Domestic workers' employment rights
The term domestic worker refers to people employed to carry out various duties in a private home. Generally they are engaged directly by homeowners to carry out these tasks. The type of work domestic workers normally carry out include housekeeping and cleaning. Other duties may include the care of children, older people or people with disabilities. Domestic workers can work part-time or full-time and sometimes (but not always) live with their employer. Care assistants and home helps are domestic workers. You can read this leaflet on the employment rights of domestic workers (pdf).
Many of those employed as domestic workers are migrant workers – often from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). These employees require employment permits in order to work in Ireland.
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 and the employer must inform these employees of their rights. In July 2014, the Government decided to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers.
If you work occasionally in someone’s home as a cleaner or carer, you may not be employed as a domestic worker – see 'Paying tax, USC and PRSI for a domestic worker' below. Instead, you may be either employed by an agency (where you are an agency worker) or you may be self-employed. If you are self-employed you are responsible for paying your own taxes and are not covered by employment rights legislation.
People working in other people’s home have broadly the same employment rights as other workers. However sometimes employers and employees may not be fully aware of these rights.
Access to employment is the only area where the rights of domestic workers differ from those of other workers. It is illegal to discriminate against prospective employees when hiring them (for example, at the interview and selection stage). The only exception is 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.
Contract of employment
Domestic workers have a right to a written contract of employment which states the terms and conditions of their employment and must include the full names of the employer and the employee and the job title or nature of the work, the pay and hours of work. These conditions cannot be changed without the agreement of the worker.
Wages and tax
Domestic workers are also entitled to a minimum wage and a pay slip. If they work on Sundays, they are entitled to extra pay or paid time off work. Domestic workers should pay tax, PRSI and the Universal Social Charge (USC) in the same way as other employees and it is the responsibility of the employer to deduct this from the worker’s wages and also to pay the employer’s PRSI contribution on their behalf - see 'Paying tax, USC and PRSI for a domestic worker' below.
Deductions from wages
If the employee is given bed and board as part of their employment the employer can deduct this from their wages. However the deduction must be fair and reasonable, it must be stated in the employee’s contract of employment and the employee must be given written notice of the deduction. The following amounts for food (known as board) and/or accommodation (known as lodgings) provided by the employer are included in the minimum wage calculation:
- For board only: €0.87 per hour worked (calculation at hourly rate)
- For lodgings 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. The contract must state that these deductions can be made, the deduction must be fair and the employer must give the employee written notice of the deduction.
Sick pay: Workers do not have a statutory (legal) right to sick pay but their contract (terms and conditions of employment) should state the procedure the employee should follow if unable to work due to illness and the arrangements for pay during this time.
Hours of work
The maximum hours of work that an employee can work in a week is 48 hours on average. The employer must keep a record of how many hours a domestic worker is employed. Domestic workers have a right to 11 consecutive hours rest in any 24-hour period and 24 consecutive hours rest every week. They 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.
Dignity and privacy
The Code of Practice provides that the employer should respect the dignity and privacy of the employee. If the employee is required to live in the home, the employer should provide a private secure room with a bed. If the employee is required to share a room this should be agreed in advance. Employers should make it easy for the employees to exercise their personal pursuits outside the employees' working time.
The Code of Practice also provides that the employer should not withhold personal documents of the employee such as a passport or visa, nor should they prevent the employee from joining a trade union.
Annual leave and public holidays
Full-time workers have the right to 4 weeks’ paid leave a year (this is the legal minimum and can be more). They also have the right to take 2 unbroken weeks’ holiday and to ask for payment for the time off in advance. There are 9 public holidays and domestic workers have the right to be paid for these days or to have another paid day off instead or an extra day’s pay. If the worker travels with their employer on holiday, this is considered to be work and the employee is entitled to full pay for this time.
Employers are required to 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 that you must keep in the employment rights of domestic workers in Ireland (pdf). Workplace Relations Commission inspectors will require access to these records during an inspection. You can find a guide to how inspections are carried out (pdf) on workplacerelations.ie.
Dismissal and notice
Workers are entitled to a minimum amount of notice if their employment ceases. Workers are also protected against unfair dismissal once they have been working for their employer for over a year. They are protected against unfair dismissal when they 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.
Paying tax, USC and PRSI for a domestic worker
Domestic workers should pay tax, USC and PRSI in the same way as other employees. If you 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. 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.
To register as an employer for PAYE and PRSI you do this using Revenue’s eRegistration service.
Revenue's Employer’s Guide to PAYE includes sections on new employees, calculating tax due and PRSI. When you are paying your employee you must provide a pay slip giving details of the PAYE, PRSI and USC that has been deducted.
You can get further assistance by calling the National Employer helpline Tel: 01 738 3638.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) campaigns to inform domestic workers of their rights and can provide information about trade unions.
Many domestic workers are migrants and the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland provides support to migrant workers.
Where to apply