Different types of workers


This page is a summary of the different types of employment types that are available and how this can affect your employment rights.

You can use our page on understanding your work status, if it is not clear whether you are an employee or self-employed.

Self-employed or employee

There is no definition of employed or self-employed in employment law. 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

You are an employee if you are categorised as being engaged on the basis of a ‘contract of service’ (an employment contract). Your employer and your employer controls how, when and where your work is done.

You are a self-employed if you are engaged on a ‘contract for services’ – sometimes called a contractor. You normally own your own business and are contracted to provide services over a certain period of time for a fee.

You need to know whether you are an employee or a contractor because it has tax and PRSI implications and can affect your social welfare and employment rights.

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 employee

As an employee, you are entitled to employment protection rights. Some rights require a minimum period of continuous service. Below is a summary of the different types of employees.

Part-time employees

Part-time employees are in a similar position to full-time employees and their rights are protected by law. In some cases, a part-time employee will need to work a set minimum number of hours for a set period of time before building up their rights. You can read more about the protection of part-time employees the Workplace Relations Commission.

Fixed-term employees

A fixed-term employee is someone who:

  • Is employed under a contract with a specified start and end date
  • Is employed to carry out a specific task or project
  • Has a contract that is contingent on a particular event, such as the availability of continued funding from an external source

If you work on repeated fixed-term contracts, you are covered under the unfair dismissals legislation once you have at least one year's continuous service. As a fixed-term worker, you cannot be treated less favourably than comparable permanent workers.

Employers cannot continually renew fixed term contracts. You can only work on one or more fixed term contracts for a continuous period of 4 years. After this you are considered to have a contract of indefinite duration (for example, a permanent contract).

The rules for fixed term contracts are set out in the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act 2003. You can read more about the Act in this explanatory booklet (pdf) from the Workplace Relations Commission.

Casual workers

There is no definition of casual workers in employment law. Casual workers are normally on standby to do work as required without fixed hours or attendance arrangements. Casual workers are employees, for employment rights purposes.

Some legislation will apply, for example, the right to receive a payslip. In other instances where a set period of employment is required it will be unlikely that a casual worker will have enough service to qualify. For example, you need 2 years' service to be entitled to statutory redundancy.

Seasonal workers

A seasonal worker is a person who, for a limited period, works for a seasonal operation. Seasonal workers often work in the horticultural or agricultural sector or tourism and construction sectors.

If you are a seasonal worker, you must get paid at least the minimum wage for all hours worked. You are also entitled to a premium payment if you work on Sundays. The WRC has more information on employment rights for seasonal workers.

Young workers

The law does not allow children aged under 16 to work apart from in very restricted circumstances, for example, to take part in a film.

Children aged over 14 and 15 may do light work but there are rules around working during school term.

Young people (those between 16-18 years of age) may become employees but there are restrictions on the maximum hours that can be worked and generally the work cannot be between 10pm and 6am.

You can read more young workers rights and hours of work for young people.

Agency workers

An agency worker (sometimes called a ‘temp’ or ‘temping’) is a person who has an agreement with an agency to work for another person or company.

While temporary agency workers do not have all the same employment rights as regular workers, you must be treated equally in basic working and employment conditions. This means you must be treated as if you had been directly recruited by the hirer when it comes to the duration of working time, rest periods, night work, annual leave, public holidays and pay.

For the purposes of some employment and equality legislation, the party who pays your wages will normally be considered to be your employer.

However under the unfair dismissals legislation, your employer is the person or company who you actually work for and not the agency. The person or company who you are working for, is also responsible for ensuring your safety in the workplace.

Newer types of workers

Newer forms of work and non-standard work have emerged that can make it difficult to determine whether a worker is an employee or self-employed.

Some of these emerging work practices are summarised below but you can get detailed information in the Code of practice for determining employment status 2021 (pdf).

Gig workers

Many workers in the digital or gig economy perform their work as a genuine independent contractor or self-employed person. However, each individual arrangement is different and sometimes gig economy platforms engage individuals as self-employed when they are actually employees.

The same legal tests based on the real nature of your working relationship are applied in determining the work status of gig workers. You can read more about the legal tests for deciding your employment status.

People who own or control companies

If you who own or control 50% or more of the shareholding of the company you are employed by, you cannot normally be an employee of that company for PRSI purposes. You must be classified as self-employed and must pay PRSI at Class S.

Further information

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.

Page edited: 29 July 2021