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Buachaill
Buachaill, Barrister
Category: Republic of Ireland Law
Satisfied Customers: 10190
Experience:  Barrister 17 years experience
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Hi I work in a confectionery. Last Wednesday I had to make

Customer Question

Hi

I work in a confectionery. Last Wednesday I had to make chocolate sheets. The week before my employer had talked to me about how a part of the process had to be changed. I had forgotten all about that and simply made them the way I was used to.

When he found out he got very angry. He stepped forward and pointed his finger at me. He said: "Don't make the chocolate sheets next time without consulting me first. You won't want to remember how furious I can get!"
He is a tall man of strong build who did karate in his youth. He tends to not know his own strength. In comparison, I'm only small and weak. These words were very intimidating so I just stood still and said nothing.

What is the legal, technical name for the act he committed?

Separate from this incident, my employer also tries to get me to come in to work earlier than I am happy with. For years I started at 5:30 every morning. Now they want me to come at 5:00 twice a week.

I know from previous conversations with a solicitor that they cannot fire me if I refuse. I never signed a contract with that company so they can never find me in breach of the terms and conditions of my employment. If they did anyway it would be unfair dismissal.

However my employer did threaten to send me home early and cut back my hours. I asked on what basis he would do so and he said: "On the basis that I wouldn't have the work."
The argument goes that if I continue to refuse they might have to hire someone else, leaving less work for me to do so I would be sent home.

Could they send me home every day and dramatically cut back my hours such that I would not technically be fired but still effectively without a job?

Thanks
Gregg
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Republic of Ireland Law
Expert:  Buachaill replied 2 years ago.

Buachaill :

1. At the outset, Gregg, you need to realise that your employer is entitled to discipline you, particularly if you don't carry out your job functions properly, such as remembering to do the chocolate sheets in the correct manner. The employer only crosses the line if you are in fear of your person again on an objective basis, not if you merely feel it yourself. So your employer will have committed an assault if you felt in fear of your person and for good reason. Here, it is not immediately clear that this is the case from the words spoken. Just because your employer is physically bigger than you does not mean an assault has been committed. Also you need to be careful in this situation, as doing your work incorrectly is grounds for being given a written warning, which only needs to occur twice for you to be dismissed. So if you get into a tit for tat situation by alleging an assault by your employer, you had better be prepared to move jobs, especially if your work is not correct and there is wastage of ingredients.

Buachaill :

2. Secondly, I don't know where you got the idea that your employer cannot vary the working hours. An employer is not entitled to unilaterally alter the hours per week worked without the consent of the employee. But an employer is entitled to vary the hours of the working week so that the same number of hours are worked but at different times. So starting a half an hour later will not allow you to bring a case before a Rights Commissioner as would a change in the number of hours worked.

Buachaill :

3. It is correct that if your employer cuts back your hours without your consent or agreement, then you can take a case before the Rights Commissioner, as a partial redundancy situation has arisen, as well as a case to get your old hours back. However, you should not refuse to work the hours of work offered provided these are the same number of working hours per week. If you refuse to come in half an hour earlier, then your employer is entitled to treat you as if you have refused to work and you can be sacked lawfully. So don't overstretch things here.

Buachaill :

4. I would also counsel you to ensure you do your job correctly, as if you are already in a face-off with your employer, this is grounds for giving a written warning, which is a prelude to being lawfully given the sack. Also refusing to work, makes any sacking lawful.

JACUSTOMER-x9dxwq6x- :

1. Maybe I didn't express myself correctly. But then I look and an intonation of voice are things that are hard to get across. Basically I considered his reaction to be completely over the top and aggressive. Also the words spoken imply violence. "You won't want to forget how furious I can get!" What's that supposed to mean and what is he going to do such that I won't want to forget?

JACUSTOMER-x9dxwq6x- :

2. Also, about doing the work correctly, there is a real feeling among the staff that these employers can just never be pleased. There is always something wrong with the work, we always have to work faster and when we do we should have worked even faster.

JACUSTOMER-x9dxwq6x- :

3. The overall attitude of the employers is simple lack of respect for staff. I have been called lazy, stupid, slow, etc. on multiple occasions. This is not because I'm particularly bad at my job. Every member of staff get it turn at this treatment.

JACUSTOMER-x9dxwq6x- :

Sorry I made a typo earlier and the software won't let me correct it.

JACUSTOMER-x9dxwq6x- :

But then "a" look and an intonation of voice are things that are hard to get across.

Buachaill :

5. Undoubtedly there are workplace problems with your employer. However, you should stay on the right side of the law in dealing with them. The last thing you need is to get sacked. In the meantime, you should look elsewhere for a job, if there is a general lack of respect from the employers with impossible working conditions. There is no point in working for people who have a general contempt for their fellow man.

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