Different types of workers
There are various types of workers, with different rights.
This page is a summary of the different employment categories and employment rights.
You can use our page to understand your work status if it is not clear whether you are an employee or self-employed.
Employee or self-employed
There is no special definition in the law that says who is an employee and who is self-employed.
The decision on your employment status is reached by looking at:
- What you do
- How you do it
- Written or verbal agreements between you and the business that pays you
Knowing whether you are an employee or a contractor is important because it affects taxes, social insurance (PRSI), social welfare and employment rights.
You are an employee if you have a ‘contract of service’ (an employment contract). Your employer controls when, where and how you work.
If you have a ‘contract for services’, often called a contractor, you are self-employed. You normally run your own business and provide services for a fee over a specific time.
The Code of Practice for Determining Employment Status 2021 (pdf) sets out detailed guidelines and criteria to clarify whether a person is an employee or self-employed. You can read more about understanding your work status.
Types of employees
As an employee, you have certain employment rights. Some rights need you to work for a minimum time (known as a minimum period of continuous service).
Below is a summary of the different types of employees.
Part-time employees have similar rights to full-time employees and their rights are protected by law.
Sometimes a part-time employee must work a set minimum number of hours for a specific period to get certain rights.
A fixed-term employee is someone who has a contract that ends either:
- On a specified date
- When a specific job or project is completed
- When a specific event occurs (for example, external funding ends)
Generally, people employed on fixed-term contracts have the same rights as other employees. There are also some extra legal protections for workers with fixed-term contracts.
There is no exact definition for casual workers in employment law. Casual workers are usually on standby for work without set hours. Casual workers are considered employees and are entitled to certain rights and protections.
Some legislation will apply, for example, the right to a payslip. For another right, a set period of employment is needed. It will be unlikely that a casual worker will have enough service to qualify. For example, you need 2 years of service to be eligible for statutory redundancy.
Seasonal workers work for a short time, often in areas like farming or tourism.
The law prevents children under age 16 from working, except in rare cases, for example, to work on a film.
Children aged 14 and 15 can do light work but there are rules around working during school term.
Young people (aged 16 to 18) can have jobs but there are rules about maximum hours and night work.
An agency worker (sometimes called ‘temps’ ) works for an agency and gets placed with another person or company.
Temporary agency workers don’t have all the same employment rights as regular workers but you must be treated the same way in basic work conditions. This means you must be treated as if you had been directly recruited by the hirer when it comes to working hours, rest periods, night work, annual leave, public holidays and pay.
For some employment and equality legislation, the party who pays your wages will normally be considered your employer.
However, under unfair dismissal legislation, your employer is the person or company who you work for and not the agency. They are also responsible for ensuring your safety in the workplace.
Other types of workers
Newer work arrangements have emerged that can make it difficult to tell whether a worker is an employee or self-employed.
Many workers in the gig economy work as independent contractors or self-employed persons. However, each individual arrangement is different and sometimes gig economy workers are misclassified as self-employed when they are employees.
Legal tests determine the work status of gig workers, based on the real nature of your working relationship.
If you own or control 50% or more of the company’s shareholding where you are employed, you are generally not considered an employee of that company for PRSI purposes. Instead, you are classified as self-employed and must pay PRSI at Class S.
You can get detailed guidelines and criteria that clarify whether a person is an employee or self-employed in the Code of Practice for Determining Employment Status 2021.