Employers' obligations and employees' rights
Employers are responsible for ensuring that all their employees receive certain basic employment rights. These rights are governed by detailed employment legislation. If you employ people or are setting up a business that will employ people you need to be familiar with your responsibilities and your employees’ rights.
Here we outline the responsibilities of employers and provide information on the rights of employees. The focus is on your duties to your employees. You can get more information from the Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service or from bodies representing your sector such as IBEC (the Irish Business and Employers Confederation) or ISME (Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association) or the Small Firms Association. The guide for employers, Employment Law Explained (pdf) and the general guide to employment law (pdf) are available on workplacerelations.ie.
The Employers' Disability Information Service provides information and advice for employers on employing staff with disabilities.
Employment services and supports
Intreo is a service from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection that provides a single point of contact for all employment and income supports. It has a range of services for employers including:
- The Jobs Ireland employment service giving employers access to jobseekers
- Financial support for employers creating new and additional jobs through the JobsPlus and similar schemes
- Workplace supports to assist employees with disabilities including the Wage Subsidy Scheme and the Employee Retention Scheme.
Definition of an employee
Employers engage persons on either contracts of service or contracts for services. Only a person engaged under a contract of service is an employee and therefore protected by the full range of employment legislation. An independent contractor or self-employed person will have a contract for services with the party for whom the work is being done. The distinction between a contract of service and a contract for services can sometimes be unclear but the type of contract a person is engaged under can have serious implications for both employer and employee in matters such as employment protection legislation, taxation and social welfare.
You can find more information in our documents about different types of employment, part-time workers, agency workers and workers on fixed-term or specified purpose contracts.
Contracts and terms of employment
While the full contract of employment does not have to be in writing, you must give your employee certain terms and conditions of employment in writing within 2 months of starting employment. This information must include the full names of the employer and the employee and details of the job title, the pay, hours of work, notice requirements. You can read details in our document on the contract of employment.
While most terms and conditions of employment are stated in a written contract or a company handbook you should be aware that custom and practice in the workplace can also constitute a term of employment, for example, a mid-morning break of 10 minutes.
If you, as the employer, wish to change a term or condition of employment you must agree this change with your employee. This requirement for both the employer’s and the employee’s consent to changes in the terms of the contract is part of contract law.
Rates of pay
Most experienced adult workers are entitled to be paid a minimum wage of €9.55 per hour. There are however, some exceptions to this minimum wage, including people employed by close relatives, people aged under 18 and trainees or apprentices. You must also give your employees payslips showing their wages and any deductions that have been made.
Hours of work, breaks and rest periods
You are responsible for ensuring that your employees are given adequate rest. The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 sets down the rules governing maximum working hours and daily and weekly rest breaks.
Nearly all employees, full-time, part-time, temporary or casual have annual leave and public holiday entitlements from the time they start work. Most employees are entitled to 4 weeks’ paid annual leave per leave year. Part-time workers’entitlement is generally calculated as 8% of the hours worked subject to a maximum of 4 working weeks per leave year. Employers can determine the timing of annual leave, taking into consideration work and personal requirements; however you should consult your employee or their union in advance. Your employee can request pay for annual leave in advance. You are also obliged to allow employees to avail of statutory protective leave, such as maternity leave, paternity leave, health and safety leave, parental leave, adoptive leave, and carer’s leave. There is specific legislation setting down the rules for each entitlement.
Tax and PRSI
You are responsible for deducting the correct amount of tax, PRSI, and Universal Social Charge from your employees' wages and remitting these to Revenue using the PAYE system. You also pay employer's PRSI contributions. You must register as an employer with Revenue.
The JobsPlus scheme is an employer incentive which encourages and rewards employers who employ jobseekers on the Live Register. It is designed to encourage employers and businesses to employ people who have been out of work for long periods. Eligible employers who recruit full-time employees on or after 1 July 2013 may apply for the incentive. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection will pay the incentive to the employer monthly in arrears over a 2-year period. It will provide 2 levels of regular cash payments:
- A payment of €7,500 for each person recruited who has been unemployed for more than 12 but less than 24 months
- A payment of €10,000 for each person recruited who has been unemployed for more than 24 months
As an employer you are required to keep certain records relating to your employees. These records must be kept and processed in accordance with new GDPR regulations, which came into force on 25 May 2018, see GDPR below. These employee records are kept to show that you are compliant with employment legislation. Workplace Relations Commission inspectors will require access to these records during an inspection. You can find a guide to how inspections are carried out (pdf) on workplacerelations.ie.
Health and safety in the workplace
Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 employers have a duty to ensure employees’safety, health and welfare at work as far as is reasonably practicable. In order to prevent workplace injuries and ill health you are required, among other things, to:
- Provide and maintain a safe workplace, machinery and equipment
- Prevent risks from use of any article or substance and from exposure to physical agents, noise and vibration
- Prevent any improper conduct or behaviour likely to put the safety, health and welfare of employees at risk (“horseplay” and bullying at work come within these categories)
- Provide instruction and training to employees on health and safety
- Provide protective clothing and equipment to employees (at no cost to employees)
- Appoint a competent person as the organisation’s Safety Officer
Every employer is required to carry out a risk assessment for the workplace which should identify any hazards in the workplace, assess the risks arising from such hazards and identify the steps to be taken to deal with any risks. You must also prepare a safety statement based on the risk assessment. The Health and Safety Authority provides tools to help you with these tasks. Employers are obliged to report any accident that results in an employee missing 3 consecutive days at work (not including the day of the accident) to the Health and Safety Authority.
Disciplinary procedures and dismissal
The Workplace Relations Commission has a Code of Practice: Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures which states that employers should have written grievance and disciplinary procedures. Disciplinary procedures set out the stages and process you should follow in relation to alleged shortcomings of an employee.
Generally, the procedures allow for informal warnings leading to written warnings and ultimately to dismissal. Under the Unfair Dismissals Acts you are required to give employees written notice of the procedures to be followed before dismissal. This must be done within 28 days of entering the contract of employment.
You should give employees copies of these at the start of their employment. If you are considering dismissal you must follow fair procedures. This includes giving your employee appropriate warnings, making them fully aware of the allegations against them and give them an opportunity to present their side. You must also give them the opportunity to be represented in any disciplinary procedures by, for example, a trade union official or other representative.
If you do dismiss an employee you must be able to show that that there were fair grounds for the dismissal and that fair procedures were followed. You can read more in our document on fair grounds for dismissal.
You can read about redundancy procedures in our document on closing a business.
General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force across the EU on 25 May 2018. This regulation significantly increases employers' obligations and responsibilities in relation to how they collect, use and protect personal data. You can read more about data protection law in our document on data protection in the workplace.