HR Ireland: Employee Relations & the Essence of Good Management

To return to one of my themes as to what constitutes good and harmonious employee relations; in a word I believe it is trust. Often new employees can be bit bewildered and as in life they may carry some baggage from a previous employer. Having worked in the hospitality industry there is always bantering, maybe a bit macho, that can make the sector at times perhaps stressful.

I have worked for a number of so called ‘hard chaws’ and the one thing I believe, when push comes to shove, is that most employers are reasonable and will help folks out if they have difficulties or troubles. The quid pro quo for this is that the employee is reliable, does their work and gets on with things under normal circumstances.

In modern times there has entered a degree of formality and there are requirements to give a contract of employment, the basics of which are specified in the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994–2012. They basically state that an employer is obliged to provide an employee with a written statement of terms of employment within the first two months of the commencement of employment. However, this requirement does not apply to an employee who has been employed for less than a month.

The statement of terms must include the following information:

  • The full name of employer and employee
  • The address of the employer
  • The place of work
  • The title of job or nature of work
  • The date the employment started
  • If the contract is temporary, the expected duration of the contract
  • If the contract of employment is for a fixed term, the details
  • Details of rest periods and breaks as required by law
  • The rate of pay or method of calculation of pay
  • The pay reference period for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000
  • *Pay intervals
  • *Hours of work
  • That the employee has the right to ask the employer for a written statement of his/her average hourly rate of pay as provided for in the National Minimum Wage Act 2000
  • Details of paid leave
  • Sick pay and pension (if any)
  • Period of notice to be given by employer or employee
  • *Details of any collective agreements that may affect the employee’s terms of employment

I always recommend that if you hire someone you should consider that you could be employing this person for several years, even if it is a young person who is coming in for a couple of weeks.

Some clients seem overly concerned about putting in fixed term contracts and putting in temporary arrangements to somehow ensure the ‘sackability’ of the employee. I believe that such an approach is very negative, and that essentially they are being set up for failure. If you offer a person a permanent job with a six month probation period and option to extend it by a couple of months, then you will know in weeks rather than months if a person is suitable.

In relation to fixed term contracts, if an employee whose employment started after 14 July 2003 has been employed on two or more continuous fixed-term contracts, the total duration of those contracts may not exceed four years.

After this, if the employer wishes to renew the employee’s contract, it must be an open-ended contract unless there are objective grounds justifying the renewal of the contract for a fixed term only.

It should be noted that generally fixed term contracts end on a particular date and specified purpose contracts may be used in cases of maternity cover or where there is a need for particular projects; either way the rules as specified above are the same for both.

In general you should get advice from HR consultants, your employer group or your solicitor before deciding what option to take.

In the industry today there is confusion over whether JLCs are coming back or what the position is. The reality is that while the minister has reinstated a number of JLCs, including the catering and hotel JLCs, no Employment Regulation Orders have been made to date and this has left parts of the industry in no man’s land.

The advice is that employees who started before the 7th July 2011 retain their rights under the JLC system, but people employed after this date under different contractual arrangements are bound by those arrangements and are covered by the minimum wage legislation and employment law, such as the Organisation of Working Time Act etc.

Basically, you may not unilaterally alter a contract of employment without consent. You should get advice before changing contracts to ensure that you are legally compliant.

If you set clear expectations of what you expect then you are much more likely to get the result you desire. It amazes me that many employers simply seem to expect the employees know what to do when they are young and inexperienced – we should remember that we were that way once too.

Set S.M.A.R.T goals i.e.:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time bound

This will help motivate people as they know they are meeting the requirements. Clarity begets clarity, so if people are clear what’s expected they are much more likely to deliver.

My other soap box item is the roster – this is the bane of employees and employers. I find that in better run establishments there is the no messing over rosters and employees are clear a number of weeks in advance when they are due in and the management of holidays is also clear.

This gives the employee the impression that the employer considers their needs within reason, and leads to happier employees. The best asset to any business in the hospitality industry is for the guest to be greeted by a smiling employee who is enjoying their job and happy to serve your customer well.

I leave you this month with a sobering thought – so when that newbie (as the Americans call them) is asking all their questions, I think of my old pal Confucius: ‘”The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life,” that’s what I call food for thought!


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