Helping employers get to grips with deluge of change in employment law

Many new initiatives are being introduced in piecemeal fashion, with no one looking at the cumulative cost of new rules and entitlements

Employers have been dealing with a veritable deluge of new employment rules and regulations in areas like parental leave, sick leave and whistle-blowing in recent years, and there is more to come in 2023, according to Ibec head of employment law services Nichola Harkin.

“2022 was an exceptionally busy year for employment rights,” she says. “The legislative agenda for 2023 means that it will remain a challenge for employers and employment law practitioners alike to keep pace with the increasing regulation of the employment relationship.”

Along with those changes to parental and sick leave entitlements, 2022 also saw legislation on gender pay gap reporting, probation and contracts of employment, as well as new guidance including a Code of Practice on Right to Disconnect. “In the coming year we will see the introduction of the right to request remote working, the right to request flexible working, leave for medical care purposes and extension of breastfeeding breaks,” Harkin adds.

“We are seeing an awful lot of new regulations coming into force. While each individual piece of legislation or regulation may well have merit, the problem is the lack of co-ordination. They are coming in a piecemeal fashion and no one seems to be looking at the cumulative cost of all the new rules and entitlements. You can’t look at them in isolation.”


She says it is the sheer volume that is proving extraordinarily challenging for many employers.

“Ibec is keenly aware of the importance of achieving sustainable economic development and we recognise the importance of quality-of-life issues. However, the enactment of so many of these reforms in quick succession has proven relentless for employers, and has introduced significant costs for them at a time where business costs are already exceptionally high.”

The pace of change is another issue. “A huge amount of legislation has come into effect since 2020. Employers are used to dealing with one or two policy developments over a couple of years with a fair amount of warning. A lot of them came from EU directives and we would know about them about two or three years in advance and have time to prepare. While some of the new legislation is stemming from EU legislation, other pieces can come in very quickly. Employers are not getting time to prepare.

“The other point is that while many Ibec members are well aware of the changes many others are so busy running their businesses that they are not completely au fait with them.”

That’s where Ibec’s Employment Law Services comes into play. “They can come and talk to us about the new regulations,” says Harkin. “We’ll be talking about all of them at our 2023 Employment Law Conference on April 20th in the Dublin Royal Convention Centre.

“The conference offers a unique opportunity to get a snapshot of the new rules and the ones coming down the track in 2023, and what to do to get a grip on them in the space of one day. What we want to do is provide really practical advice and guidance on what to do to implement and embed the new rules and regulations in organisations.”

Of course many businesses are already meeting the requirements of the new legislation and going beyond them in many cases. But they are doing it in an informal and unstructured way and that can be a blessing and a curse, according to Harkin.

“They may think they needn’t worry about the new rules and regulations but that won’t always be the case. Whistle-blowing is an example. We’ve had regulations on that since 2014 but the new rules are quite specific on how employers deal with disclosures brought to their attention. Even organisations with comprehensive whistle-blowing procedures in place for the past 10 years need to look at them to ensure they remain fit for purpose. Do they just need tweaking or more radical change?”

Ibec is addressing these issues at both the policy and practical levels. “Ibec is uniquely placed at the forefront of influencing employment law policy and engaging with key stakeholders at an early stage in policy development,” she says. “In engaging with stakeholders on developing employment law policy Ibec has consistently called for a co-ordinated approach which takes account of the cumulative cost and burden of administration for employers to be applied. We have asked that new measures are not looked at in isolation of the wider range of measures that are already in place.

“As well as influencing policymakers to ensure business needs are taken into account of, we are also in a unique position, given our involvement at such an early stage of policy development, to provide practical insights and guidance to employers on implementing and complying with new rules,” she says.