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A solid understanding of Irish employment law is important for business owners and anyone within an organisation who manages people, whether that’s in an SME, a large company or in the public sector. By ensuring that you have a solid understanding of employment law, you can be confident that your organisation remains in compliance with the relevant legislation allowing for better work relationships and a more efficient business all around.

Whether you are an employer, a manager, or a HR professional, this article will guide you through employment law in Ireland from top to bottom from key employment legislation to employee rights to employer obligations and responsibilities. We also aim to provide employers with guidance around disciplinary / grievance procedures and general compliance best practices. 

Understanding Employment Law in Ireland

Irish Employment Law aims to safeguard workers’ rights by mandating fair pay, safe and healthy working conditions, and freedom from discrimination or harassment. It also provides workers with the right to seek compensation for workplace injuries and legal recourse against unfair dismissal and various forms of discrimination. Employment law in Ireland is multifaceted – it is fundamentally governed by a mix of statutes, regulations, a range of Constitutional, EU directives, and common law principles. 

Employment disputes are generally dealt with by either the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) or the Labour Court (on appeal) or in the civil courts. The process of determining which body or court will have jurisdiction in a particular case mainly depends on whether the claim is being brought under common law (e.g. a breach of contract claim) or statute (e.g. a claim for unfair dismissal).

At the moment, we are at the forefront of a transformative shift in employment law here in Ireland, characterised by significant legislative reforms. These reforms are reshaping how we approach workplace equity, flexibility, and fairness and reflect changing societal values. We have recently written a separate guide which covers recent and upcoming changes in Irish employment law in more detail.

What are the key laws that protect employees in Ireland?

There are several laws in Ireland that protect employees’ rights, including:

Employee Rights in Ireland

Through the laws listed above, employees in Ireland are granted a robust set of rights and protections to ensure fair treatment, equality, and safety in the workplace. In this section, we explore some of the fundamental rights guaranteed to employees:

The Right to a Minimum Wage

The minimum wage in Ireland is set by the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. As of 1st January 2024, the minimum wage has increased to €12.70 per hour. Inexperienced workers such as work experience workers are also now entitled to: 

  • Under 18 – €8.89
  • Age 18- €10.16
  • Age 19 – €11.43

The Right to Reasonable Hours of Work and Rest Breaks

The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, regulates the maximum number of hours an employee can work per week, as well as rest breaks. According to this act, most employees cannot be required to work more than an average of 48 hours per week. 

The act dictates that employers must also provide rest breaks to employees. Employees are entitled to a 15-minute rest break after working up to four and a half hours and a 30-minute break after working up to six hours.

The Right to Annual Leave

The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 provides for an entitlement of annual leave as follows: 

  • 4 working weeks where an employee has worked for at least 1,365 hours in a leave year 
  • One-third of a working week for each month in the leave year in which they work at least 117 hours, or 
  • 8% of the hours they work in a leave year (but subject to a maximum of 4 working weeks).

When an employee has been working for their employer for 8 months or more in a leave year, they are entitled to an unbroken two-week period of annual leave.

Check out our annual leave guide for more information on annual leave entitlements in Ireland.

The Right to Sick Leave and Pay

The Sick Leave Act 2022 provides statutory entitlements for sick leave in Ireland. Entitlement to statutory sick pay has increased from three to five days per year as of January 2024. This aligns with the government’s commitment to gradually increase the entitlement until 2026, when it will reach ten days.

Employees must have 13 weeks of continuous service and produce a valid medical certificate from the first day of absence. Employers must pay @ 70% of an employee’s normal wage (subject to a maximum of €110 per day) and retain sick leave records for 4 years.

The Right to Maternity, Paternity, and Parental Leave

The Maternity Protection Act 1994 entitles employees to 26 weeks’ maternity leave if they become pregnant. They also have the right to take up to 16 weeks’ additional maternity leave. The employee is entitled to take time off work from full-time, casual or part-time employment.

If you have enough social insurance (PRSI) contributions, you are entitled to Maternity Benefit (including self-employed) for the 26 weeks of basic maternity leave. Maternity Benefit does not cover additional maternity leave.

According to the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016, new parents are entitled to 2 weeks’ paternity leave from employment or self-employment following the birth or adoption of a child. Employers do not have to pay employees while they are on paternity leave but they may be eligible for Paternity Benefit.

There are many other types of statutory leave entitlements including adoptive leave, parental leave and parent’s leave. Read more about these here.

The Right to Protection from Discrimination and Harassment

The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 prohibit discrimination in employment on the grounds of age, gender, race, religion, disability, civil status, family status, sexual orientation and members of the traveller community. Employers must have policies and procedures in place to address and prevent discrimination and harassment.

