- Use your probation periods!
Make sure your contracts of employment contain a probationary period. Between 3-6 months is normal. Don’t keep extending probationary periods. If the employee is not suitable it’s better for both the hotel and the employee that they leave early. Probationary clauses should reserve the right to use a shortened disciplinary procedure or no disciplinary procedure during probation.
- Keep Time Records!
Consider a digital clock in system. This information should be checked regularly and kept as a record. This is the easiest way to ensure discrepancies in relation to hourly pay are avoided. It’s also essential in dealing with National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) audits and Organisation of Working Time claims. All employers are obliged to keep detailed records of start and finishing times, hours worked each day and each week and leave granted to employees. This requirement is part of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. The employer must keep these records for 3 years. If the hotel does not have an electronic system the legislation sets out a specific format the records must be kept in.
- Consider Different Languages for your HR Materials
The hotel will constantly be vulnerable to personal injury or accidents at work claims. In order to minimise potential claims, thorough training should take place for every system of work. If you have employees of different nationalities you should consider providing these training sessions and materials in the language spoken by the employees. Consider having employees complete a test after the training to ensure the employee has fully understood the procedures. This will also help keep your insurance premiums low.
- Check work permits!
This is an area regularly targeted by NERA and the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). Make sure you have up to date copies of work permits on file for all employees requiring a work permit. New permit rules and types were enacted in October 2014 so hotels should ensure that new employees have the relevant permits under the new system. Ensure that other senior managers know where to access the copies of the work permits in the event that there is an on-the-spot inspection by the GNIB at the hotel and HR are not available.
- Bullying and harassment – consider mediation
Bullying and harassment policies are necessary for hotels regardless of the number of employees. The policy should be communicated regularly to all employees and thoroughly enforced. Consider including the option for mediation to be utilised at both the formal and informal stages. Mediation has an 80% success rate and can often nip potential lengthy and costly litigation in the bud.
- Knowledge is power!
Educate your senior managers on employment law issues regularly. If you have an annual managers’ meeting consider using this opportunity to highlight employment law trends and updates. Very often employee issues have gone too far by the time they come to the attention of the HR Manager. Ensuring managers with a supervisory role have more awareness on recognising potential employment law issues will help mitigate damage down the road.
Employers should always check with employees whether any restrictive covenants or non compete covenants exist relating to their most recent employer. This will ensure potential legal action from competitors is considerably reduced. This confirmation could be included in the offer letter or the contract of employment. Consider including an employee acknowledgement to be signed by the employee at the end of an offer letter/contract of employment. This acknowledgement should include a confirmation that the information the employee has provided on their CV or as part of the application process is completely true and accurate and that failure to provide true and accurate details may lead to dismissal or withdrawal of the offer. This will assist the hotel in the event that information comes to light that wasn’t disclosed by the employee at application stage.
- Social media – beware!
Social media is an absolutely essential marketing tool for hotels. As with all policies, the social media policy should be thoroughly communicated to employees and it should be clear that failure to adhere to the policy could result in dismissal. Hotels should ensure that the passwords to social media sites are retained by management to avoid disgruntled employees from posting inadequate or inappropriate material on any social media sites.
- Sick leave
Contracts and policies should be clear on how employees communicate absence to the hotel. We recommend that hotels include that a text message is not sufficient communication and will be treated as no contact. They should also clearly set out when a medical certificate is required and reserve the right to send employees for medical assessment with the hotel’s medical advisors. Regular contact should be maintained with employees during sick leave to facilitate an early return to work.
- Drinking in the Hotel
This is a common misconduct issue in hotels. The hotel should include a policy relating to drinking in the hotel setting out what is and what is not allowed. The policy should make it clear that failure to adhere to it could result in disciplinary action up to and including dismissal. Employees should also be given training on how to deal with customers who may have imbibed too much to reduce the risks of claims by employees in the event that there is an incident with a customer.
- Prepare for Data Access Requests
Data access requests are a common way for employees to try and find out information when deciding whether to claim against a hotel. They are also a way to cause nuisance to the hotel given the time and resources involved in responding to them. Try and reduce the amount of time you need to spend dealing with employee data access requests by only capturing data on employees that is absolutely necessary. Consider a schedule of when employee documents need to be destroyed and keep discussions with other managers on employee issues to telephone conversations as appropriate.
Contact Linda Hynes for more information.
This publication is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal or professional advice. No liability is accepted by Ogier Leman for any action taken or not taken in reliance on the information set out in this publication. Professional or legal advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from any action as a result of the contents of this publication. Any and all information is subject to change.