Employers' obligations in Ireland
Employers must ensure that their employees receive certain basic employment rights. These rights are set by employment legislation.
If you employ people or are setting up a business that will employ people, you need to know your responsibilities and your employees’ rights.
In this page, we focus on your duties to your employees.
Who is considered an employee?
Employers hire people on two different types of contract:
- Contracts of service: the person is an employee and is protected by employment legislation.
- Contracts for service: the person is an independent or self-employed contractor. They are not considered employees and may not be protected by all employment legislation.
The difference between these types of contract can sometimes be unclear. However, the type of contract can have serious implications for the employer and employee for employment protection legislation, taxation and social welfare.
You can find out more about different types of employment, part-time workers, agency workers and workers on fixed-term or specified purpose contracts.
Employment services and supports
Intreo is a service from the Department of Social Protection that provides a single point of contact for all employment and income supports.
Services for employers include:
- Jobs Ireland – an employment service which gives employers access to jobseekers
- Financial support for employers who create new and additional jobs through JobsPlus and similar schemes
- Workplace supports to help employees with disabilities, including the Wage Subsidy Scheme and the Employee Retention Scheme
Contracts and terms of employment
If your employees are working for a regular wage or salary, they automatically have a contract of employment. The full contract of employment does not have to be put in writing. However, your employee must receive a written statement of the core terms of employment within the first 5 days of starting a job.
You must provide the employee with a statement of the remaining terms within one month of them starting work. You can get more details in our page contract of employment.
You should outline most terms and conditions of employment in a written contract or a company handbook. However, custom and practice in the workplace can also count as a term of employment (for example, a mid-morning break of 10 minutes).
If you want to change a term or condition of employment, you must agree this change with the employee. Under contract law, both the employer and the employee must agree to changes in the terms of a contract. You can read more about contracts of employment.
Rates of pay
Most workers are entitled to minimum wage (€11.30 per hour). However, there are some exceptions to this, such as apprentices, people aged under 20 and people employed by close relatives.
You must give your employees payslips. These show their wages and any deductions that have been made.
Hours of work, breaks and rest periods
You are responsible for making sure your employees are given breaks while at work. The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 outlines the rules governing maximum working hours and daily and weekly rest breaks.
Nearly all employees are entitled to annual leave and public holidays, from the time they start work. Most employees are entitled to 4 weeks’ paid annual leave for each leave year. Part-time workers’ are generally entitled to 8% of the hours they have worked, up to a maximum of 4 working weeks for each leave year.
You can decide when your employees take annual leave, taking into consideration work and personal requirements. However, you should consult your employee or their union before the leave is due to be taken. Your employee can request pay for annual leave in advance.
You must let employees take statutory protective leave. This includes:
- Maternity leave
- Paternity leave
- Health and safety leave
- Parental leave
- Parent's leave
- Adoptive leave
- Carer’s leave
- Sick leave
- Leave for medical care
- Force majeure leave
- Domestic violence 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.
Managing your employment records
You must comply with your data protection obligations when collecting CVs and related information about individuals. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has not affected your legal obligations set out in employment law.
For example, you must continue to keep certain data, such as records of employees’ working hours and rates of pay. These employee records show that you are following employment legislation.
During inspections by the Workplace Relations Commission, you must allow the inspectors access to these records.
Under data protection legislation, employees can find out what information an organisation holds about them by making a request to access personal data. You must have procedures in place to respond to such a request within one month. This period can be extended by a further 2 months if there are a lot of requests or if the requests are complex.
Health and safety in the workplace
To prevent workplace injuries and illness you must:
- Provide and keep safe workplaces, machinery and equipment
- reduce the chance of risks when using any item or substance and from exposure to physical agents, noise and vibration
- Prevent any improper conduct or behaviour which might put the safety, health and welfare of employees at risk (for example, ‘horseplay’ or bullying at work)
- Provide instruction and training to employees on health and safety
- Provide protective clothing and equipment to employees at no cost to employees. (This does not apply if the person is self-employed)
- Appoint a suitable person as the organisation’s safety officer
If you are an employer, you must carry out a risk assessment for yourr workplace.
A risk assessment should:
- Identify any hazards in the workplace
- Assess the risks associated with these hazards
- Identify the steps needed to deal with these risk
You must also prepare a safety statement based on the risk assessment.
Tools to help you with these tasks are provided by the Health and Safety Authority.
You must 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.
Non-fatal accidents or dangerous occurrences should be reported on within 10 working days of the event.
The HSA has a guide on reporting accidents and dangerous occurrences (pdf).
Disciplinary procedures and dismissal
As an employer, you should have written grievance and disciplinary procedures in place. Disciplinary procedures set out the stages and processes you will follow when dealing with the alleged shortcomings of an employee.
These procedures are outlined by the Workplace Relations Commission in their Code of Practice: Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures.
Generally, the procedures allow for informal warnings, followed by written warnings and ultimately to dismissal. Under the Unfair Dismissals Acts you must give employees written notice of these procedures before dismissing them.
You must give your employees a copy of your grievance and disciplinary procedures within 28 days of their start date. If you are considering dismissing an employee, you must follow fair procedures.
- Giving your employee appropriate warnings
- Making them fully aware of the allegations against them, and
- Giving 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 you had fair grounds for dismissal and followed fair procedures.
If your business closes or you are reducing staff numbers, you may need to make employees redundant. You may have to do this because there is a lack of work, or if you are reorganising the business, or if you business is struggling financially. When making an employee redundant, you must follow certain procedures.
General Data Protection Regulation(GDPR) obligations
Employers have increased obligations and responsibilities on how they collect, use and protect personal data under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
If you use CCTV in the workplace or monitor your employees’ use of email, internet and the phone, you can find useful information in our page on surveillance in the workplace.
If your employees are working with children or vulnerable adults, they must be vetted by the Garda Síochána National Vetting Bureau.
You can read more about data protection in the workplace.