Northern Ireland Employment Law In Brief: August 2022Posted in : Supplementary Articles NI on 5 September 2022
This month’s 'In Brief' brings together a range of resources and articles that we’ve found interesting during the month of August. We’ve highlighted the key themes, to help you keep up to date with developments. In contrast to the glorious weather, this month’s news has been a little depressing - we look at strikes, strikes and, wait a minute, did we mention there were strikes?! We also cheer you up with the cost-of-living crisis, impending recession, some clarity on holiday pay and, you guessed it, news on strikes!
Cost of Living
Unfortunately, the cost of living crisis has continued to dominate the headlines this month with Irish Legal news saying that Northern Ireland Employers Must be Willing to Pay Higher Wages. They quote law firm DWF saying employers in Northern Ireland “will need to be willing to pay their employees more” as the cost-of-living crisis bites. There were a record 779,300 employees receiving pay through HMRC PAYE in Northern Ireland in July 2022, an increase of 0.4 per cent over the month and an increase of 2.6 per cent over the year.
How your organisation deals with this crisis could be crucial according to the HR Director who ask whether it’s a ‘Reputation Time-Bomb’ For Employers? The impact of the cost of living crisis on UK workers has been revealed for the first time, with new data showing financial health, mental health and trust in employers have dipped dramatically since the crisis began. The findings see experts now calling on employers and government to act urgently with further measures to reverse the trend – from support packages in the short-term, to improving workers’ rights and support structure in the long-term.
Sticking with the HR Director, some employees are taking matters into their own hands with an article saying that Half Of Employees Taking On Extra Jobs As Recession Bites. Half of UK workers (52%) are already doing temporary work, or are planning to temp, as a direct result of the surging cost of living, according to research by Indeed Flex. A national survey of UK workers found that a third (32%) are planning to do temporary work on top of their existing job, to top up their income in the face of sharply rising costs.
There was wrangling at one of Northern Ireland's largest councils, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon (ABC), between Unions and management in August. A strike had originally been planned to start on Wednesday 10 August, but was postponed to facilitate the talks. The council said it was disappointed [that it would now go ahead]. Members from all three trade unions, GMB, Nipsa and Unite, will be involved in strike action. In a joint statement, the unions said the strike had been avoidable. "We have asked management to address the serious and real cost-of-living crisis being faced by our members," it said.
And across the Irish Sea in England and Wales Criminal Barristers Voted for Strike Action which is set to begin in September. The walkout by members of the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) will begin on 5 September. Until now, members have been striking on alternate weeks in a dispute with the government over pay, working conditions and legal aid funding. The strikes are expected to delay thousands of cases, leaving victims and the accused waiting longer for justice. Courts in England and Wales are already dealing with a large backlog of cases, due in large part to the pandemic - figures from HM Courts and Tribunal Service at the end of April show there were 58,271 cases waiting to go to trial. The CBA is asking for a 25% rise in pay for legal aid work, when they represent defendants who could not otherwise afford lawyers. Criminal barristers are due to receive a 15% fee rise from the end of September, with the MoJ saying the increase would see the average barrister earn about £7,000 more annually.
The civil service’s biggest union also rejected an offer from the Ministry of Defence to give a 12.85% pay rise to staff over the next three years, saying it would come at the cost of an “unacceptable loss of terms and conditions”. Changes to terms and conditions would have included staff losing paid meal breaks, cuts to overtime pay and some staff losing 1.5 days’ leave.
Meanwhile, luxury London department store Harrods hit the headlines when the Daily Mail claimed they were allegedly the first employer to take advantage of controversial new laws allowing agency workers to be hired to stand in for striking workers. In July, ministers lifted a ban on temporary staff being allowed to replace striking workers. It came after unions staged Britain's biggest rail strike in 30 years.
What Is The Current Law on Strikes in Northern Ireland? Mark McAllister of the LRA answers this important question for tricky economic times. And catch up with Mark when he joined Seamus McGranaghan on O’Reilly Stewart solicitors for a cameo appearance in Employment Law at 11 talking all things trade union and strikes.
In a recent Judgement in the case of Harpur Trust -v- Brazel the Supreme Court has clarified the correct method for calculating holiday pay entitlement for an employee with no fixed working pattern. This judgment has ramifications for employers with employees and workers on zero hours contracts with no fixed working pattern across a wide range of sectors. Employers in the education, hospitality, retail, health and social care sectors are more likely to be impacted. Alexander Redpath of Kennedys explains the ins and outs on Legal Island’s Hub.
This article is correct at 05/09/2022
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.