Learning of the launch of Employment Law, my initial reaction was one of some scepticism. Surely the market could not sustain yet another book on the subject? Over the last 20 years, a host of authors (including modest efforts by this reviewer) have produced a variety of textbooks touching mostly on the individual aspects of labour law.
The catalyst for this formidable output was the extraordinary burst of legislation produced by the late Michael O’Leary as Minister of Labour in the mid 1970s, which first established a floor of rights for Irish workers, especially in terms of unfair dismissal and employment equality. If Irish employment law was indigenous in its seminal form, it has since mushroomed under waves of European directives in the intervening period, not to mention immense case law.
Under the editorship of Maeve Regan, a large group of leading practitioners and academics have produced in Employment Law outstanding new textbook, covering nearly every aspect of the subject.
The strength of the work is its diversity, with the expert knowledge of the authors being brought to bear on a range of topics usually beyond the scope of earlier works. Take, for example, the comprehensive discussion in O’Keefe v Hickey, where the judges of Supreme Court took divergent routes to a common decision rejecting liability. Another novel chapter is the treatment of immigration and international employment: an unimaginable chapter in the Ireland of the 1990s. Other useful chapters deal with pensions, taxation, practice and procedure.
Space is found for topics from other fields of law that impinge on the workplace. I found the chapter on data protection and workplace privacy quite comprehensive and a useful reference point. Collective aspects of the employment relationship are also well covered.
Running through the texts of each contribution are helpful and up-to-date case references, not just to Irish sources, but across common law jurisdictions and, of course, from the ECJ.
No book on this field can ever stay up to date, and the intention of Ms Regan and her colleagues to have expanded subsequent editions is to be welcomed. One topic that could usefully be considered in the future is the explosion in whistleblowing provisions that has occurred in literally dozens of statutes in recent years.
It could be said that a challenge for our law makers is to bring some coherence and, indeed, streamlining to the growth of Irish labour law and the myriad of fora for disputes in an area of law that had the avowed, but unreal, intention of keeping lawyers away.
In the meantime, Regan on Employment Law will have a central place in the library of any practitioners who wishes to readily access this very complex area of modern law.
Ciaran O’Mara, Partner O’Mara Geraghty McCourt Solicitors.