Safety Committee/Representatives

The Safety Representative and Safety Committee (Northern Ireland) Regulations 1979 apply to organisations that have recognised Trade Unions for collective bargaining purposes.  The legislation permits the Trade Union to appoint safety representatives from among the workforce whose functions include:

  • investigating causes of accidents
  • representing employees in consultation with the employer
  • investigate potential hazards and dangerous occurrences

Safety representatives are entitled to time off to fulfil their functions and undertake relevant training. They also have a right not to be unfairly dismissed or suffer a detriment for fulfilling or proposing to fulfil their functions.   

In addition the regulations also require an employer to set up a safety committee upon a written request from 2 or more safety representatives.  

The Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1996 compel employers in non-unionised organisations to consult with their workforce on health and safety matters.  Consultation can take place at an individual employee level or through elected safety representatives, whose functions and rights are similiar to those detailed above. The employer should ensure that the representatives are provided with (at the employers expense) appropriate training in health and safety matters.  

Further information is available from the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland, www.hseni.gov.uk, or 028 9024 3249

Secondary Industrial Action

Secondary action - which is sometimes referred to as ‘sympathy’ action, or ‘solidarity’ action - is defined as industrial action by workers whose employer is not a party to the trade dispute to which the action relates and is therefore unlawful.  

See Industrial Action

Severance Payment

Severance payments are made in connection with termination of employment and usually contain any wages/salary owing to an employee as well as outstanding holiday payment and any other benefits.  Severance payments may also include an Ex-gratia payment.  

See Ex-gratia payments and Redundancy

Sexual Orientation

It is against the law to discriminate on the grounds of a person’s sexual orientation. To that end the duty of an equality driven employer is to provide equality and fairness for all in employees and not to discriminate on grounds of gender, marital status, race, ethnic origin, colour, nationality, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, religion or age and oppose all forms of unlawful and unfair discrimination.

Sexual Orientation

Shared Parental Leave (SPL)

SPL is a legal entitlement for eligible parents of babies due, or children placed for adoption, on or after 5 April 2015. It provides both parents with the opportunity to consider the best arrangement to care for their child during the child’s first year. The regulations give parents the right to take SPL and place a duty on employers to ensure that their employees are not penalised for using their entitlement or put under pressure to cancel/change a leave notification.

LRA - Shared Parental Leave: a good practice guide for employers and employees

Employers - 


Smoking at Work

Since April 2007 it is illegal for employers in Northern Ireland to continue with many practices, such as:

   - allowing employees to smoke in 'smoking rooms'

   - segregating smokers and non-smokers within the building


Smoking at work


Smoking at work


Social Networking

Smart phones, internet, tweeting, blogging - we have accepted all of these innovations, and many more, as part of our working lives, helping us to work more flexibly, stay in touch for longer and respond to each other more quickly.

However, some estimates report that misuse of the internet and social media by workers costs Britain's economy billions of pounds every year and add that many employers are already grappling with issues like time theft, defamation, cyber bullying, freedom of speech and the invasion of privacy.

So how should employers respond to the challenges posed by social networking tools at work? To read more about this click on the following link -

Read our advisory guide - Advice on Social Media and the Employment Relationship

The Agency also holds seminars on Social Media and the employment relationship. To check availability click on seminars

Some Other Substantial Reason (SOSR)

A dismissal for some other substantial reason is one of the potentially fair reasons for dismissal.

See Dismissal

Statutory Adoption Pay

One of the qualifying conditions for receipt of SAP is to have average weekly earnings (before tax) of £116 or more (April 2018)

During their adoption leave most employees will be eligible for Statutory Adoption Pay (SAP) of up to 39 weeks from their employer.

The rate of SAP is the lesser of a flat rate - currently £144.18 (April 2018) - or 90% of their average weekly earnings.

The flat rate is subject to review every April.

Employees- -Adoption rights in the workplace

Employers- -Adoption leave and pay

Statutory Maternity Pay (SMP)

Women expecting a baby on or after 6th April 2008 who satisfy the qualifying conditions are entitled to a maximum of 39 weeks SMP. These include having average weekly earnings of £112.00 (April 2016).

The weekly rate is:

  • First 6 weeks of payment - 90% of employee’s average weekly earnings
  • Remaining 33 weeks - Pay the lower of: 90% of average weekly earnings, or £145.18 (April 2018). 

See Maternity and Family Friendly Policies

Employees- -Pregnancy and maternity rights in the workplace

Employers- -Maternity leave and pay


Statutory Paternity Pay

SPP is paid for a maximum of 2 weeks to employees who satisfy the qualifying conditions.

The weekly rate is £145.18 (April 2018)  or 90% of the employee's average weekly earnings, whichever is lower.

Employees- -Paternity rights in the workplace

Employers- - Statutory paternity pay

Statutory Shared Parental Pay (ShPP):

From April 2016 Statutory Shared Parental Pay will paid at £145.18 per week (April 2018) or 90% of average weekly earnings (whichever is lower).

To qualify for ShPP an employee needs to have met the ‘continuity of employment test’ and their partner must meet the ‘employment and earnings test’, just like SPL.

