Hot topics for employers during the Summer season

July 02, 2023

With summer well under way, we explore some of the employment law considerations that employers and HR teams should be aware of in planning a summer work event. We also revisit some of the other hot topics for employers during this summer season.

Seasonal workers

It’s important for employers to remember that even when an individual is hired for only a few weeks or months, they still have certain rights and entitlements. These include the right to a written statement of certain core terms of employment within 5 days of commencement of employment and the remaining terms within one month of commencement. The seasonal hire is also entitled to rest period entitlements, paid annual leave and public holiday entitlements (as provided for by working time legislation) as well as rights against unlawful discrimination (on any of the nine grounds covered by equality legislation). In addition, the newly hired seasonal worker will also benefit from the provisions of health and safety legislation, the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 and the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work Act) 2003. Bear in mind also that if the organisation recalls the same temporary employees over a number of successive seasons, the workers concerned may be able to demonstrate the existence of an ‘umbrella’ employment contract and argue that the months between periods of employment should be viewed as periods of temporary lay-off.

Internships

While internships are generally a positive and practical experience for the parties involved, unfortunately there can be legal difficulties with some unpaid internships type of arrangements.

Employers should be mindful of the fact that if the interns are considered to be carrying out work at the direction of the employer (i.e. doing work of value rather than merely shadowing or observing others at work), they are entitled to be paid and get the benefit of all employment legislation, (subject to the Unfair Dismissals minimum service requirement).

When the practical experience is stated to be part of the intern's third level education programme, seek verification of this from the relevant education authority but be advised that there is no specific statutory exemption for study-related work experience. The organisation will only have credibility making this case if the intern is afforded valuable relevant experience rather than assigned to entry level work which would have been done by someone else if the intern had not been there.

Employment of Young Persons

The Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996 applies to employees under 18 years of age. It defines children as being aged under 16 and young persons as those aged 16 and 17. The Act sets minimum age limits for employment, rest intervals and maximum working hours for children and young people. It prohibits the employment of anyone under the age of 18 on late night work and also places an onus on employers to keep specified records for workers under 18. Read more here.

The National Minimum Wage applies to most employees. It is the minimum hourly pay rate that must be paid. It applies to full-time, part-time, temporary, casual employees and seasonal workers.

From 1 January 2023, the following rates apply:

The Safety, Health and Welfare (General Application) Regulations 2007-2016 acknowledge that there are specific risks and factors when employing young persons and children that can have an effect on their health and safety. The main provisions relate to the need for a risk assessment as well as the prohibition of exposure to certain risks.

Key provisions:

  • Complete a risk assessment specific to young persons prior to them starting work
  • Where necessary, prohibit exposure to certain tasks and agents
  • Limit all work of young persons to the working time provisions
  • Ensure all work with young persons is adequately supervised

Immigration rules for full-time non-EEA students

Non-EEA students with Stamp 2 permission to remain are allowed to take up casual employment. They can work up to 20 hours a week during term time and up to 40 hours a week in the holidays. Holiday periods have been standardised – June to September inclusive and from 15 December to 15 January. Students with stamp 2A permission are not allowed to work.

Non-EEA students graduating with Irish degree awards at Level 8 and 9 (or above) on the National Framework of Qualifications can now avail of an extension to their Stamp 1G immigration permission to work under the Third Level Graduate Scheme for 12 and 24 months respectively. Read here.

Holiday requests

A common issue for employers at this time of year is coping with competing annual leave requests. When dealing with competing annual leave requests, an employer should use a fair and equitable approach to determine who can take the requested leave. For example, a rota system could be implemented so that an employee whose request is refused this year will be permitted to take time off next year or a simple draw could be used in which the manager will select at random to see who gets the time off. Having a clear annual leave policy will assist to avoid potential issues arising when competing holiday requests are received.

Workplace summer dress code

If your employee’s workplace summer attire starts looking more like a day at the seaside than a day at the office, it may be time to re-enforce your dress code. Most company dress codes require employees to avoid ‘sins of skin’ and may, for example, prohibit garments that expose too much flesh, bare shoulders, flip flops, and open toed shoes like sandals. However, unusually hot temperatures may cause employees to forget the usual rules. It may be helpful to provide employees with a friendly reminder of the organisation’s dress code and the dos and don’ts of summer work attire.

Work related social events

With summer upon us, some employers may be organising workplace social events to reward staff and boost morale. The prudent employer will wish to ensure that these corporate social events are enjoyed safely and in line with good practice and a communication to staff reminding them that, at a work-related social event, the organisation’s code of conduct, dignity in the workplace health and safety as well as other relevant policies continue to apply. See our sample Summer Social Event Comms below.

Prioritise safe driving for work this summer

Driving is a major part of many workers’ day to day activities. The good weather brings many more people out onto the roads and the driving landscape changes greatly over the summer months. There are more children, cyclists, pedestrians, tourists, agricultural vehicles and vulnerable road users about. So, those who drive for work need to be extra mindful of these seasonal changes and modify their driving and work practices accordingly. By applying some simple guidelines before travelling, en-route, and at premises and public areas driving for work in summer should be safe, stress-free and result in employees returning home safe at the end of their working day.

For example, make sure that:

Vehicles used for work are road worthy before undertaking any work-related journey: even the slightest doubt about vehicle condition and performance, needs checking. Click here for more detailed advice from the Health and Safety Authority.

Ensure that employees who work outdoors are ‘sun smart’

Skin cancer is the most common cancer, with 13,000 cases diagnosed annually, in Ireland. People who work outdoors have a higher-than-average risk of skin cancer. This Health and Safety Authority information sheet is written primarily for employees and safety representatives to raise awareness about the risk of skin cancer from sun exposure.

Check our Workplace and Resources section and download a sample communication for a summer social event.