Advice on employment rights

Information on organisations who can give advice on employment rights, working conditions, redundancy, insolvency and paid holiday entitlement. 

Emergency volunteering leave

A new, temporary, statutory right is available for eligible workers to take Emergency Volunteering Leave to help the Health and Social Care system in response to the Coronavirus outbreak.

Early Conciliation in Northern Ireland from 27 January 2020

From 27 January 2020, most people who wish to lodge a claim with the Industrial or Fair Employment Tribunal will first have to notify the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) and discuss the option of Early Conciliation.  Potential claimants will not be able to proceed to tribunal without at least considering this option.

Where potential claimants either decide not to avail of Early Conciliation or if the process does not achieve a settlement, an Early Conciliation Certificate will be issued by the LRA. Claimants going on to present a claim to the tribunals must be able to provide the certificate number in order for their claim to proceed.

Tribunal claims usually have to be presented within three or six months of the alleged incident or behaviour, depending on the type of claim. Early Conciliation allows time (up to a calendar month, with an additional two weeks if needed) for a settlement to be discussed without affecting the deadline for a Tribunal claim. However, it is still important that potential claimants don’t delay in making the initial Early Conciliation notification to the LRA, otherwise they may find that a future claim cannot be accepted.

For more information about Early Conciliation, and exemptions that apply to it, contact the LRA’s Workplace Information Service on 03300 555 300 or see LRA website - Early Conciliation coming to NI 27 January.  

Impact Assessments for Early Conciliation and revised Tribunal Rules have been completed and are available at:

Labour Relations Agency

Whether you're an employer or an employee, if you are looking for free and confidential assistance with your employment rights, you can contact the Labour Relations Agency's Workplace Information Service. However the Agency does not offer advice on the merits of an individual complaint.

Note: In the current COVID-19 situation, LRA helpline is operating as normal but with delays expected

Equality or discrimination in employment

For queries about equality or discrimination in employment, telephone the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland enquiry line on 028 9050 0600 . Guidance on equality and discrimination at work is also available on the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland website.

The Good Relations and Social Change section of the Executive Office website may also be useful.

Health and safety at work

For health and safety at work queries, contact the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland by telephoning the freephone helpline:

  • 0800 0320 121

Note: During the current COVID-19 period, HSENI has advised it is only to be contacted by telephone on 0800 0320 121 in the case of an emergency or to report a fatality

They also produce online guidance on health and safety issues, both general and sector specific, and provide an email inquiry service.

The Citizens Advice Bureau can be a further source of assistance in these areas.

Working time and paid holiday entitlement

The Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2016  implement the Working Time Directive in Northern Ireland. The aim of the Directive is to ensure that workers are protected against adverse effects on their health and safety; caused by working excessively long hours or having inadequate rest or disrupted work patterns. The Regulations provide for (amongst other things):

  • a maximum 48 hour working week averaged over a reference period
  • a minimum daily rest period of 11 consecutive hours a day
  • a rest break where the working day is longer than six hours
  • a minimum rest period of one day per week
  • a statutory right to 5.6 weeks paid annual leave  
  • health assessments for night workers

The Regulations make special provision for ‘young workers’ (those above school leaving age, but below the age of 18) in terms of daily and weekly working time limits, daily and weekly rest, rest breaks at work and night work.

The Regulations exclude those who work in particular sectors of activity, mainly transport related. These excluded workers, listed below, are afforded similar protection by virtue of separate UK wide sector-specific Regulations:

Mobile workers in civil aviation and workers performing mobile road transport activities are excluded from specified provisions in the Working Time Regulations, but are afforded similar protection by virtue of sector-specific Regulations:

Guidance on the working time regulations can be found on nidirect for workers or employees and nibusinessinfo.co.uk for employers or businesses.

Employment rights publications

There is a range of guidance material available on nidirect Employment, training and careers topic.

