HR in 90 Seconds - September 2018

Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 28 September 2018
Legal Island
Legal Island
Issues covered:

In this month’s ‘HR in 90 seconds…’ we are looking at probation periods; comparative employment law between Ireland and the UK; and the dangers of jokes about people’s accents.

We have a number of excellent resources on our Employment Law Hub but we know you are short for time so we have reviewed them and brought together the recent key points to help you stay up to speed. If you need more information you can follow the relevant links below for further details on each issue.

This month’s takeaway points include:

  • Key points on how to ensure that probation periods work:
  • An update on jurisdictional changes in employment law;
  • A reminder of the dangers of making a joke at work about someone’s accent.

How to Manage Probation Periods

Probation periods are essential to the recruitment process and are also consistently one of the top searched subjects on the Legal Island hub. Getting to know someone takes time – longer than just the time involved in an interview process. No matter how thorough your selection process, you won’t know how your new recruit performs until they arrive and get started. Using a probation period gives you an extra chance to check that the candidate is indeed a good fit. Likewise, your employee might like the opportunity to ensure they’ve made the right decision in accepting the job.

Bright HR offers key advice for probation periods including:

  • Support the employee to learn about the company’s culture and values
  • Help them understand the role more fully
  • Keep communication clear
  • Be clear on what is expected during this period
  • Hold review meetings

Bright HR also follow this article by providing some typical questions that can be used when conducting a probation review period. They recommend a 3 – 6 month duration, depending on the role, and that any problems should be dealt with as quickly as possible and ensure that you follow due process where a dismissal becomes necessary. However, we commonly get asked by subscribers about what process is acceptable for an employer in the situation where a dismissal does become necessary during the probation period. The Legal Island experts provide regular advice on the Northern Ireland Employment Law Hub to assist with this:

Comparative Employment Law Table: Northern Ireland, Ireland and Great Britain

The Legal Island Comparative Employment Law Table was updated last month. It sets out recent employment law developments between the three employment law jurisdictions of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain. We have seen a number of changes in the last year or so, mainly in the first and third of these jurisdictions, thanks partly to the hiatus at the Stormont Assembly. Here is a quick round up of the areas of main developments:

  • Republic of Ireland - there have been many developments in relation to equality laws in particular (parental rights, retirement, gender pay gap reporting and more) but there have also been changes or proposals regarding zero hour contracts and a-typical working, whistleblowing, Codes of Practice, National Minimum Wage rates.
  • GB - there have been developments in relation to compensation rates and whistleblowing (as there have been in NI), gender pay gap reporting, working time and National Minimum Wage rates.
  • NI - as mentioned, there have been fewer developments in NI. There have been some in compensation and NMW rates.

The table was updated on 20th August 2018 by Mark McAllister of the Labour Relations Agency, Ciara Fulton from Jones Cassidy Brett solicitors, and Scott Alexander from Legal-Island.

In addition, Mark, Ciara and Scott have recorded a series of podcasts on major areas of difference in comparative employment laws between the three jurisdictions. Those podcasts and their transcripts will be released over the coming weeks. The podcasts go into more detail that can be done in the table and also cover some of the historical reasons for the differences between the jurisdictions.

Mark and Ciara will both be speaking at the Northern Ireland Annual Reviews of Employment Law Conferences this November.

Ever joked with someone about their accent?

A woman who was mocked for having a west Belfast accent and harassed for being female has won damages from an industrial tribunal. More from the Belfast Telegraph.

Gender Pay Gap – the time to prepare is now

GPG seems to be back on the agenda and Paul Oakes, Manager of the Advisory Services Team at the Equality Commission, looks at the gender pay reporting in his latest blog.

Paul reminds us that from earlier this year companies in Great Britain employing more than 250 people have had to report annually on the pay differential between men and women in their employment and tackle pay gap issues where they arise. Although this law does not currently apply in Northern Ireland, the framework is in place to introduce a law with similar or even more far-reaching requirements.

If you have seen any HR related articles you’d like to share with Legal-Island readers, please send it to


Don't miss this month’s Employment Law In Brief: Case Law Special. Decisions highlighted in this article cover a wide range of employment issues, including sleep-in shifts; holiday pay; disciplinary procedures and disparity of treatment; unfair dismissal and fair procedures; unilateral variation of contractual terms and constructive dismissal; and the importance of reasonable investigations. 

This article is correct at 28/09/2018

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

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