The Government has introduced a new code of practice to bolster the right of employees to switch off from work outside normal working hours.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has presented the move as an effort to strike a better work-life balance, no bad thing in an era of home-working. However, the initiative is but a start down a long road and lawyers say it is open to court challenge.
What’s the problem?
The constant and ever-growing tide of calls, emails and text messages on work devices leaves many workers feeling they are never off duty. The intrusion on private life is all the greater because working from home has become the norm for many.
The Tánaiste says the new code will protect the right of every employee to not have to routinely perform work outside normal working hours. Thus workers have the right not to be penalised for refusing to do so. Moreover, the code underpins the duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect by not routinely emailing or calling outside work time.
How is it supposed to work?
Employers are being urged to engage with staff or unions on a right-to-disconnect policy that takes account of the needs of the business and its workforce. “It’s not revolutionary,” says barrister Des Ryan, associate law professor at Trinity College Dublin. “But at least it’s an initial step towards recognising the importance of the right to disconnect and the obligation on employers and employees to consider and monitor work-life balance.”
Back to 9-5?
Not so fast. “Does this mean that nobody is ever going to check or send an email after official working hours? Of course not,” Ryan says. “This is not going to be an instant panacea for people concerned about employee burnout because of a failure to switch off. Instead, it’s an important initial step in trying to normalise or bring about a culture in the workplace where consideration is given to the need to disengage from work.”
How big is this really?
The code itself is not legally binding and it won’t be an offence to break it. But it can be used in evidence in legal proceedings so it is a “significant” development, says Ryan. He notes that Supreme Court rulings on workplace bullying are grounded in definitions of bullying first set out in a similar code of practice.
What about dealings with colleagues in the US or China, several time zones away?
If employees in Ireland need to work beyond regular hours with colleagues in distant countries then the policy should reflect that. The policy must recognise that time differences and international travel “may result in colleagues connecting at different times” outside normal hours, says the code published by the Workplace Relations Commission. “This does not mean that the recipient needs to respond in the same time period. Clear guidance around disconnecting and expectations for responding to digital communications globally should be provided to all employees.”
Far from it, says Richard Grogan, an employment law solicitor based in Dublin. Instead of enhancing workers’ rights, he argues the new code could be used to dilute them.
How can that be?
By law as it stands, an employer can contact staff to work out of hours only because of an accident or threatened accident, or with 24 hours’ notice. “You can’t have an emergency every week,” Grogan says. But the new code says company policies “should allow for occasional legitimate situations” when it is necessary to contact staff outside of normal working hours.
Legitimate reasons per the code are not limited to emergencies?
Exactly. They include: ascertaining availability for rosters; filling in at short notice for a sick colleague; where unforeseeable circumstances arise; where an emergency may arise; and/or where business and operational reasons require contact out of normal working hours. In this respect, says Grogan, the code “flies contrary” to the Organisation of Working Time Act. This is equivalent to saying drivers can occasionally exceed the speed on a stretch of road, he says.
So the code could be destined for the courts?
“It’s going to take a couple of years to get any cases running,” says Grogan.
Anmeldebescheinigung: How to get Austria’s crucial residence document for EU citizens
The EU’s freedom of movement enables citizens to move to another country in the bloc relatively easily, but there are still some conditions you need to meet.
As a citizen of an EU country, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland, you have the right to live in Austria for more than three months as long as you meet one of the following criteria:
- Being employed or self-employed in Austria
- Studying at a recognised Austrian institution
- Having sufficient financial means to support yourself
As well as fulfilling one of these conditions, you also need valid health insurance for Austria.
If you are working legally in Austria, you will have this automatically, either through the Österreichische Gesundheitskasse (ÖGK) if you are employed by a company or through the Sozialversicherungsanstalt der Selbständigen (SVS) if you are self-employed.
As a student or self-supporting person, you will instead need to find your own comprehensive health insurance policy; your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) might be sufficient for students who aren’t in Austria long-term, but this doesn’t cover all medical visits so it is generally worth getting a separate health insurance policy.
When you arrive in Austria, you need to register your residence within three days, and at this point you will receive a Meldebestätigung (proof of residence). However, the process of getting your registration certificate (Anmeldebescheinugung) does not happen automatically after the initial registration.
You need to submit your application for the Anmeldebescheinigung within four months of your arrival in Austria, and you do this in person at your local MA35 office, the government department responsible for immigration and citizenship matters.
You need to make an appointment to attend the office in person.
If you live in Austria for five continuous years as an EU/EEA citizen, you automatically receive the right of permanent residence. You do not need to apply for any specific document to prove this or to continue living in Austria, but if you want to, you can apply for a certificate of permanent residence.
The documents you’ll need are the following (it’s a good idea to bring both the original and a copy):
- Valid ID or passport
- A completed Anmeldebescheingung form: Most of the details here are simple to fill out. You’ll need your personal information (name, date of birth, parents’ names, marital status), your current residential address, and to note which of the criteria for residence you meet and which company you have health insurance with. You can fill out the form before your visit, but you usually sign it when you have your in-person appointment, not before.
- Proof of employment or self-employment if you’re working: This would be a work contract for employees, while self-employed workers can show their tax number, trade licence if applicable, contracts with clients, and/or other proof of your business.
