Pregnant at Work? Know your Rights!

We’ve all heard the horror stories about your friend who announced she was pregnant

and suddenly ‘wasn’t ‘a right fit for the company’. Since the #MeToo movement there has been a growing awareness surrounding how women are treated in the Workplace worldwide. We’re here to tell you that as a pregnant lady, you have rights, you shouldn’t be silenced and we will make your voice heard!

 

Pregnant at Work rights

 

 

Take a look at some of the rights you have that we see are breached most often!

Your Rights before Maternity Leave:

• You have the right to request a Health and Safety Assessment of your Workplace when pregnant.
• You have the right to ask HR or Management to implement any feedback that comes as a result of that assessment. This may be anything from changing a chair with little to no back support or changing your hours to avoid sitting in major traffic without being able to go to the bathroom etc. This kind of accommodation should be made for you while pregnant.
• You have the right to be ‘reasonably accommodated’ in your employment should you not be able to do your job due to your pregnancy. This means you should be given a different job within the business that you are capable of doing and will not cause you any strain while pregnant.
• You have the right to request time off to attend doctors appointments and scans while pregnant. You should be paid the same wage for this day however may be required to work back in that time over a number of days. Some employers may need to see an appointment card for proof of appointment.
• You should be treated the same as any other employee as regards opportunities, pay raises, perks and benefits etc. while pregnant.
• Decisions should not be made on your behalf as to why you should not have to travel, attend work abroad when your rest breaks or maternity leave should start or begin. You should make these decisions yourself and inform the relevant person.
• You must make your employer aware of your intention to take Maternity leave at least 4 weeks in advance. We also encourage that you do this in writing.
• If the situation arises where your employer cannot give you work or cannot remove the risks founds in your risk assessment, you have the right to stay at home with a certificate from your doctor declaring the workplace unsafe for you at this time.
• If you are applying for a job while pregnant, you cannot be asked any questions in relation to your pregnancy such as ‘How far along are you?’
• You cannot be asked any questions regarding your Family Status or Number of Children.
• You should also never be asked if you intend on having more children or any similar discriminatory questions.

Your Rights while on Maternity Leave

• You are entitled to 26 weeks statutory Maternity leave. Not all employers will pay this and it depends on the details of your employment contract. However, may be entitled to avail of Maternity Benefit.
• You are entitled to request an additional 16 weeks unpaid Maternity leave which can start immediately at the end of the 26 weeks statutory leave.
• A further extension is available to mothers who have given birth prematurely. Maternity Benefit will not cover these additional periods. Your employer is also not obliged to pay you for these periods.
• Under the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004, you are required to finish up work for Maternity leave at least 2 weeks before your babies expected due date and must remain out of work for at least 4 weeks after it’s birth.
• If you become ill during these additional periods of leave, you can ask your employer to end your Maternity leave and go on sick leave to avail of Illness Benefit.
• You are entitled to regular leave as any other employee while on Maternity leave. Therefore, should you encounter a public holiday while on Maternity leave, this day should be accrued as Annual Leave.
• Should the worst ever happen that a stillbirth or miscarriage occurs after week 24 of your pregnancy, you are entitled to your full Maternity leave period. This includes the statutory 26 weeks and a further 16 weeks thereafter. Should you have the correct PRSI requirements, Maternity Benefit is payable for the first 26 week period.
• In order to apply for Maternity Benefit in the event of a stillbirth, your doctor will need to send a letter containing the Maternity Benefit application form and confirming the expected date of birth, the actual date of birth and the number of weeks of pregnancy.
• In the event of a premature birth, you are entitled to claim the difference between the actual date of birth and the expected date of birth back in Maternity leave. Eg. If your expected due date is the second week of June but instead, your baby is born in the third week of May, this is a difference of three weeks. Your Maternity leave will begin the day you give birth, you are entitled to the statutory 26 weeks and then an additional 3 weeks!
• You must give your employer 4 weeks written notice of your intention to return to work.
• You cannot be dismissed while on Maternity leave.
• If you are dismissed while of Maternity leave, you have 6 months from the date of dismissal to take legal action to the Workplace Relations Commission – We can help with this!

Your Rights after Maternity Leave:

• You have the right to be treated the same as all other employees upon your return to work.
• You should be placed back in your job. If any changes were made to your job while you were on Maternity leave, they should be agreed by you on your return. If you do not agree to these changes, they should not be enforced and you should return to your job.
• Should it not be possible to return to the exact job you should be placed in something similar with similar pay and a similar level of responsibility provided you agree to it.
• You have the right to ask your employer for breastfeeding breaks. You should do this before you return to work in order to plan. This will also mean a risk assessment needs to be done as employers need to provide a safe and healthy environment for this.
• If you were on probation, completing an internship or an apprentice when you announced you were pregnant and when your Maternity leave began, your contract/agreement should be frozen and therefore continue upon your return to work.
• You should not lose any annual leave upon return from your Maternity leave.

