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Employment law in Northern Ireland and a Comparison with the rest of the UK

In the main employment law is similar to the UK. However, in Northern Ireland, the law is devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Often rules are found within a different piece of legislation than those that apply within the UK. Some rules applying in the UK only apply in part to Northern Ireland. Frequently new legislation will have a very different (usually later) application date.  

Below is a summary of some of the main differences:

  • In Northern Ireland, the unfair dismissal qualification is one year, two years in the rest of the UK.
  • In Northern Ireland the unfair dismissal compensation is capped at £76,600 (increased from £74,200 with effect from 14 February 2014). In Great Britain it is the lower of 1 year salary or £76,574 as from 6 April 2014.
  • Collective redundancy consultation for 100 or more employees in Northern Ireland is 90 days (45 days in the rest of the UK).
  • Industrial Tribunals in Northern Ireland are the equivalent of the Employment Tribunals in Great Britain but they do operate differently. There is no fee system for lodging and hearing Industrial Tribunal cases. In England and Wales there is a two tier fee system for lodging and hearing Employment Tribunal cases.
  • The statutory dispute / disciplinary procedure that was repealed in Great Britain in April 2009 has not been repealed in Northern Ireland and so the 3-step statutory dismissal and disciplinary procedure still applies for any disciplinary action and dismissals relating to conduct, capability, redundancy and non-renewal of a fixed term contract in Northern Ireland.
  • The Labour Relations Agency, not ACAS, is responsible for applying codes of practice on Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures in Northern Ireland.
  • Regulation 3.1(b) of the TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2006 – which related to changes of service provider – does not apply in Northern Ireland.
The Equality Act 2010 covering England, Scotland, Wales, is covered in Northern Ireland by the following:

  • Equal Pay Act (NI) 1970
  • Sex Discrimination (NI) Order 1976
  • Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • Race Relations Order 1997
  • Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (NI) 2003
  • Employment Equality (AGE) Regulations (NI) 2006.
Northern Ireland enacted the Fair Employment and Treatment (NI) Order 1998, designed to protect employees and job applicants and others in Northern Ireland against discrimination on the grounds of religious belief and/or political opinion (the Order was amended in 2003 to comply with the European Union’s Equal Treatment Directive relating to discrimination on grounds of religion or belief). In Great Britain, the Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination against religion or belief. The Fair Employment and Treatment Order also provides that employers with more than 10 employees (who work over 16 hours per week) must register with the Equality Commission of Northern Ireland and then monitor the religious composition of their workforce and job applicants and file a yearly report to the Equality Commission. Employers must conduct reviews every 3 years and take affirmative action to ensure fair participation from different community backgrounds.

 

LATEST UPDATES IN EMPLOYMENT LAW IN NORTHERN IRELAND

The Employment Rights (Increase of Limits) Order (Northern Ireland) 2014 This Order increases, from 16th February 2014, the limits applying to certain awards of industrial tribunals, the Fair Employment Tribunal or Labour Relations Agency statutory arbitration, and other amounts payable under employment legislation. Some of the key changes include the “cap” on a week’s pay for statutory redundancy pay and unfair dismissal basic award calculation and which is now £470 per week, Guarantee pay which is now £25.00 per day and the limit on the unfair dismissal compensatory award is now £76,600.

 

REVISED PARENTAL LEAVE DIRECTIVE

The UK implemented the revised Parental Leave Directive in March 2013. This increases Parental leave entitlement from 13 to 18 weeks. The Northern Ireland regulations apply from 8 March 2013 introducing the same changes.

 

The National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Regulations 2013

These Regulations amend the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 and came into force on 1st October 2013. The regulations increase the rate of the national minimum wage:

• for adult workers who are aged 21 or over from £6.19 to £6.31 per hour • for workers who are aged 18 or over (but not yet aged 21) from £4.98 to £5.03 per hour • for workers who are under the age of 18 from £3.68 to £3.72 per hour • paid to apprentices within the first 12 months of their employment or engagement under Government arrangements specified in regulation 13(6)(b) of the1999 Regulations, or who are under the age of 19, from £2.65 to £2.68 per hour

The Regulations also increase the accommodation amount which is applicable where an employer provides a worker with living accommodation from £4.82 to £4.91 for each day that accommodation is provided.

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