Are you under pressure to check your email after work? These are your rights

Workers are entitled to 11 hours of rest every 24 hours

Being made work at home could be against the law

Being made work at home could be against the law

 

What happened and why is it in the news? Business executive Grainne O’Hara, who worked at a subsidiary of the meat producer Kepak, was awarded €7,500 by the Labour Court over being required to deal with out-of-hours work emails, even after midnight. The extra burden led to her working in excess of 48 hours a week.

Is this against the law? Yes. The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 stipulates that the maximum average working week is 48 hours. The Act does not apply to members of An Garda Síochána or the Defence Forces.

How is work defined? Under the Act, “working time” means any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his/her activity or duties. This would include dealing with emails and phone calls.

What does a maximum average working week mean? The 48 hours may be averaged according to the following rules: For employees, generally over four months. For employees where work is seasonal, subject to a foreseeable surge in activity, or where employees are directly involved in ensuring continuity of service or production, it may be averaged over six months.

For employees who enter into a collective agreement with their employees which is approved by the Labour Court, the period is 12 months.

The maximum 48-hour working week was phased in over three years following the commencement of the 1997 Act. During the first year, from March 1st 1998, employees were permitted to work up to 60 hours a week. In the second year, a 55-hour week was permitted, subject to a requirement that employees sign a written agreement with their employers.

What other rights are stipulated in the legislation? The Act also provides that, from March 1st 1998, every employee “shall be entitled to a rest period of not less than 11 consecutive hours in each period of 24 hours during which he or she works for his or her employer”.

Do the rest periods apply to all employees? No. They don’t apply to those engaged in sea fishing or in other work at sea. They also don’t apply to those employed by a relative where their workplace is in the private house or farm on which he or she and the relative reside.

What other rest breaks are employees entitled to? A weekly rest period of 24 consecutive hours per seven days, following a daily rest period. They are also entitled to a 15-minute break where more than 4½ hours have been worked and a 30-minute break where more than 6 hours have been worked, which may include the first break.

What holidays are employees entitled to? All employees, regardless of status or service, qualify for paid holidays. All time worked also qualifies for paid holiday time.

The Act contains provisions regarding the calculation of holiday pay and places an obligation on the employer to ensure that an employee takes their full statutory leave within the leave year, or within the six months after that.

Employees are also entitled to an unbroken period of two weeks’ holidays after eight months’ work.

What about public holidays? There are nine public holidays a year. Workers are entitled to one of the following: a paid day off on the day, a paid day off within a month of that day, an additional day of annual leave, or an additional day’s pay, whichever of those is determined by the employer.