Sunday workers: What are they entitled to?

Moira Grassick - Chief Operating Officer

April 15 2023

First published: March 30th 2017
Last updated: April 15th 2023

Employees who work on Sundays are entitled to be compensated in some form.

Under the Organisation Working Time Act 1997, there is no specific premium noted. The form of compensation to be provided is therefore a matter for negotiation between the employer and employee, or, where applicable, their trade union.

In some sectors, such as security, there may be an ERO or collective agreement that states what rate of pay you must provide to Sunday workers as compensation.

What employment law says on Sunday working

Section 14 of the Organisation Working Time Act 1997 states that an employee who is required to work on a Sunday (and the fact of his or her having to work on that day has not otherwise been taken account of in the determination of his or her pay) shall be compensated by his or her employer for being required so to work by the following means, namely:

  • By the payment to the employee of an allowance of such an amount as is reasonable having regard to all the circumstances.
  • By otherwise increasing the employee's rate of pay by such an amount as is reasonable having regard to all the circumstances.
  • By granting the employee such paid time off from work as is reasonable having regard to all the circumstances.
  • By a combination of two or more of the means referred to in the preceding paragraphs.

If Sundays are a normal working day for an individual, do they still get additional pay?

The short answer is yes.

In the case of VIKING SECURITY LTD v VALENT, the Labour Court stated that… “where an hourly rate is intended to reflect the requirement for Sunday working…any such agreement on this hourly rate should be identified and clearly and unequivocally specified at the time the contract of employment is concluded either in the contract itself or in the course of negotiations.

It is insufficient therefore for an employer to simply say that as the basic rate of pay exceeds the National Minimum Wage, this is the employee’s compensation for Sunday working.

Code of Practice for Retail Workers

There is a separate Code of Practice on Sunday working in the Retail Trade. It gives guidance, in particular, on arrangements that may be put in place to comply with the provisions of Section 14 of the Act.

While failure by employers to observe the Code will not, in itself, render them liable to civil or criminal proceedings, an employer’s failure to comply with the Code is admissible in evidence before a Court.

In accordance with provisions of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, a premium payment will apply to Sunday working.

Section 14 of the Act specifies the means by which the premium should be granted. The nature and value of this premium rate should be negotiated and agreed between the employer and the trade union(s) representing employees, or, in circumstances where employees are not unionised, between the employer and the employees who are affected by Sunday trading.

Existing employees should have the option to volunteer to opt into working patterns, which include Sundays on a rota basis and form part of a regular working week (i.e. being required to work no more than 5 days out of 7). Newly recruited employees may be contracted to work Sundays as part of a regular rostered working pattern.

Employees who have a minimum of two years’ service on a Sunday working contract should have the opportunity to seek to opt out of Sunday working, for urgent family or personal reasons, giving adequate notice to the employer.

Meal breaks on Sundays should be standardised in line with the other working days of the week.

All employees should have the opportunity of volunteering to work on the peak Sunday trading days prior to Christmas, in addition to their normal working week. In these circumstances, length of service will not be the overriding criteria for selection for Sunday working.

What is an acceptable Sunday rate to pay?

In general, the Labour Court has tended to find that any premium below time and a third rate to be unreasonable as outlined in case law below:


“The Court considers a premium of 33% of the hourly rate is reasonable.”


“The Court measures the level of compensation for working on Sundays that is reasonable in all the circumstances at time-plus-one-third for each hour worked on a Sunday.”

An important point to note is that an employer is entitled to pay a composite hourly rate which rolls up the employee’s normal hourly pay and also their Sunday premium.

This can be difficult to monitor and you need to ensure that everyone is working the fair amount of Sundays to ensure that nobody is being treated more or less favourably.

However, as noted above, this arrangement must also be specified on the employee’s contract of employment.

If there is no documentary or other evidence supporting the arrangement on Sunday pay, then the WRC and/or Labour Court will deem that rate as the employee’s normal rate, and require the employer to pay an additional Sunday premium on top of the purported composite hourly rate.

Are your Sunday workers receiving their entitlements?

Payment of wages claims are one of the most common causes of action against Irish employers.

Employment laws in Ireland arm employees with a host of workers’ rights so it’s important to be proactive to avoid time-consuming disputes with employees.

If you have queries on any of your obligations as an employer, contact a Peninsula HR expert today on 1800 719 216 or request a callback here.

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