We ask that you bring these rights to the attention of your pregnant friends, partners and family.

Should you feel like your rights have been breached in any way during your pregnancy, let us know and we can discuss your legal options. Contact info@employment-matters.ie or call 051 841 641.

Sexual Harassment at work results in €45,000 payout

It is by no means a surprise to think that sexual harassment at work is common. With the rise of the high profile ‘Me Too’ and ‘Times Up’ movements, sexual harassment at work and female issue’s are at the top of people’s minds. At least that’s what we like to think.

Sexual Harassment at Work

It was in late 2016 that a distressed twenty-something-year-old lady met with Employment-Matters to tell us her story. She had been subject to 6+ months of sexual harassment at work from her then boss and also regular sexually suggestive comments. When our client reported the misconduct to an internal superior, a full investigation was completed but her boss claimed he could not remember making any comments. Prior to the investigation, the man had approached her numerous times and asked her to sit in his car with him, winked at her and directed crude jokes towards her about a tattoo she had.

Our client made a total of five complaints. Of these, two were upheld, one was overturned and a further two could not be substantiated. Some of the complaints made against her boss were of a very serious nature which had clearly left the woman feeling violated. Workplace Relations Commission Adjudicator Mr. Murphy, found our client to be a credible complainant and truly believed that what she had experienced had impacted both her personal and working life.

Due to the employer’s lack of commitment to resolving these complaints internally, they too were responsible said Mr. Murphy. The lack of commitment from the company had been discussed numerous times throughout the case and has helped to identify serious flaws in the business’ internal procedures.

The Award

In the end, our client was awarded an award of €35,000 from her boss for the distress suffered by the complainant. It was instructed that her employer pay our client a further €10,000 for the victimisation and distress of these issues. This gave our client a total award of €45,000.

Have you experienced sexual harassment at work or something similar with a boss or work colleague? If the answer is yes, we want to hear from you! We hear too many cases of women leaving these cases go on too long, or leaving their jobs and missing their 6-month opportunity timeline. Don’t be a victim of time too. Call Employment-Matters on 051 841 641 today for a free consultation with one of our employment law experts.

Tracker Mortgage Scandal; “I’ll get these *ankers said the Governor of the Central Bank…”

Like Not Once, Never…

I can’t tell you how infuriated I am by the recent hand-wringing in Government and high office in relation to the tracker mortgage Scandal.

“I’ll get these *ankers…” said Philip Lane…like NOT.

That’s right a Scandal with a capital ‘S’! (To be distinguished from the Sindo’s view of a scandal this week (with a small s!) of the whatsapp messages emanating from Ballyragget CLG).

Now I’m not one normally for hyperbole or over-reactions but this is really disgraceful and pathetic from both the Minister for Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank.

For the Minister to suggest that the most important thing here is to ensure that those who were deceived be compensated is simply disingenuous.  It’s an attempt to hide from the real issue, to cloak himself in some level of sanctity, like; sure who could argue with that sentiment.

Gene Kerrigan gave an apt description of the whole debacle comparing it to the Gardai going to someone who stole your car and asking them to return it at some stage in the future.  I’m not normally a fan of Gene Kerrigan’s but today he hit the nail on the head.  The *ankers should not just return this money immediately with interest and penalties but they must be held accountable for their actions.

Imagine how the banks (small b) would treat you and I if we decided we were simply not going to pay our mortgage ’til maybe next summer or even next Christmas?  You’ll understand Mr *anker, it’s just while I carry out an internal review of things, get a better handle on our finances and sure, I’m not sure if I have a mortgage at all, or if I should be paying it, it’ll only take a couple of years…Get a grip.  They’d be down your throat so fast…like a ton of bricks.

But that’s exactly what it would appear that they want to do and they expect us to concur.  Brush this all under the carpet, downplay it, sure I’m sure it’s all a big mishtake.

And why would we be surprised about that?  Of course they’ll try and get away with it, haven’t they gotten away with far worse?  And you can’t blame a fella for trying, if you don’t ask, you don’t get…The problem here isn’t just the *ankers, it’s the Central Bank and the Minister.