The Right to Safety in the Workplace

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, establishes that employers must ensure their employees’ safety, health and welfare at work, as far as reasonably practicable. This includes the provision of adequate training for their employees and applies to remote employers as well as those with traditional working environments.

The Right to Disconnect

The Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect came into effect as of 1 April 2021. The code defines the employees “Right to Disconnect” as the right to be able to disengage from work and refrain from engaging in work-related electronic communications, such as emails, telephone calls or other messages, outside normal working hours without fear of being disciplined.

The Right to Protection Against Unfair Dismissal

The Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977-2015 protect all employees in Ireland against unfair dismissal / termination of their contract. Dismissals can be justified on the employee’s competence, capability, or conduct. However, the acts outline a whole host of dismissals that are automatically deemed to be unfair including dismissal on the grounds of trade union membership, religious or political beliefs, race, colour, sexual orientation, whistleblowing or testifying in legal proceedings against the employer, pregnancy, availing of maternity leave, to name just a few.

Employer Obligations and Responsibilities

It’s the responsibility of the employer to ensure the employee rights that we have discussed above are realised. Policies and procedures should be put in place to avoid disputes and legislative action from arising in the first place and also, in the worst-case scenario, to define a framework for dealing with any disputes or legislative action that might arise.

By understanding and fulfilling their legal obligations, employers can create a positive and compliant work environment that fosters trust, fairness, and respect for employee rights. Below, we outline some key employer obligations and responsibilities in this regard:

Contracts of Employment

Within the first 5 days of starting a job, your employer must give you part of your ‘written statement of terms of employment’. This written statement must include the core terms of employment (such as how your pay is calculated).

Within 1 month of starting the job, your employer must give you the remaining terms of your employment in writing (such as your entitlement to annual leave).

It is advised that employer’s give all employees a full contract of employment within the first five days of employment.

. It is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that employment contracts comply with relevant legislation and contain essential terms and conditions including provisions related to wages, working hours, leave entitlements, and termination procedures.

Health and Safety

As we have discussed previously, the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 outlines employers’ duty to ensure the safety, health, and welfare of their employees in the workplace. This involves conducting risk assessments, implementing safety measures, providing necessary training, and maintaining a safe working environment. Compliance with health and safety regulations protects employees and also minimises the risk of workplace accidents and legal liabilities for employers.

Equal Opportunities & Diversity

Employers are obligated to promote equal opportunities and prevent discrimination in the workplace. This involves creating a work environment free from discrimination based on factors such as age, gender, race, religion, disability, civil status, family status,  sexual orientation and members of the traveller community. Policies and practices should be implemented that promote diversity, inclusion, and equal treatment for all employees. Training programs and awareness initiatives can help foster a culture of respect and tolerance in the workplace.

Employee Rights Awareness

Employers should ensure that employees are aware of their rights and entitlements under relevant legislation. This includes providing information on employment contracts, statutory leave entitlements, health and safety procedures, and grievance procedures. Policies and procedures should be communicated clearly and employees should be regularly updated on any changes to relevant law.

Data Protection and Privacy

Employers must adhere to data protection and privacy laws, particularly the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), when processing employees’ personal data. This includes collecting, storing, and processing employee information in a lawful and transparent manner, obtaining consent where necessary, and ensuring the security of personal data. Robust data protection policies and procedures must be implemented to safeguard employee privacy rights and comply with legal obligations.

Fair Treatment and Conflict Resolution

Employers have a responsibility to treat employees fairly and address any grievances or disputes in a timely and impartial manner. This involves establishing effective conflict resolution mechanisms, such as grievance procedures and mediation services, to resolve issues between employees or between employees and management.

A Deeper Dive on Handling Disputes and Grievances

Protecting Against Employee Disputes

Triggering a formal grievance procedure should always be a last resort. Employers can safeguard themselves from potential disputes well in advance of that by establishing clear policies and procedures that outline expectations and standards of conduct. Implementing fair and consistent practices, providing adequate training and support to managers, and fostering open communication channels can help prevent conflicts from escalating. Additionally, maintaining accurate records of employee performance, attendance, and disciplinary actions can provide valuable documentation in the event of disputes. We’ll discuss these more in the best practices section later in this guide.

Dispute and Grievance Procedures

The reality is, unfortunately, that disputes and grievances can arise for various reasons in the workplace, ranging from conflicts between employees to complaints about employment conditions. Employers must put in place a robust grievance procedure to ensure that such issues are resolved promptly and effectively and cause minimal disruption.

The Code of Practice on Grievance Procedure provides guidelines for developing grievance procedures in Ireland. Employers are required to communicate these procedures to all employees in writing, ensuring clarity and accessibility.

A grievance procedure aims to promote consistency, transparency, and fairness in managing workplace issues or complaints. It provides employees with a structured process for raising and addressing concerns related to their employment, ensuring that grievances are handled promptly and fairly.

