Duties of Employers in Cyprus
There are several duties that employers owe to employees under Cyprus employment law. The duties derive both from statute as well as the common law and they aim at securing the employee’s salary, safety and well being in the workplace. The duties owed by the employer are the following:
- Duty of the employer to pay wages
The primary duty of the employer is pay the employee wages/salary. This duty is self-explanatory as it is the main consideration provided by the employer in exchange for the services offered by the employee. This duty has been now codified by The Wage Protection Law (hereinafter “L. 35(I)/2007”).
L. 35(I)/2007 provides that the wages/salaries of the employee may be paid in cash, through bank transfer or through check or banker’s draft. Wages can be paid in kind provided that such payment is (1) customary in the specific sector or profession and (2) it is beneficial to the employee or his family, (3) the value of the goods provided is fair and reasonable and (4) in every case the employee consents to payment in kind.
If payment of the salary is made/effected in cash, then it must be made during working hours, at the place of employment (or near the place of employment) unless otherwise provided in any another law, regulation or collective agreement.
Section 9(1) of L. 35(I)/2007 states that the wages must be paid at least weekly, but in cases of an employee paid monthly, the wages must be paid monthly.
The salary must be paid directly to the employee except in cases where the employee has given his consent for the wage to be paid elsewhere.
No deductions are allowed from the wages unless authorized by any Law, Regulation, a Pension Fund, a Provident Fund, a Court Order or being set-off as damages caused to the employer purposively or by the gross negligence of the employee. Finally, deductions which are made with the consent of the employee are permissible. In all of these cases the deductions are limited to the point where the employee is left with a sufficient amount in order to cover his basic needs and those of his family.
In case the employer breaches the provisions of L. 35(I)/2007, section 20(1) states that the employer is liable to a fine or imprisonment or both.
- Duty of the employer to exercise reasonable care for the health and safety of employees
This duty is owed to the employees. The standard of care is “the care which an ordinary prudent employer would take in all the circumstances”.
Breach of this duty amounts to a breach of contract and constitutes grounds for constructive dismissal.
A very interesting case is that of Waltons & Morse v Dorrington where an employee complained because her co-employees were smoking in the work environment, making it an unhealthy place for her to work in. The employers didn’t take any measures to remedy this and she therefore resigned claiming successfully in Court, that she was constructively dismissed.
The duty of care of the employer is multi-faceted. Firstly, the employer is responsible for providing safe plant and equipment. Secondly, he must provide a safe place for the employees to work. Thirdly, the employer must provide a safe system of work, meaning that he has a duty to ensure that the methods used to undertake the work are safe (i.e. through the use of protective gear, warning signs, safety training etc). An interesting case is that of Manthopoulos Plastics v Hadjiiosif. In this case, the employee was instructed by his employers to remove a very heavy iron bar together with another employee and in the course of doing so the bar fell and crushed the fingers of his right hand. The iron bar, was of significant weight and was dangerous to remove. The employee who was 28 years old at the time, sustained several injuries and fractures to his hand, fingers and fingernails. His injuries were initially painful and a complication developed on his middle finger causing him prolonged discomfort and inconvenience. Although he could use his hand, he had difficulty in executing precision finger movements. The Supreme Court, in upholding the First Instance Court, concluded that the employer breached his duty and stated that:
“It is the employer’s duty towards his employees to provide a safe system of work which includes the provision of competent staff of men, suitable machinery for the work, adequate supervision of the work and safe premises for work. The duty includes both the establishment as well as the enforcement of such a system by means of adequate directions and the mode of its operation without this meaning that the employer must decide on every detail of the system of work or mode of operation. In the present case, from the evidence adduced and as accepted by the learned acting President, we find ourselves in agreement with him that the appellants had failed in the discharge of that duty inasmuch as the method used by them for moving this heavy iron bar by two men alone was not a reasonably safe one. By doing so he subjected his employee to a risk that he could reasonably foresee and against which he could guard by measures such as the engagement for the purpose of the removal of that bar by more persons or by mechanical means. The convenience and expense of which were not entirely disproportionate to the risk involved.”
Fourthly, the employer must provide his employees with competent fellow employees. In the case of Hudson v Ridge Manufacturing Ltd an employee suffered injury due to another employee engaging in horseplay. The latter usually engaged in horseplay, practical jokes and tripping other employees but the employer, having knowledge of this, failed to take any action to discipline the misbehaving employee. For this reason, the employer was held liable.
It should be noted that the duty of care cannot be delegated to others.
- Duty of the employer to provide references
The employer is under a duty to provide references for ex-employees at their request. The references should in general be fair and accurate and they should not include anything detrimental to the employee.
- Duty of the employer to provide a grievance procedure
It has further been established that the employer has a duty to set a grievance procedure in place, as for example in cases of sexual harassment complaints.
- Duty of the employer of mutual trust and confidence
The duty of mutual trust and confidence (also known as the duty to cooperate) is the duty of the employer not to engage unreasonably in conduct which is calculated or likely to destroy or seriously damage the relationship of confidence and trust between the employer and the employee. The duty includes cases where the employer engages in dishonest conduct (even if this is not aimed at the employee).
- Duty of the employer to indemnify the employee against any expenses and losses incurred in the course of employment
- Other statutory duties owed by the employer.
These include the provision of a safe system of work (see above), duty to provide annual holiday leave, social insurance contributions and appropriate notice in case of dismissal (where this is appropriate).
Finally, it must be remembered that employees also owe duties to their employer. Such duties include the duty of obedience to lawful orders of the employer, the duty to adapt, to co-operate,the exercise reasonable care and skill as well as other duties.
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This article is written for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.