You see when the Central Bank says that it doesn’t have enforcement powers, it can’t meddle in individual contracts it’s probably right.  That’s a civil matter between the borrower and the *ankers and it is correct for the Minister to say that the individual borrower may not have the resources to take on the deep pockets of the *ankers.  But what he’s neglecting to say is that the Central Bank has a much, much bigger stick, a very very big stick indeed.  For the life of me though I cannot fathom not only why Lane and Donhoe refuse to stand up to the *ankers but why they insist on treating the public with such utter disdain.  Of course they trot out the usual catchphrases, but clearly they have absolutely no intention of intervening.  What is it that the *ankers hold over them?

I ask this metaphorically but also because I would genuinely want to know.  It’s because, as mentioned above, I have first hand knowledge of the wrath of the Central Bank, of the resources that it can bring to measure against a financial services business if it deems it appropriate.  See, as I said above they do have significant powers to bring the *ankers to heal.  They are after all the body who licences *ankers in this country.  Now that’s not just the banks themselves but each and every individual *anker in each bank who carries out certain functions is obliged to hold a type of licence from the Central Bank which says that they are fit and proper people to hold such a licence and that essentially they are fit and proper people to handle people’s money.

Now clearly that is not the case here.  I don’t mean that they don’t hold the licences but clearly some if not a great many of these *ankers are not fit and proper people to either hold such a licence (it’s called a PCF licence) or to be responsible for other people’s money.  You see clearly some of these *ankers are not nice people at all.  Now really, there’s nothing wrong with not being a nice person (well nothing illegal anyway) and in fact it works quite well when you’re a *anker anyway, but when you start throwing dishonesty into the mix then we start getting into the realms of why do these people continue to be licenced by the Central Bank and why is the Central Bank not carrying out a whole host of investigations into each and every one of these *ankers?

I would love to get at the answer to that question.  You see when you call a load of *ankers into a room and start telling them that you’re disappointed in them (again) and that it’s very unfortunate that they haven’t apologised and that you’d like them to do more…then you’re only going to get one answer and you’ve only got yourself to blame for what that is.  If you were tell these fells though on the other hand that sorry lads, it’s like this, you have two weeks to get your cheque books out, and the way it’s going to work is like this…and by the way, we’re also commencing immediate investigations into every single one of ye and what that means is that by the end of this, every single one of ye could be looking for new professions, because if it turns out that any of ye or the people ye’re responsible for acted in a way that was dishonest, if it’s the case that you took advantage of people in their darkest hour, then you are not people who are fit and proper to conduct this type of business.  You are dealing with other people’s money and we must be able to trust you and if we can’t you can sling your hook ‘cos you can no longer work in this game.

You see all *ankers must comply with the Fitness and Probity Standards applicable to their approval issued by the Central Bank pursuant to Section 50 of the Central Bank (Reform) Act 2010 (the “Fitness and Probity Standards”).  All *ankers holding a PCF must agree that agree to abide by such standards.

You see the Central Bank has the power under Section 25 of the Central Bank Reform Act 2010 (as amended) to issue what’s called a Notice of Intention to Commence an Investigation.  The Central Bank can commence an investigation into any of these *ankers under Section 25(1) of the Central Bank Reform Act 2010 (as amended) (“the 2010 Act”).  That would mean that the Central Bank could conduct an investigation into the fitness and probity of any person in any of these banks performing a controlled function, where there is reason to suspect the person’s fitness and probity and that in the circumstances an investigation is warranted.

For example, if there is reason to suspect that the person does not satisfy an applicable standard of fitness and probity or the person has participated in serious misconduct in relation to the business of a regulated financial service provider.

Under Section 45 of the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013 (“the 2013 Act”) then the Central Bank may compel a Bank to;

(a) to suspend, for such period not exceeding 12 months as is specified in the direction, any one or more of the following:

(i) the provision of any financial service, or description of financial service, specified in the direction;

(ii) the making of payments to which subparagraph (i) does not relate or any such payments or description of such payments specified in the direction;

(iii) the acquisition or disposal of any assets or liabilities, or description of assets or liabilities, specified in the direction;

(iv) entering into transactions or agreements, or description of transactions or agreements, specified in the direction, or entering into them except in specified circumstances or to a specified extent;

(v) soliciting business from persons of a class specified in the direction;

(vi) carrying on business in a manner specified in the direction or otherwise than in a manner so specified.

(d) to make such modifications to its systems and controls as may be specified in the direction.

(e) to make such modifications to its business practices and dealings with third parties as may be specified in the direction.

So you see, the Central Bank has plenty of power to resolve this Scandal, it or he just doesn’t want to use them it would seem.

In fairness, it seems in this country that you’d be in far more trouble if you took a few steamy pictures at a 21st in Kilkenny than if you stole a person’s hard earned cash and a big part of their life.

Go figure…