A new Employment Regulation Order ("ERO") was brought into force on 1 November 2016 which provides for three pay increases to contract cleaners over the next two years, together with enhanced minimum terms and conditions of employment. We examine the scope of the new ERO and the likely impact for employers.
Under the Industrial Relations Acts 1946-2015, Joint Labour Committees may draw up draft agreements on terms and conditions of employment for employees within a particular sector (including, for example, the security, hotels and retail sectors), which are then submitted to the Labour Court for approval. If the Labour Court approves the agreement, it is then sent to the Minister who can, if he thinks it appropriate to do so, adopt an ERO in the terms of the agreement. Once adopted, EROs are legally binding on everyone within the particular sector covered.
Scope of the ERO
The new Contract Cleaning ERO replaces a previous ERO which had been in place since 1 October 2015. The ERO provides for a new minimum pay rate of €10.05, up from €9.75, to come into effect in December 2016. It also provides for two further pay increases with effect from 1 December 2017 and 1 December 2018, when the rates will go up to €10.40 and €10.80 per hour, respectively.
In addition to setting minimum wage rates, the ERO sets out a number specific terms and conditions of employment for contract cleaners. In particular, like the previous ERO, it:
- prescribes overtime rates for hours worked in excess of 44 hours per week and for Sunday overtime;
- sets out specific terms regarding annual leave, Good Friday and Sunday working;
- provides for certain sick pay and death-in-service benefits; and
- includes terms regarding disciplinary, grievance and bullying and harassment procedures.
It also includes a number of new provisions, which were not covered by the previous ERO. For example, the new ERO:
- requires employers to issue completed weekly rosters at least three days in advance of their commencement;
- obliges employers, in the event of a transfer of undertaking, to provide employees with a statement of their terms and conditions of employment at least two weeks prior to the transfer, and to provide them with a certificate of service, confirming the employee's length of service, in advance of the transfer;
- provides that all communication with employees (including correspondence regarding rosters, payslips etc) should be by email or through the company online portal, where possible;
- puts in place specific terms and conditions regarding uniforms and requires employers to have a clear uniform procedure in place; and
- requires employers to have an operational procedure in place for dealing with wage shortages and overpayments to employees, and to communicate this procedure to all employees and to Trade Union representatives (where the employer recognises a trade union).
The ERO applies to workers employed by undertakings engaged in whole or in part on the provision of cleaning and janitorial services in, or on the exterior of, establishments including hospitals, offices, shops, stores, factories, apartment buildings, hotels, airports and similar establishments.
There are approximately 30,000 workers covered by the ERO.
What does this mean for employers?
Employers within the contract cleaning industry need to familiarise themselves with the ERO and ensure that they pay their employees in line with the prescribed minimum wage rates, or pay higher rates, and that they provide conditions of employment which are no less favourable than those prescribed by the ERO. Employers can, however, apply to operate outside of the rules of the new ERO for a period of up to 24 months in cases of financial difficulty.
Employers covered by the ERO must keep records showing compliance with its provisions for three years, and failure to do so is an offence.
An employee whose employer has breached the terms of an ERO may refer a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission which has the power to award the employee up to two years' remuneration in compensation.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.