Last updated on: December 28th, 2023
The Labour Law in Ireland is regulated mainly by the Organization of Working Time Act, 1997. The Act governs the terms and conditions of employment such as working hours, holidays and rest periods, wages, overtime, employment relationships. The other acts that govern employment relationships are the Maternity Protection Act, 1994, Adoptive Leave Act, 1995, etc.
Hours & Pay Regulations
Every employee is entitled to paid annual leave, equal to whichever of the following periods is greater:
- Four working weeks for a leave year in which the employee works at least 1,365 hours (unless it is a leave year in which there is a change of employment) ;
- One-third of a working week for each month in the leave year in which the employee works at least 117 hours; or
- 8% of the hours the employee works in a leave year (subject to a maximum of four working weeks).
All employees, not just those who normally are expected to work more than eight hours per week, are entitled to annual leave. If an employee has worked eight or more months in a leave year, then leave normally must include an unbroken period of two working weeks.
The annual leave of an employee who works eight or more months in a leave year must include an unbroken period of two weeks. An employee can carry over unused leave for six months or if the employer agrees indefinitely. Employers may provide more than the statutory minimum annual leave. An employee is entitled to be paid in advance of taking annual leave, at the normal weekly rate or, as the case may be, at a rate that is proportionate to the normal weekly rate.
An employee, who due to illness cannot take annual leave during the relevant leave year or the normal carryover period of 6 months, is entitled to an extended carryover period of 15 months after the leave year to take their accrued annual leave.
Termination of Employment
An employee whose employment terminates shall be paid as compensation for the loss of that annual leave, by his or her employer an amount equal to the pay, calculated at the normal weekly rate or, as the case may be, at a rate proportionate to the normal weekly rate, that he or she would have received had he or she been granted that annual leave. Organization of Working Time Act, 1997, No. 20, §§ 19, 20, 23, and Workplace Relations Act 2015, § 86.
Employees are entitled to unpaid leave for up to 26 weeks for each eligible child until the child reaches the age of 12. An employee shall be working for at least a year to get the full amount of parental leave, however, if the child is very near the age threshold and the employee has been working for the employer for more than 3 months but less than one year can also take pro-rata parental leave.
In the case of children with disabilities, the leave can be taken up to the age of 16 years of a child. Parental leave for adopted children between the age of 10 and 12 can be taken up to 2 years from the date of adoption.
The leave can be taken in one continuous period of leave or 2 separate blocks of a minimum of 6 weeks each. There must be a gap of at least 10 weeks between the two periods of parental leave per child.
Transfer of Leave
If both the parents work for the same employer, a parent can transfer 14 weeks of parental leave entitlement to another parent if there is an agreement between the employee and the employer.
Employee shall be entitled to paid parental leave for a duration of 7 weeks for children born or adopted after July 1, 2022. An employee can claim the additional 2 weeks’ parent’s leave if the child is under the age of 2 on July 1, 2022, or the adopted child has been placed with a family less than 2 years on July 1, 2022.
The leave can be taken on one continuous period of 7 weeks or as separate weeks. This leave cannot be transferred between parents except in specified circumstances such as the death of one of the parents. An employee who is on a parent’s leave will be still entitled to annual leave and any public holidays that occur during the parent’s leave.
The State will pay for the leave benefit at the rate of €245 per week, provided the employee has made sufficient PRSI contributions.
In case the child in relation to whom a relevant parent is entitled to or is on parent’s leave dies on or before the expiration of the period of the entitlement concerned, the death of the child shall not affect the entitlement of the relevant parent to such leave. Parental Leave Amendment Act 2019 § 3 – 8.
Female employees are entitled to 26 consecutive weeks of maternity leave, regardless of their length of service. There is no obligation on an employer to pay an employee on maternity leave. The employee may, however, be entitled to state social welfare payments. An employee is entitled to 16 additional weeks of unpaid maternity leave carrying no entitlement to social welfare payments. Employees are also entitled to paid time off during working hours for pre and postnatal medical appointments. An employee who is breastfeeding is entitled to time off work or a reduction of working hours without loss of pay.
The minimum period of maternity leave shall commence on such a day as the employee selects, which shall not be later than four weeks before the end of the expected week of delivery, and shall end on such a day as she selects, being not earlier than four weeks after the end of the expected week of delivery. Maternity Protection Act, 1994, No. 34, §§ 7 - 17.
Breastfeeding Break – An employee who has given birth to a child and is breastfeeding shall be entitled to either reduced working hours or paid breastfeeding breaks for a period of 104 weeks. Employees who are breastfeeding are entitled to a period of up to 104 weeks post-birth to either of the following:
- Paid time off work as a break for the purposes of breastfeeding in their place of work for 1 hour each working day. The daily paid time off can take the form of one break of 60 minutes or shorter breaks which together make up 60 minutes, as agreed between the employer and employee; or
- A reduction in working hours by 1 hour each working day without loss of pay for the purposes of breastfeeding outside of their place of work. The reduction in working hours without loss of pay can take the form of one period of 60 minutes or shorter periods which together make up 60 minutes, as agreed between the employer and employee.
