Dealing with issues in the workplace

Finding a job can be a difficult task but what can be even harder is to know what to do when things go wrong. Sometimes you can start out with the best intentions but a job can become impossible to continue, leaving you to pick up the pieces and more often than not feel the consequences. I found myself in this situation last summer.

After what felt like an eternity of job hunting I stumbled across a vacancy for a receptionist on gumtree.ie (not the most reliable place for job hunters). Calling the number provided I was offered an interview for the next day and a second interview taking place the following day. Very quickly I found myself in employment. The relief I felt at this change in circumstances was not to be long lasting. Cracks began to appear very quickly and after only two months I felt there was no other option but to leave.

When I began work there I was to be paid monthly. Unfortunately they insisted on paying me in cash, which was obviously less than ideal. On the second month of payment the wages were a day late and eight euro over. They demanded change. A little research showed that so long as you are given a pay slip this is a legal form of payment.

It is however a legal requirement for you to receive a pay slip, no matter the method of payment and do not feel afraid of asking for some form of receipt. It took over two months for the company to send me my final pay slip and p45. A little over €150 was still owed. Despite having my address and bank details the final payment was not sent. Several emails were then ignored. It can be difficult to find help and to know what to do when things go wrong.

When working for large companies there are established hierarchies and complaints systems which can make it easier to file a complaint. It also gives you the option of speaking to several different people, not just your immediate supervisor. At the start try to familiarise yourself with those you work with and also their supervisors, get to know their names and contact details. If things feel as though they are not going well be sure to keep any email or text correspondence between you and your employer or any other parties involved. It may be needed as evidence at a later date.

Similarly, record the date and contents of all conversation that may be relevant. For example, if you are asked to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable or is outside of your job description make a note of it; record the date, nature of dissatisfaction and exactly what it is that your employer said or did. Similarly also keep a record of all hours worked and whether any overtime occurred.

However, if you work for a small company or an individual, things can be a little trickier. If after a calm discussion or email exchange it appears that there will be no easy resolution to the problem, whether it is lack of payment, bullying or unfair demands being placed on you, there is help available.

Useful websites include: Union Connect and Citiizens Information. The most helpful source of information that you are likely to find is Workplace Relations. It is here that you will find information on the complaints process, what it involves and how to begin the complaints procedure. There is a section titled ‘Refer a Dispute / Make a Complaint’. This section contains information on how to refer a dispute to a conciliation or mediation service, or taking it further to the Labour Rights Commission (LRC).

The LRC can be contacted directly by email. Contact details can be found here. Their main responsibility is to help those referring employment related complaints and disputes. They are an independent service that aims to improve workplace practices and procedures in Irish workplaces. Whether you are an individual or small group there is help for you in solving your workplace dispute. Complaints should be made as quickly as possible. When it comes to issues surrounding payment, or lack of it, complaints should always be made within six months in order for them to be investigated. If you contact the LRC directly they may be able to advise you on the correct path to take. Often they refer you to the complaints form, which can be found here.

It is important to fill out the form in as clear and detailed manner as possible. This is where it will have been helpful to keep a record of all problems that occurred during the time of your employment. Be sure of what you are complaining about and try to be as specific as possible e.g. stating ‘according to my final payslip dated xxx I am owed xxx in unpaid earnings’, is much easier to deal with than ‘it was an unpleasant working environment and they did not treat me well’. After this you will receive electronic, and later written confirmation of your complaint. This will not be immediate but the wheels will be in motion.

From here on in the LRC will be investigating your complaint and helping to find a resolution, whether that involves the early resolution service or progresses to a hearing. No matter who you are or where in Ireland you are employed you do have rights and there are people out there who can help you tackle workplace disputes and uphold your rights.

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