Employers seeking general information can use the nibusinessinfo.co.uk website. If you want to know about rules and regulations when starting up or growing your own business, look at some of the useful information from Invest Northern Ireland.

Codes of Practice which help employers establish best practice in the workplace can be obtained from the Department and the following public bodies:

Insolvency payments

Under part 14 of the Employment Rights (NI) Order 1996, the Redundancy Payments Service (RPS) pay certain entitlements (within limits) owed to former employees of insolvent employers.

Payments can include:

  • arrears of Pay
  • holiday pay
  • pay-in-lieu of notice
  • unpaid pension contributions 

This legislation, which implements the EU Insolvency Directive 80/987/EEC, guarantees a basic minimum payment to employees of insolvent employers, as they would otherwise have to wait some considerable time for payment, or get no payment, as creditors in the insolvency proceedings.

    Outstanding contractual debts remain listed in insolvency and may become payable only if the sale of an employer's assets realises enough money. Employees may also be entitled to redundancy pay under the separate provisions of part 12 of the 1996 Order. After they have secured this pay, the employees' rights and remedies in respect of these debts transfer to the Department for the Economy. The claims for basic minimum payment and redundancy payment (but not for pensions) are paid direct by the RPS to the employees.

    Employees must claim directly to the assigned Insolvency Practitioner for debts that fall outside the scope of Article 229 of the Employment Rights Order 1996. The Redundancy Payments Service has no involvement in such payments.

    Redundancy

    Redundancy is generally where an employer needs to reduce his or her workforce. It may happen because a work place is closing down, or because fewer employees are needed for work of a particular kind. Normally your job must have disappeared. It is not redundancy if your employer immediately takes on a direct replacement for you. But it will not matter if your employer is recruiting more workers for work of a different kind, or in another location.

    For more information on redundancy:

    The redundancy consultation process

    As an employer, you are required by law to notify the Department for the Economy of a proposal to make redundant 20 or more employees

    Terms and conditions/pay

    A contract of employment normally exists once an employee starts work, whether or not it is in writing. Most employees must receive a written employment statement within two months of beginning work. This should include details, such as: the employer’s name; worker’s job title; pay; hours of work; holiday entitlement; pension; period of employment; notice periods; and disciplinary and grievance procedures. Employees must be told about any changes to their employment statement within one month.

    An employee is also entitled to a written pay statement when or before they are paid. This should detail gross pay, take home pay and any deductions made. Deductions may only be made if they are required by law, authorised by the worker’s contract or agreed in writing.

    Further information

    Further information on the national minimum wage is available from the ACAS Helpline on 0300 123 1100; from the Department for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy at Labour Market Reform (GOV.UK) which also provides information in Polish, Lithuanian and Russian and has capacity for employers/workers to make complaints about suspected non-compliant employers online.

    Note: The ACAS Helpline is operating as normal but with expected delays

    Rates of pay, hours and holidays in the agricultural sector are treated differently - queries in this area should be made to the Agricultural Helpline on 028 9052 4012 or by email: FarmPolicyBranch@daera-ni.gov.uk.

    Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (TUPE) Regulations

    On 6 April 2006, the revised Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006 (the 'TUPE Regulations') (S.I. 2006/246) and the Service Provision Change (Protection of Employment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2006 (the '2006 Regulations') (S.R. 2006 No. 177) came into force.

    The TUPE Regulations make provision, in respect of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, for the treatment of employees, and related matters on the transfer of a business or undertaking while the 2006 Regulations make corresponding provision related to service provision change in Northern Ireland.

    These Regulations replace the previous 1981 TUPE Regulations, and the 2006 Regulations widen the scope to cover cases where services are outsourced, insourced or assigned by a client to a new contractor (described as 'service provision changes').

    More useful links

     


    Related to Advice on employment rights

    Access to information

    How to request information from the Department for the Economy including Freedom of Information (FOI) and the use of our Publication Scheme.

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