Contract of employment
Anyone who works for an employer for a regular wage or salary automatically has a contract of employment. Although the complete contract does not have to be in writing, you (the employee) must be given a written statement of terms of employment.
Since 4 March 2019, you must receive part of this statement, containing certain core terms of employment, within the first 5 days of starting a job. You must receive the remaining terms in writing within 2 months of starting work – see ‘Rules’ below.
Most employees work under open-ended contracts of employment. In other words, the contract continues until the employer or employee ends it. Many others, however, work under fixed-term or specified-purpose contracts. These are contracts which end on a specified date or when a specific task is completed.
What must a contract include by law?
The contract of employment will include some or all of the following elements (regardless of whether the employer and employee have specified them or not):
- Terms that apply by law to every contract of employment (which may be known as ‘common law’). For example, the duty of every employee to carry out the job to the best of their ability.
- Terms that must be part of the contract as a result of laws passed by the Dáil. For example, the right to take maternity leave. Such terms are part of the contract even if the employer and employee do not specifically include them. They replace any earlier agreement between the employer and employee not to apply the particular law. For example, your statutory right to take maternity leave overrides any agreement between you and your employer that you will not take maternity leave.
- Terms that must be in every contract, in accordance with the Irish Constitution. Examples include the right of an employee to join a trade union.
- Collective agreements.
- Joint Labour Committee Regulations.
- EU laws.
What is the difference between express and implied terms?
Express terms are agreed between you and your employer. They are either verbally agreed or set out in writing in the written contract or other documents which form part of your contract with your employer, such as a staff handbook. This is not an exhaustive list but express terms generally include pay, hours of work and a notice period.
Implied terms are those terms which aren’t verbally agreed or set out in writing but still apply. Implied terms can come from a variety of sources. Sometimes, they are an obvious consequence of what is stated in the contract. Sometimes, they are required by legislation. Sometimes, the implied terms arise from custom and practice in a workplace (for example, a particular level of overtime pay for employees).
Examples of general implied terms are
- You and your employer have a duty of trust to each other
- You and your employer have a duty of care towards each other and other employees
Core terms of employment
You must receive a written statement of 5 core terms within 5 days of starting your job, as set out in the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018. This Act applies since 4 March 2019. Employers face serious penalties if they do not comply.
The core terms that must be provided are:
- The full names of the employer and employee
- The address of the employer
- The expected duration of the contract (where the contract is temporary or fixed term)
- The rate or method of calculating pay and the pay reference period for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 (for example, a week, a fortnight or a month) – see ‘Pay reference period’ below
- What the employer reasonably expects the normal length of your working day and week to be, in a normal working day and in a normal working week
You can find a sample 5 day statement of terms of employment (pdf) on workplacerelations.ie.
You must receive a written statement of the remaining terms of employment (your contract) within 2 months of starting work, in accordance with the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994–2014. However, this requirement does not apply if you have been employed for less than a month. This must include:
- The place of work
- The title of the job or the nature of the work
- The date the employment started
- Pay intervals (for example, weekly or monthly)
- Any terms or conditions relating to hours of work (including overtime)
- Paid leave (other than sick leave), including annual leave and public holiday entitlement
- Sick pay
- Pension and pension schemes
- Period of notice to be given by employer or employee
- Details of any collective agreements that may affect your terms of employment
You can find a sample statement of terms of employment (pdf) on workplacerelations.ie.
If you are required to work outside the State for a period of at least one month, you must be given a written statement of the terms and conditions of employment, before you leave the country.
Pay reference period
The statement of terms must indicate the reference period that your employer uses to calculate your entitlements under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. (Under that Act, your employer may calculate your minimum wage entitlement over a reference period of between a minimum of one week and a maximum of one month.)
The employer must sign and date the statement of terms, but there is no requirement for the employee to sign it.
The employer must keep a copy during the period of your employment and for at least a year after it ends.
Disciplinary and grievance procedures
Employers must have written grievance and disciplinary procedures, in accordance with the Code of Practice: Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures. This is drawn up by the Workplace Relations Commission. Your employer must give you a copy of these procedures at the start of your employment.
Within 28 days of your starting work, your employer must also give you written notice of the procedures to be followed before you are dismissed, in accordance with the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977–2015.
Specific provisions in contracts of employment
Some employers now add specific provisions in contracts of employment, which limit the ability of employees to work in a certain sector or with certain suppliers or clients of the former employer for a period following the end of your employment. Employment law does not strictly forbid provisions like this, but nor does it specifically allow them.
Essentially, this is an issue of contract law – that is, the contract of employment signed and agreed between the employer and employee. If you have any concerns about this issue, you are strongly advised to seek legal advice from a competent legal professional before signing the contract. You can also seek such advice after signing it. However, you should shop around for quotes before accepting legal advice because of the variation in fees for solicitors.
The contract can include a probationary period and can allow for this period to be extended. The Unfair Dismissals Acts 1997–2015 will not apply if you are dismissed at an early stage in your employment while you are on probation or undergoing training, provided that:
- The contract of employment is in writing
- The probation or training lasts for one year or less and is specified in the contract
However, the Unfair Dismissals Acts will apply if you are dismissed due to:
- Trade union membership or activity
- Pregnancy-related matters
- Entitlements under maternity protection, parental leave, adoptive leave or carer’s leave legislation
If you are being dismissed during a probation period due to misconduct, you have a right to ‘natural justice’ - that means due process and fair procedures. This right does not generally apply to a dismissal for poor performance though, particularly where your contract expressly allows for dismissal for poor performance during probation.
You may be able to take a claim for wrongful dismissal during your probation period if you have less than 12 months service. Wrongful dismissal happens when an employer does not meet an implied or an express term in your contract of employment or does not give you adequate notice. You may sue for breach of your contract in the civil courts.
Changes to your contract of employment
A change in the law may cause changes to your contract of employment. Other changes must be agreed between your employer and yourself. Contract law requires both you and your employer to consent to changes in the terms of the contract.
How to make a complaint
You can find out more about your employment rights from the Workplace Relations Commission’s Information and Customer Services (see ‘Where to apply’ below) or from this explanatory booklet on the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts (pdf).
The Terms of Employment (Information) Acts state that if your employer fails to give you written details of the terms of your employment, you can bring a complaint using the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie.
You must make the complaint within 6 months of when the breach of the legislation occurred. The time limit may be extended for up to a further 6 months, but only where there are reasonable circumstances which prevented you from bringing the complaint within the normal time limit.
Where to make a complaint