Labor and employment law in Ireland derives from several different sources, including rights that derive from the Constitution, common law principles, and statutory provisions. The employment relationship in Ireland is governed by a number of laws, including the Industrial Relations Act, the Workplace Relations Act and the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act.
The maximum average hours an employee may work are 48 per week, not including rest or lunch breaks. The average is generally worked out over a four-month reference period. A number of exceptions to the working time rules exist.
An employer may not permit an employee to work, in each period of seven days, more than an average of 48 hours, calculated over a four-month averaging period. “Working time” is defined to include only that time that the employee is at work or at the employer’s disposal and is actually working, meaning rest breaks are not included in the calculation. Organization of Working Time Act, 1997, No. 20, §§ 18.
Provision of Information in Relation to Working Time
If neither the contract of employment of the employee concerned nor any employment regulation order, registered employment agreement or collective agreement that has effect in relation to the employee specifies the normal or regular starting and finishing times of work of an employee, the employee’s employer shall notify the employee, at least 24 hours before the first day or, as the case may be, the day, in each week that he or she proposes to require the employee to work, of the times at which the employee will normally be required to start and finish work on each day, or, as the case may be, the day or days concerned, of that week. Organization of Working Time Act, 1997, No. 20, § 17.
Introduction of Banded Hours in Ireland
The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 (“the Act”) came into effect as of March 4, 2019. The Act aims to improve the security and predictability of working hours for employees working under insecure contracts and employees working variable hours. There are a number of new obligations on employers under the Act, one of the significant introduction is ‘Banded Hours’.
The Act introduces a new concept of ‘banded hours’. The Act sets out eight bands (A-H) ranging from 3-6 hours to 36 hours and over, in increments of five hours.
Band of Weekly Working Hours
Where an employee’s contract of employment or statement of terms of employment does not reflect the number of hours worked per week by an employee over a reference period, the employee shall be entitled to be placed in a band of weekly working hours. Where an employee believes that he or she is entitled to be placed in a band of weekly working hours, he or she shall inform the employer and request, in writing, to be so placed.
The employee shall be placed by the employer in a band of weekly working hours from a date that is not greater than 4 weeks from the date the employee made the request as stated above. The band of weekly working hours on which the employee is entitled to be placed shall be determined by the employer on the basis of the average number of hours worked by that employee per week during the reference period.
An employer may refuse to place an employee on the band requested:
Where an employee believes that his or her employer has failed to place the employee in a band of weekly working hours, having been requested to do so or unreasonably refused a request to be placed on a band of weekly working hours, the employee may make a complaint in accordance with Part 4 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015.
Employers are not required to pay employees higher rates for work completed in overtime. Employees are entitled to normal pay during this additional time.
An employer may not require a night worker to work more than an average of eight hours per night, calculated over a two-month reference period. As in the case of weekly working hours, the reference period may be extended by way of a collective agreement approved by the Labor Court. The term “night time” is defined by the OWTA as the period between midnight and 7:00 a.m., and “night worker” is defined as an employee who normally works at least three hours during night time and at least 50 percent of his or her total working hours for that year during night time. Organization of Working Time Act, 1997, No. 20 § 16.
An employer shall not require an employee to work for a period of more than 4 hours and 30 minutes without allowing him or her a break of at least 15 minutes. An employer shall not require an employee to work for a period of more than 6 hours without allowing him or her a break of at least 30 minutes; such a break may include the 15-minute break referred above.
Employees are entitled to a daily rest period of at least 11 consecutive hours. In each period of seven days, they also are entitled to a rest period of at least 24 consecutive hours, which should be preceded immediately by the daily rest period. If the employer is unable to provide a day off during a particular week, the requirement is satisfied if, during the following week, two days off are granted. Once again, if the two days off are granted consecutively, they must be preceded by the daily rest period. If the two days are granted separately, each one must be preceded by the daily rest period. Unless otherwise provided in the employment contract, the weekly rest period must include a Sunday.
A break allowed to an employee at the end of the working day shall not be regarded as satisfying the requirement of a break. Organization of Working Time Act, 1997, No. 20, §§ 11-15.
