is decided solely by the employer. Employees may be entitled to State benefits such as Illness Benefit (€203 (approx. £180) per week currently) or Covid-19 Illness Benefit (up to €350 (approx. £315) per week) where they have the requisite social insurance contributions, but these payments would typically be much less than an employee’s weekly pay.
What will the legislation involve?
The government’s statutory sick pay scheme will be phased in over a four-year period, starting with three days per year in 2022, rising to five days payable in 2023- and seven-days payable in 2024. Employers will eventually cover the cost of 10 sick days per year in 2025. It’s being phased in to help employers, particularly small businesses, to plan ahead and manage the additional cost, which has been capped.
Sick pay will be paid by employers at a rate of 70% of an employee’s wage, subject to a daily threshold of €110. The daily earnings threshold of €110 is based on 2019 mean weekly earnings of €786.33 and equates to an annual salary of €40,889.16. It can be revised over time by ministerial order in line with inflation and changing incomes.
The rate of 70% and the daily cap are set to ensure excessive costs are not placed solely on employers, who in certain sectors may also have to deal with the cost of replacing staff who are out sick at short notice. The Bill is primarily intended to provide a minimum level of protection to low paid employees, who may have no entitlement to company sick pay schemes. The legislation will expressly state that this does not prevent employers offering better terms or unions negotiating for more through a collective agreement.
Other features of the scheme are that an employee will have to obtain a medical certificate to avail of statutory sick pay, and the entitlement is subject to the employee having worked for their employer for a minimum of six months. Once entitlement to sick pay from their employer ends, employees who need to take more time off may qualify for illness benefit from the Department of Social Protection subject to PRSI contributions.
Employers will need to keep an eye on any developments on this so that they can ensure that their employment policies and employment contract(s) are updated accordingly, and they may even wish to plan ahead as well, by calculating what their potential cost exposure will be based on average employee absences in previous years.
HR BUDDY ANNOUNCE THE CREATION OF 12 JOBS TO SUPPORT EXPANSION PLANS
Remote HR, IT and Business Development roles across Ireland
HR Buddy targets nationwide expansion
HR Buddy, the global human resources consultancy, have announced the creation of 12 jobs over the next 18 months. This follows the highly successful launch of HR Buddy, Irelands’ first HR solution portal, earlier this year.
Headquartered in Killorglin, Co. Kerry, HR Buddy was established to provide HR Solutions to Irish SMEs. The online HR portal was launched in 2021 having initially provided traditional HR consultancy since 2017.
The innovative move to bring HR online provides businesses with 24/7 access to protection, expert advice and guidance. Priced at an affordable monthly fee, the online portal allows small firms to spread HR costs across the year rather than incurring unpredictable consultancy fees.
Founder & CEO, Damien McCarthy, said: “Following a successful pivot in response to an ever-evolving work environment, we took the decision to invest in a future proofed solution to solve HR challenges which are faced by all business owners. We feel that now is the right time to scale up our business and we need the right people to do this.”
HR Buddy currently employs two people. The rapid growth of the business over the past six months has resulted in the need for three hires in 2021 with a further nine planned in 2022. The roles will be equally spread across HR, IT and business development.
Damien McCarthy continued: “In a post-pandemic world where hybrid working is a reality, it will be vital for businesses across Ireland to have the right HR support in place. We believe that HR Buddy is ideally placed to capitalise on this and grow over the coming years.”
Small firms of 50 or less employees make up 98% of Ireland’s businesses. HR Buddy aims to ensure that no businesses are left out or at a disadvantage when it comes to effective & proactive HR Management.
Thanks for reading, I hope this helps and if we can be of any support, get in touch.
Best wishes & warm regards,
Damien McCarthy Assoc. CIPD
CEO – HR Buddy
www.hrbuddy.ie 064-6698034 firstname.lastname@example.org