Victimisation at work

Introduction

Victimisation is where you are treated unfairly by your employer because of some action you have taken to access your legal employment rights.

As a worker, you have strong employment rights, and you cannot be punished by your employer for seeking to avail of those rights.

You are protected from victimisation under various employment legislation. Some legislation uses the word penalisation, other legislation refers to it as victimisation.

Ways you can be victimised at work

Your employer can victimise you at work by:

  • Unfairly dismissing you from your job
  • Treating you unfairly in work
  • Making unfavourable changes to your work conditions
  • Reducing your hours in work as punishment

It is only victimisation if the action is being done because you tried to enforce your employment rights. If there are other reasons, it may be may be harassment or bullying.

Employment legislation prohibiting victimisation

You cannot be victimised for looking into, accessing, asking about your rights or making a complaint under the following legislation:

Employment right Legislation Protection against victimisation
Minimum wage National Minimum Wage Act 2000 If you are due a pay increase under the Act, you cannot be victimised by your employer
Employment equality Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 If you brought a claim or gave evidence in proceedings against your employer under the Act, you are protected against victimisation. Witnesses are also protected against victimisation.

If you are victimised by your employer you can bring another claim to the Workplace Relations Commission.

Your employer may have to pay you compensation. This applies whether or not you lost your original case against your employer.

Health and safety Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (as amended) You cannot be penalised for taking action to access your rights under safety and health legislation.

For example, your employer cannot penalise or dismiss you for making a complaint to the Health and Safety Authority about health and safety at work.

Part-time employees Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001

Part-time employees cannot be penalised for claiming their rights under the Act.

Victimisation includes dismissal in order to avoid a fixed-term contract being considered an open-ended contract.

Fixed-term employees Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 Fixed-term employees cannot be penalised for claiming their rights under the Act.

Victimisation includes dismissal in order to avoid a fixed-term contract being considered an open-ended contract.

Agency workers Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act 2012 Agency workers are protected against being victimised for reporting breaches of the Act.

This means that the hirer or the agency cannot penalise an agency worker by dismissal, unfair treatment or an unfavourable change in their conditions of employment.

Whistleblowers Protected Disclosures Act 2014 If you make disclosures about wrongdoing in the workplace, you are protected against penalisation.

Under the Criminal Justice Act 2011 if you disclose information to the Gardaí or give evidence about relevant offences, your employer is banned from penalising or dismissing you for this.

Carer's leave Carer’s Leave Act 2001 You are protected against being victimised for applying for or taking carer’s leave.
Parent’s leave Parent's Leave and Benefit Act 2019 You are protected against being victimised for applying for or taking parent’s leave.
Paternity leave Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 You are protected against being victimised for applying for or taking paternity leave.

If you are not protected under laws against victimisation or penalisation

If you are not protected under laws against victimisation or penalisation, you may still be able to complain about:

What to do if you are being victimised

If you have been victimised in work, you can make a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission.

You should use the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie. You must make your complaint within 6 months of the last act of victimisation or the date of dismissal. This time limit can be increased to 12 months but only if there is reasonable cause which prevented you from making the complaint within the normal time limit.

Page edited: 2 November 2021