Diversity is good for business. More women at work benefits the economy. A society that places a high value on equal treatment attracts investment and talent. We recognise that these are principles which make Ireland one of the best places in the world in which to do business and we want to live in a society that promotes inclusion. The law, too, requires respect for diversity and prohibits discrimination on a range of specified grounds including gender and sexual orientation. Employers who fail to adhere to the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2015 face severe consequences, with the risk of litigation, financial penalties and possible negative publicity. |
But doing the ‘right thing’ morally and legally when it comes to matters of equality and diversity isn’t always straightforward. Within the legislation, employees’ rights and interests can occasionally compete and even collide, sometimes as a result of membership of one gender or another, other times rooted in differing social mores as a result of cultural differences or religious views. In social contexts, we can avoid declaring ourselves on how best to proceed in such cases - whose rights should have primacy - in the interests of not causing offence. All too often, employers do not have that option and are required to meet these challenges head on. That is why this year the focus of Ibec’s Employment Law Conference will be on equality in the Irish workplace - what it means, what is required for legal compliance and the consequences of failing to meet the necessary standard.
The advent of the #MeToo movement has received extensive coverage in the global media, but for those tasked with applying its principle of ensuring victims are heard, complex questions of natural justice can arise. At this year’s conference, Ibec solicitors will explore recent case law on sexual harassment with a particular emphasis on best practice in the conduct of workplace investigations.
The balancing of gender equality and caring responsibilities remains a key challenge in achieving diversity in the workplace. The introduction of paid paternity leave in Ireland in recent years aimed to correct what had previously been an overwhelming emphasis on the role of working women in this respect. A number of employment law policies are now gaining traction on the sharing of maternity leave, longer (and paid) parental leave for both parents and the introduction of work/life balance measures. At this year’s conference, we evaluate which of these proposals are likely to become law, how soon and in what form.
In addition, we will examine recent employment law developments and review the five most significant employment law cases of the last 12 months. As employers will know, equality challenges are not restricted to issues of gender, but cover every aspect of the employment relationship from recruitment to retirement. To get a unique insight into developments in employment law from an employer’s perspective, register to attend this year’s Ibec Employment Law Conference. It will be of considerable interest and relevance to employment law practitioners, employers and senior HR managers.