Domestic workers' employment rights
What is a domestic worker?
A domestic worker is someone who is employed to carry out duties in a private home, such as cleaning, cooking, childminding, driving and gardening. Other duties can include the care of older people or people with disabilities. Care assistants and home helps are types of domestic workers.
Domestic workers can work part-time or full-time. Generally, they are hired directly by the homeowners. Some domestic workers also live with their employer, for example, au pairs.
People working in other people’s home have broadly the same employment rights as other workers, including the right to a contract, minimum wage, holidays, and a payslip. This page explains the rights of domestic workers, including tax obligations.
Am I a domestic worker?
If the homeowner is your employer, and if they deduct tax from your wages and pay PRSI on your behalf, then you are employed as a domestic worker.
If you only work occasionally in someone’s home as a cleaner or carer, you may not be employed as a domestic worker. Instead, you may be either:
Your employment rights as a domestic worker
The Code of Practice for Protecting Persons Employed in Other People's Homes states that domestic workers have the same employment rights and protections as any other employee under Irish law. The employer must tell you your rights. The only exception is a domestic worker’s right to access employment – read ‘discrimination at the interview and selection stage’ below.
Contract of employment
Domestic workers have a right to a written contract of employment, which states the terms and conditions of their employment. The contract must include the full names of the employer and the employee, the job title or nature of the work, the pay, and hours of work. Your employer cannot change these conditions without your agreement.
Hours of work
The maximum hours of work that you can work in a week is 48 hours on average. The employer must keep a record of how many hours you work.
You have a right to 11 consecutive hours rest (11 hours in a row) in any 24-hour period, as well as 24 consecutive hours rest every week.
You also have a right to a 15-minute break after 4 ½ hours of work and a 30-minute break after 6 hours of work.
Annual leave and public holidays
If you are working full-time, you have the right to at least 4 weeks’ paid leave a year (this is the legal minimum). You also have the right to take 2 unbroken weeks’ holiday and to ask for payment for the time off in advance.
Domestic workers have the right to be paid for the 9 public holidays, or to have another paid day off instead, or an extra day’s pay.
If you travel with your employer on holiday, this is considered to be work and you are entitled to full pay for this time.
Employers must keep certain records relating to their employees. This is to show that they are compliant with employment legislation. The employer must keep these records for 3 years.
You can find a list of documents employers must keep in the employment rights of domestic workers in Ireland (pdf). Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) inspectors will need access to these records during an inspection. Read the WRC’s guide to how inspections are carried out (pdf).
Dismissal and notice
Domestic workers are entitled to a minimum amount of notice if their employment ends.
You are also protected against unfair dismissal once you have been working for your employer for over a year. You are only protected against unfair dismissal when you have worked for less than a year if the dismissal relates to specific activity, such as trade union membership, pregnancy or entitlement to the minimum wage.
Dignity and privacy
The Code of Practice for Protecting Persons Employed in Other People's Homes states that the employer should respect the dignity and privacy of the employee. If you are required to live in your employer’s home, the employer should give you a private secure room with a bed. If you must share a room, this should only be with your agreement.
Employers should make it easy for you to carry out your personal pastimes and interests outside of working time.
Under the code, your employer should not withhold any of your personal documents, such as your passport or visa. Similarly, the employer should not prevent you from joining a trade union.
Your wages and tax obligations
Domestic workers should pay tax, PRSI and the Universal Social Charge (USC) in the same way as other employees. The employer is responsible for deducting tax from your wages. The employer must also pay the employer’s PRSI contribution on your behalf – see 'Paying tax, USC and PRSI for a domestic worker' below.
Deductions from wages
If you get board and lodgings (food and accommodation) as part of your employment, the employer can deduct this from your wages. However the deduction must be fair and reasonable, and it must be stated in your contract of employment. You must be given written notice of the deduction.
The following amounts are included in the minimum wage calculation:
- For board (food) only: €0.87 per hour worked (calculation at hourly rate)
- For lodgings (accommodation) only: €23.15 per week or €3.32 per day
Deductions for other reasons, such as breakages or loss to the employer, must meet similar criteria. For example, your contract must state that these deductions can be made. The deduction must be fair, and the employer must give you written notice of the deduction.
An employer’s tax and PRSI obligations
Domestic workers should pay tax, USC and PRSI in the same way as other employees. If you, the employer, are employing someone to do domestic work such as housekeeping, care of children or older people, and you are paying them €40 a week or more, you must register as an employer with Revenue, using Revenue’s eRegistration service.
As an employer, you are responsible for deducting the PAYE (tax), PRSI and USC from your employee’s wages. You also must pay employer's PRSI contributions for your employee to the Social Insurance Fund. You must give the employee a pay slip with details of the PAYE, PRSI and USC that has been deducted.
Discrimination at the interview and selection stage
People working in other people’s home have broadly the same employment rights as other workers. However, ‘access to employment’ is the only area where the rights of domestic workers differ from those of other workers.
While it is usually illegal to discriminate against prospective employees when hiring them (for example, at the interview and selection stage), there is an exception when the job is to be carried out in someone’s home. In this case, it is not illegal to discriminate against a prospective domestic employee at the interview and selection stage.
For example, an employer could state that they are looking for a woman to look after children without being considered ‘discriminatory’. However, once the employee has taken up the job, they are fully protected by employment equality legislation.
The Irish Government ratified (formally accepted) the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 2011, on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
Read a leaflet about the employment rights of domestic workers (pdf), which was published by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
You can also contact the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), which campaigns to inform domestic workers of their rights.
Information for migrant workers
Many domestic workers in Ireland are migrant workers, In general, non-EEA citizens cannot get employment permits for any work in private homes – see the Ineligible List of Occupations for Employment Permits.
The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland provides support to migrant workers.
The Workplace Relations Commission has published leaflets about domestic work in different languages. You can download the leaflet in Hindi (pdf), or in Mandarin (pdf), or in Portugese (pdf), or in Russian (pdf), or in Spanish (pdf), or in French (pdf).