An employee who is required to work on a Sunday must be compensated for having to do so unless this otherwise has been taken into account in determining the employee’s rate of pay. The OWTA allows compensation to be paid in the form of a reasonable “allowance,” by increasing the rate of pay by a reasonable amount, by allowing paid time off work, or by a combination of two or more of these methods. Organization of Working Time Act, 1997, No. 20, § 14.
Employees are entitled to nine paid holidays:
Holidays that fall on a weekend are not moved and employees are not entitled to the next working day off. Employees who are required to work on a public holiday are entitled to one of the following:
If an employer fails to specify which form of benefit will be offered within 14 days of the public holiday, the employee is entitled to take a paid day off for that day. Organization of Working Time Act, 1997, No. 20, § 21.
Every employee is entitled to paid annual leave, equal to whichever of the following periods is greater:
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 employer determines when annual leave is to be taken, but it must consider the needs of the employee to reconcile work and family responsibilities and the opportunities for rest and recreation available to the employee. 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. Organization of Working Time Act, 1997, No. 20, §§ 19, 20, 23.
The National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 applies to persons of any age who work under a contract of employment and includes part-time employees. The national minimum wage is 9.55 euros per hour.
An employee’s average hourly rate of pay will be calculated over a specified reference period by dividing pay includable under the act by the number of hours worked. The hourly rate should then be compared with the minimum hourly rate as prescribed in order to establish compliance with the act. In the event that the hourly rate of pay is less than the statutory rate, the underpayment must be paid to the employee. The maximum pay reference period is one calendar month. National Minimum Wage Act, 2000, No. 5, §§ 8-10.
Parents are entitled to 18 weeks’ parental leave per child to care for a natural child, an adopted child or a child for whom the employee acts in loco parents. This leave must be taken before the child reaches 8 years of age. This upper age limit can be extended in certain circumstances when an adopted child is involved. In the case of a child with a disability, leave may be taken up to the child reaching 16 years of age. Both the father and the mother may take parental leave. There is no obligation on the employer’s part to pay the employee during parental leave, nor is there any entitlement to social welfare payments during this time. In order to take parental leave, an employee must generally have one year’s continuous service, although there are some exceptions. Parental leave is limited to 18 weeks per 12-month period where an individual has more than one child, subject to certain exceptions. The 18-week allotment may be taken in one continuous period or in two separate blocks of a minimum of six weeks each with 10 weeks (or less by agreement) between each block. Parental Leave Act, 1998, No. 30, §§ 6-9, 14-15.
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 must give four weeks’ notice in writing to the employer of her intention to take maternity leave. 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. Maternity Protection Act, 1994, No. 34, §§ 7 - 17.
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.
Employers are not required to provide sick pay but if they do they must give all employees, including fixed term and part-time workers, details of the plan. Employees have rights under social welfare legislation to occupational sickness benefits from the state.
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. Employees are entitled to additional unpaid adoption leave of 16 weeks, for which no social welfare payments are available. As with maternity and paternity leave, on return to work, the employee has a right to the job held prior to taking adoption leave or to suitable alternative work if this is not reasonably practicable. Adopting parents are entitled to paid time off to attend preparation classes and preadoption meetings with social workers required during the preadoption process. An employee’s absence from work on unpaid adoption leave will count for all employment rights (except remuneration and retirement benefits) associated with the employment, such as annual leave and seniority. Adoptive Leave Act, 1995, No. 2, §§ 6-9.
Employees are entitled to leave from their jobs for a period of 104 weeks in order to care for someone in need of fulltime 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. An employee may not be dismissed for requesting 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. A period of caregiver’s leave will count for the purposes of all employment rights other than remuneration, retirement benefits, annual leave (after the first 13 weeks of leave) and public holidays (occurring after an employee’s first 13 weeks of leave). Carer’s Leave Act, 2001, No. 19, §§ 6-9.
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.
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 that cannot be eliminated by preventive measures, 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 by the employer for the first 21 days. Thereafter, the employee may be entitled to receive social welfare payments. Carer’s Leave Act, 2001, No. 19, §§ 6-9, 13-14.
Last updated on: July 16th, 2019