In addition, the employee must also have earned above the ‘Lower Earnings Limit’ in the eight weeks leading up to and including the 15th week before the child’s due date/matching date and still be employed with the same employer at the start of the first period of ShPP.

For more details go to Shared Parental Leave: a good practice guide for employers and employees

Statutory Sick Pay

Employers are responsible for the payment of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) for periods of illness of four days or more up to a total of 28 weeks' absence in any one period of incapacity for work. The weekly rate of sick pay is reviewed every year at the beginning of April. The current rate of SSP is: £92.05 per week (April 2018) for employees with average weekly earnings of £116 or more. 

Details of qualifying conditions and rates are available from Her Majesty’s Customs and Revenue.


The Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Calculator will help you to work out if you have to pay SSP and if so how much you must pay to your employee for an absence from work due to sickness for four, or more, days in a row.

SSP Calculator

Publications - Information Note- Sickness absence notification and statutory sick pay


The Health and Safety Executive define stress as "the adverse reaction people have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them". Recent research shows that this 'adverse reaction' can seriously undermine the quality of people's working lives and, in turn, the effectiveness of the workplace.

Stress takes many forms. As well as leading to anxiety and depression it can have a significant impact on an employee's physical health. Research links stress to heart disease, back pain, headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances and alcohol and drug dependency.

Organizations and individuals need to reduce excessive stress at work – as well as preventing it happening in the first place. This means doing something about the main underlying causes of stress – like poor communication and lack of training – and coping with the symptoms of stress – like anxiety and ill health.

Workplace Stress Management Toolkit

The Health and Safety Executive (N.I.) in conjunction with the Local Government Staff Commission has recently completed the review of the Workplace Stress Management Toolkit which included contributions from the Labour Relations Agency.

It is the most comprehensive single advisory source on the needs, imperatives and approaches best suited to manage the increasing problems posed by workplace stress.

The toolkit can be accessed by clicking on the following link and then entering the word “stress” into the “keywords” field.



Suitable Alternative Employment

An employee whose contract of employment is being terminated on grounds of redundancy has a right to be offered suitable alternative employment (if available) and to a trial period of 4 weeks in the new role if different from the previous role.  

See Redundancy

Sunday Working

Shop workers have the right not to be dismissed, selected for redundancy (when others in similar circumstances are not selected) or subjected to other detrimental action for refusing, or proposing to refuse to work on Sundays.

There are similar rights for on-course betting workers - that is broadly all employees at horse race courses or licensed tracks whose work involves dealing with betting transactions.


Sunday working


Sunday working

Surrogate Parent

A surrogate parent  may be eligible to Statutory Adoption Leave and Pay from 5 April 2015, provided that:

  • they are an employee
  • the child is due on or after 5 April and born on or after 5 April
  • they intend to apply for, have applied for, or have been granted a parental order
  • if requested, they  provide their  employer with a statutory declaration that they  are an intended parent

Suspension from Work – Disciplinary, Maternity, Medical

An employer may decide to temporarily suspend an employee from work for reasons connected with those detailed below.  For the most part an employee who is suspended is entitled to be paid their normal pay during the period of suspension.  

  • Disciplinary investigation – in order to carry out an investigation into alleged misconduct.  Caution should be exercised when deciding to suspend in such cases and consideration should first be given to allowing an employee to take a period of annual leave or other absence, or temporary transfer within the organisation
  • Disciplinary Penalty – as an alternative to dismissal employers may decide to temporarily suspend an employee without pay from work.  Employers must ensure they have a contractual right to suspend without pay in these circumstances to avoid a Breach of Contract claim.  
  • Maternity absence – see Maternity Suspension
  • Medical Suspension – similar to Maternity Suspension an employer reserves the right (as provided for in certain legislation) to suspend an employee from work on medical grounds where the environment or role poses a risk to their heath. An employee who is suspended on medical grounds is entitled to receive pay for a period not exceeding 26 weeks, provided they have one months service; are available to return to work and have not unreasonably refused any offer to suitable alternative work.

For guidance on suspension in connection with disciplinary investigations and penalties please contact the Agency Helpline on 028 90321442

Telephone Enquiry Point

The Agency’s Enquiry Point is available to employers, employees, trade unions and others. Enquiry Point advisors provide information and advice on a wide range of employment matters. The Enquiry Point is also an important contact point for identifying circumstances, or clients, who would benefit from being referred to other Agency services.

The Enquiry Point provides clear, confidential, independent and impartial advice to assist the caller in resolving issues in the workplace.

While the advisors cannot provide a legal opinion they can help callers gain a better understanding of their rights and responsibilities as well as identifying possible options to help resolve their issues.

028 9032 1442

Monday - Friday 9.00am to 5.00pm

Contact Us

Please note that we cannot deal with employment-related enquiries by e-mail. To receive information or advice about an employment-related issue, please telephone our Helpline on Belfast 90 321442 where an officer will speak with you directly about your query. Please note that the Agency can arrange the services of an interpreter if required.

If you have an employment relations issue in Great Britain please contact the ACAS Helpline on 0300 123 1100 .

For all non-employment related queries or questions please fill in the box below.