Employers are obliged to provide appropriate facilities in the workplace to enable a breastfeeding employee to return to work.
The Act also extends this right to transgender men who have given birth and are breastfeeding. Part-time employees who are breastfeeding are entitled to breaks or a reduction in their working hours for the purposes of breastfeeding on a pro-rated basis.
Working fathers are entitled to two weeks of paternity leave. The employer is not required to pay an employee on paternity leave, although he may be eligible for social insurance benefits. The leave is open to all fathers, including same-sex couples and those adopting. The leave can be taken at any time in the 26 weeks following the birth of the child (or placement in the case of adoption). Four weeks’ notice must be given to the employer before taking the leave. Paternity Leave and Benefits Act, 2016, §§ 6-8.
Employee shall be entitled to 5 days of paid sick leave per year. An employee is entitled to SSP from their employer in respect of each statutory sick leave day. Statutory sick leave days may be taken consecutively or non-consecutively. An employee will have to provide a medical certificate from a registered medical practitioner stating that they are unable to work. The duration will increase to 7 days in 2024, and 10 days in 2025. Employees shall be entitled to a daily rate of payment as prescribed under the Act in respect of statutory sick leave. Under the Act, SSP will be paid at 70% of regular earnings up to €110 per day.
An adopting mother or sole adopting father is entitled to 24 weeks adoption leave. Employees taking this leave may be entitled to receive social welfare payments provided sufficient social insurance contributions have been made.
All adopting employee couples will be able to choose which parent may avail of adoptive leave, including male same-sex couples who were previously not part of the regulation.
Employees are entitled to an additional unpaid adoption leave of 16 weeks, for which no social welfare payments are available. Adopting parents are entitled to paid time off to attend preparation classes and pre-adoption meetings with social workers required during the pre-adoption process. Adoptive Leave Act, 1995, No. 2, §§ 6-9.
Employees are entitled to leave their jobs for a period of 104 weeks in order to care for someone in need of full-time care and attention. An employee on caregiver’s leave may also, on one occasion only, apply to extend leave for a further 104 weeks were two beneficiaries of care are residing together. In such circumstances, the second period shall commence on the date that the deciding officer grants the extension of leave. Accordingly, such an eligible employee may take 208 weeks of caregiver’s leave. Caregivers are not entitled to be paid by employers while on caregiver’s leave but will have their jobs kept open for them for the duration of the leave. Employees must have 12 months’ continuous service with an employer to be eligible to apply for caregiver’s leave. Caregiver’s leave may be taken in a block of up to 104 weeks or in a series of lesser periods not exceeding an aggregate of 104 weeks and subject to a minimum of 13 weeks. Carer’s Leave Act, 2001, No. 19, §§ 6-9.
Employees are entitled to unpaid leave for up to 5 days in any period of 12 consecutive months for the purposes of providing personal care or support to persons. Such persons include the child, spouse, civil partner, cohabitant, parent, grandparent, sibling, or housemate of the employee who is in need of significant care or support for a serious medical reason. An employee does not need to have met a particular service requirement before they are entitled to take leave for medical care purposes. Absence for part of a day is counted as one day of leave for medical care purposes.
If an employee has taken or intends to take leave for medical care purposes, they must confirm the same with their employer as soon as reasonably practicable. The employee must provide signed confirmation in writing to their employer stating the date that the leave commenced or will commence its duration, and the facts entitling the employee is entitled to take leave for medical care purposes. Employers are entitled to request evidence as to an employee’s relationship with the person for whom they take leave for medical care purposes, the nature of the care or support that is required, and evidence relating to the need of the person for whom the leave was taken, such as a medical certificate.
An employee may leave work when his or her immediate presence is indispensable due to the injury or illness of certain close relatives. Such leave is subject to a maximum of three days in any one year or five days in any three-year period and is paid for by the employer. Force majeure leave does not give any entitlement to leave following the death of a close family member.
Health and safety leave applies to pregnant employees, employees who have recently given birth, and employees who are breastfeeding. The employer must carry out a risk assessment on the health and safety of these employees, and if a risk is discovered preventive measures cannot eliminate that, the working hours or conditions should be adjusted, or the employee should be provided with other suitable work. If none of these options is feasible, the employee is entitled to health and safety leave, which will be paid at a normal rate of wages by the employer for the first 21 days. Thereafter, the employee may be entitled to receive social welfare payments.
An employee’s eligible period is considered to have ended if the employee becomes entitled to maternity benefits, 4 weeks have passed since the birth of the child, in case of breastfeeding 26 weeks have elapsed since the childbirth or there is no longer a risk to the health of the employee.