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.
- Labour Relations Agency
- Telephone: 03300 555 300 (Workplace Information Service)
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:
- workers to whom Merchant Shipping (Maritime Labour Convention) (Hours of Work) Regulations 2018 - legislation.gov.uk website apply
- workers on board sea-going fishing vessels to whom The Fishing Vessels (Working Time: Sea-fishermen) Regulations 2004 (SI 2004/1713) apply
- workers to whom The Merchant Shipping (Working Time: Inland Waterways) Regulations 2003 (SI 2003/3049) apply
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:
- for mobile workers in civil aviation see The Civil Aviation (Working Time) Regulations 2004
- for mobile road transport workers see The Road Transport (Working Time) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2005)
New emergency legislation, The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 - legislation.gov.uk website, was introduced to ensure businesses have the flexibility they need to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and to protect workers from losing their statutory holiday entitlement. The temporary regulations will allow affected staff to carry over up to four weeks of unused annual leave into the next two annual leave years.
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:
- Labour Relations Agency
- Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland
- Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.
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 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:
- Employees - Redundancy and leaving your job (nidirect)
- Employers - Redundancy: the options (nibusinessinfo.co.uk)
- Redundancy Payments - forms and advice
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 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 - please see information on the DAERA site on the Agricultural Wages Board for more information
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').
- TUPE regulations for employees - Employment protection during business transfers and takeovers
- TUPE regulations employers - Responsibilities to employees if you buy or sell a business
More useful links
- Migrant workers
- Workplace pensions (nidirect)
- Know your legal obligations on pensions (nibusinessinfo.co.uk)
- Contact Employment Rights