The legal effect of Lay Offs caused by the current dispute in the Meat Industry
Unemployment levels in Ireland are currently at a 10-year low. However, recent strike action in the beef industry and, in particular in meat processing factories, has pushed the topic of “lay offs” and “redundancies” back into the headlines. With news that meat factory workers across the country have been laid off, and the prospect or more redundancies to follow and possible factory closures on the horizon, we look at the law around lay-offs and what the implications are for both employees and employers alike.
Under the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967-2014, a lay-off can occur where an employer is unable to provide work for an employee, but the employer believes that it will only be on a temporary basis.
A temporary lay-off is not to be confused with redundancy. However, as is the case with redundancies, an employer who wishes to initiate lay-offs must follow certain rules and procedures. An employer can only lay-off an employee if a contract of employment allows for it or if it is the custom and practice in the workplace. Reasons for lay-off should be explained to any employee selected and failure on the part of the employer to do so could result in a claim for statutory redundancy by that employee. Employers must ensure that, when selecting employees for lay-off, they do so on a non-discriminatory basis and that they apply a selection procedure which is reasonable and fair.
Whilst there is no limit on the number of times an employee can be laid-off, if the lay-off continues for 4 weeks or more, or for 6 weeks in the last 13 weeks, and an employer cannot guarantee an employee at least 13 weeks employment, that employee may be able to claim redundancy.
Whilst efforts are obviously being made to resolve the current impasse in the beef industry, the on-going strike action and news that the lack of beef is now being evidenced in shops and restaurants, means it is a worrying time for both employees and employers involved in all related industries.