A comprehensive grievance procedure typically includes three main stages: informal resolution, mediation, and formal resolution.

  1. Informal Resolution: Early intervention is encouraged, with employees encouraged to raise concerns informally with their immediate line manager or supervisor. This stage aims to resolve issues quickly and amicably through open dialogue and facilitated meetings.
  2. Mediation: Workplace mediation offers an alternative method of resolving disputes, providing a neutral and confidential forum for parties to discuss their concerns and reach mutually acceptable solutions.
  3. Formal Resolution: If a grievance cannot be resolved informally or through mediation, the employee may choose to escalate the matter to a formal complaint. This stage involves a structured investigation process, including gathering evidence, conducting interviews, and issuing a formal decision.

Employers should prioritise the development and implementation of robust grievance procedures to address employee concerns promptly and fairly. We have written in much more detail about grievance procedures in our Grievance Procedure Guide.

Best Practices for Compliance with Employment Law

As we’ve learned, compliance with employment law is not only a legal obligation but also a critical aspect of fostering a fair, respectful, and efficient workplace environment. Below, we discuss some best practices that employers can adopt to ensure compliance with Irish employment law:

  • Stay up-to-date with evolving employment laws.
  • Ensure a culture of clear communication
  • Provide detailed employment contracts
  • Maintain accurate records
  • Provide regular training
  • Implement robust HR policies and procedures

Stay up-to-date with evolving employment laws

We’ve already discussed how we are in the midst of a shift in employment law here in Ireland which has seen significant legislative reforms and updates in recent times. It’s crucial for employers to stay informed about changes and updates to ensure that their policies and practices remain compliant . This can involve subscribing to legal updates, attending seminars or workshops, and consulting with professionals who specialise in employment law. Keep an eye out for our own regular webinars and feel free to sign up to our newsletter here.

Ensure a culture of clear communication

We’ve touched on the importance of clear communication already throughout this guide – it is essential for ensuring that employees understand their rights and obligations. Employers should regularly communicate with their workforce about company policies, procedures, and any changes in employment law that may affect them. This can help prevent misunderstandings and disputes and contribute to a culture of compliance within the organisation.

Provide detailed employment contracts

The core documentation that governs the employment relationship in Ireland is a written contract of employment. These contracts should outline key details such as job responsibilities, working hours, salary, benefits, and termination procedures. Clear contracts help to manage expectations and minimise the risk of disputes arising from misunderstandings or ambiguities.

Maintain accurate records

Maintaining accurate records of employee hours worked, rest breaks, wages paid, leave taken, performance evaluations, disciplinary actions, and any other relevant information is highly advisable. Robust record-keeping allows organisations to demonstrate compliance with employment law and can provide valuable evidence in the event of disputes or audits.

Provide regular training

HR personnel and management should be provided regular training to ensure that they keep up to date with their obligations under employment law and are equipped to handle workplace issues effectively. Topics to stay on top of include diversity, equity and inclusion, bullying, harassment and sexual harassment prevention, disciplinary procedures, and legal compliance. Here at the HR Suite, we offer training across all these topics and more, both in person and online. Well-trained senior staff can help to identify and address potential compliance issues before they escalate into serious problems.

Implement robust HR policies and procedures

We’ve already mentioned the importance of policies and procedures around discrimination and harassment, diversity, equity and inclusion and expectations of standards and conduct. Establishing clear and comprehensive HR policies and procedures is essential for promoting fairness and, of course, compliance within the organisation. These policies should cover a wide range of topics including those we’ve already mentioned as well as recruitment, performance management, grievance handling, disciplinary action, and termination. It is generally good practice to create, maintain and distribute an up to date employee handbook which outlines all company policies.

By implementing the best practices above, employers can minimise the risk of non-compliance with employment law. Compliance not only helps to avoid legal consequences but also contributes to the overall success and reputation of the organisation.


Ultimately, it’s crucial for employers to stay informed about updates and changes to employment legislation to ensure ongoing compliance and a harmonious workplace. If you’re looking for some guidance, The HR Suite’s got your back. We can ensure your business isn’t just ticking the compliance box but is genuinely ahead of the game. Our employment law experts offer personalised consultancy and training that will help your organisation to confidently remain compliant with all of the latest employment law regulations. 

We hope that this guide has proved useful to your organisation and would welcome any feedback or questions in relation to any of its content. Get in touch.

author avatar
Caroline Reidy Managing Director
Caroline Reidy, Managing Director of the HR Suite and HR and Employment Law Expert. Caroline is a former member of the Low Pay Commission and is also an adjudicator in the Workplace Relations Commission. Caroline is an independent expert observer appointed by the European Parliament to the Board of Eurofound. Caroline is also on the Board of the Design and Craft Council Ireland.