- Proof of studies if you’re studying: This could be a certificate of enrolment, and you may also need to show proof that your place of study is accredited. Your university’s student office should be able to help you get the documents you need.
- Proof of sufficient funds and health insurance if you are either studying or self-supporting: This includes your insurance certificate, and proof of your bank balance or pension statements for example. Students who are being supported by their parents should be able to show confirmation from their parents of a monthly allowance.
- Your proof of residence in Austria (Meldebestätigung)
Your documents will need to be in either German or English, so documents in other languages need to be translated by an authorized translator.
Getting the certificate costs €15, and there may be additional fees depending on which foreign documents you provide. Not getting it is potentially more expensive though (not to mention illegal) as you could face a fine of up to €250.
Brendan Kennelly, one the country’s most popular poets, dies aged 85
Family members confirmed his death on Sunday evening at Áras Mhuire nursing home, Listowel, in his native Co Kerry.
He graduated from Trinity College, wrote his PhD thesis there, and went on to become professor of modern literature at the university.
Mr Kennelly had more than 30 poetry collections published, which captured the many shades and moods of his home county as well as his adopted Dublin home.
He was also a popular broadcaster and made many appearances on radio and television programmes, such as The Late Late Show.
[His poetry is] infused with the details and texture of life, its contradictions and moments of celebration including the wry experiences of football and politics
President Michael D Higgins, a friend of Mr Kennelly’s, said his poetry held “a special place in the affections of the Irish people”.
“As one of those who had the great fortune of enjoying the gift of friendship with Brendan Kennelly for many years, it is with great sadness that I have heard of his passing,” he said.
“As a poet, Brendan Kennelly had forged a special place in the affections of the Irish people. He brought so much resonance, insight, and the revelation of the joy of intimacy to the performance of his poems and to gatherings in so many parts of Ireland. He did so with a special charm, wit, energy and passion.”
He added that Mr Kennelly’s poetry is “infused with the details and texture of life, its contradictions and moments of celebration including the wry experiences of football and politics”.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the country has lost a “great teacher, poet, raconteur; a man of great intelligence and wit”.
He added: “The Irish people loved hearing his voice and reading his poetry.”
He spoke the language of the people. We loved his writing. His eloquence was masterful
Trinity College Dublin’s provost, Prof Linda Doyle, said Mr Kennelly was known to generations of Trinity students as a great teacher and as a warm and encouraging presence on campus.
“His talent for, and love of, poetry came through in every conversation as did his good humour. We have all missed him on campus in recent years as illness often kept him in his beloved Kerry. He is a loss to his much loved family, Trinity and the country,” she said.
Tony Guerin, a close friend of Kennelly’s, and a playwright, said he will be remembered in Kerry and elsewhere as “the people’s poet”.
“My relation with Brendan was one of friendship. There are more scholarly people who will assess his contribution and discuss those matters. But he spoke the language of the people. We loved his writing. His eloquence was masterful, whether it was the written word or being interviewed by Gay Byrne,” he said.
Mr Kennelly is survived by his brothers, Alan, Paddy and Kevin, by his sisters, Mary Kenny and Nancy McAuliffe, and his three grandchildren.
His daughter Doodle Kennelly died earlier this year.
Arrangements for a family funeral are expected to be announced shortly.
New skeleton find could reveal more about Vesuvius eruption
The remains of a man presumed to be aged 40-45 were found under metres of volcanic rock roughly where Herculaneum’s shoreline used to be, before Vesuvius’ explosion in 79 AD pushed it back by 500 metres (1,640 feet).
He was lying down, facing inland, and probably saw death in the face as he was overwhelmed by the molten lava that buried his city, the head of the Herculaneum archaeological park, Francesco Sirano, told the ANSA news agency.
“He could have been a rescuer”, Sirano suggested.
As Vesuvius erupted, a naval fleet came to the rescue, led by the ancient Roman scholar and commander Pliny the Elder. He died on the shore, but it is believed that his officers managed to evacuate hundreds of survivors.
The skeleton might have otherwise belonged to “one of the fugitives” who was trying to get on one of the lifeboats, “perhaps the unlucky last one of a group that had managed to sail off,” Sirano suggested.
It was found covered by charred wood remains, including a beam from a building that may have smashed his skull, while his bones appear bright red, possibly blood markings left as the victim was engulfed in the volcanic discharge.
Archaeologists also found traces of tissue and metal objects — likely the remains of personal belongings he was fleeing with: maybe a bag, work tools, or even weapons or coins, the head of the archaeological park said.
Other human remains have been found in and around Herculaneum in the past decades — including a skull held in a Rome museum that some attribute to Pliny — but the latest discovery can be investigated with more modern techniques.
“Today we have the possibility of understanding more”, Sirano said.
Researchers believe that in Herculaneum temperatures rose up to 500 degrees — enough to vaporise soft tissues. In a phenomenon that is poorly understood, a rapid drop in temperature ensued, helping preserve what remained.
Although much smaller than Pompeii, its better-known neighbour outside the southern city of Naples, Herculaneum was a wealthier town with more exquisite architecture, much of which is still to be uncovered.
READ ALSO: Where are Italy’s active volcanoes?
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