Employers' obligations in Ireland
Employers must ensure that 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. In this document, we focus on your duties to your employees.
Definition of an employee
Employers engage people on contracts of service or contracts for services:
- People engaged under a contract of service are employees and are protected by employment legislation.
- People engaged under a contract for services are independent or self-employed contractors. They are not considered employees and may not be protected by all employment legislation.
The distinction between these types of contract can sometimes be unclear. But the type of contract can have serious implications for the employer and employee in matters such as employment protection legislation, taxation and social welfare.
You can find more information in our documents on 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 Employment Affairs and Social Protection that provides a single point of contact for all employment and income supports.
Its range of 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 assist 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 5 core terms of employment within the first 5 days of starting a job.
These core terms 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 (a week, a fortnight or a month)
- What you reasonably expect the normal length of the employee’s working day and week to be, in a normal working day and in a normal working week
You must provide the employee with a statement of the remaining terms within 2 months of their starting work. You can get details in our document Contract of employment.
Most terms and conditions of employment are stated in a written contract or a company handbook. However, custom and practice in the workplace can also constitute 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 consent to changes in the terms of a contract. You can read more about contracts in our document: Contract of employment.
Rates of pay
Most workers are entitled to be paid a minimum wage of €9.80 per hour. However, there are some exceptions to this, such as apprentices, people aged under 18 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 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 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’ entitlement is generally calculated as 8% of the hours 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 in advance. Your employee can request pay for annual leave in advance. You must let employees take 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. You can read the Employer’s Guide to PAYE and the changes to the PAYE system in 2019 on the Revenue website. You can get information about PRSI on welfare.ie
The JobsPlus scheme is an employer incentive which encourages and rewards employers who employ jobseekers on the Live Register. It aims to encourage employers and businesses to employ people who have been out of work for long periods. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection pays the incentive monthly in arrears over a two-year period. It provides two 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
You must comply with your data protection obligations when collecting CVs and related information about individuals. Legal obligations set out in employment law have not been affected by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). 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 compliant with employment legislation.
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 within 1 month to personal data access requests from employees. This period can be extended by a further 2 months if requests are complex or numerous – see ‘General Data Protection Regulation’ below.
Health and safety in the workplace
Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 employers must, as far as is reasonably practicable, ensure employees’ safety, health and welfare at work. To prevent workplace injuries and ill health you must:
- Provide and maintain safe workplaces, machinery and equipment
- Prevent risks from the 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 under this category)
- 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 must carry out a risk assessment for their workplace. A risk assessment identifies any hazards in the workplace, assesses the risks arising from such hazards and identifies the steps needed to deal with these risks. 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.
Disciplinary procedures and dismissal
The Workplace Relations Commission has a Code of Practice: Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures. This states that employers should have written grievance and disciplinary procedures. Disciplinary procedures set out the stages and process you should follow when dealing with the alleged shortcomings of an employee.
Generally, the procedures allow for informal warnings, which escalate to written warnings and ultimately to dismissal. Under the Unfair Dismissals Acts you must give employees written notice of these procedures before dismissal.
You must give your employees a copy of your grievance and disciplinary procedures within 28 days of their starting their contract of employment. If you are considering dismissing an employee, you must follow fair procedures. These include 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.
You can read about redundancy procedures in our document on closing a business.
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 due to the financial position of the business. When making an employee redundant, you must follow certain procedures.
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 to data protection in the workplace.
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 document 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.
- Workplace Relations Commission’s Information and Customer Service – and see its guide for employers, Employment Law Explained, and the general guide to employment law
- Employers’ Disability Information Service for information and advice on employing staff with disabilities
- IBEC (Irish Business and Employers Confederation)
- ISME (Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association)
- Small Firms Association