Irish employment law—overview

19 December 2019

Employment in Ireland is regulated by a large body of statutory employment laws.

Many Irish employment laws have their origin in EU law. Other sources of employment law include the:

  • Irish Constitution.
  • Law of equity.
  • Common law.

In general, if employees suspect their employer has breached any laws relating to employment, the employee will make a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission, which is the main body that investigates workplace grievances and complaints under Irish labour law. 

If you would like further complementary advice on employment laws in Ireland from an expert, our advisors are ready to take your call any time day or night. Call us on 1890 252 923 or request a callback.

You can also read this guide for further information on this topic.

Why do we have employment law?

New business owners who are planning to hire their first employee often ask what is employment law or what is the purpose of employment law?

The term employment law encapsulates a wide range of laws that govern the employment relationship between employers and employees. Employment law is primarily found in statutes enacted by the government and common law decisions handed down by the courts.

The purpose of employment law is to regulate the employment relationship between businesses and their employees.

There’s a power imbalance between the employer and the employee and employment laws ensure that employment processes like recruitment, dismissal and rest periods are fair for everyone.

Statutory employment laws

The following employment law overview sets out a non-exhaustive list of employment laws that are enshrined in statute in Ireland.

  • The Industrial Relations Acts 1946–2015.
  • The Redundancy Payments Acts 1967–2012.
  • The Protection of Employment Act 1977.
  • The Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973–2001.
  • The Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977–2007.
  • The Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994 and 2012.
  • The Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004.
  • The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.
  • The Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015.
  • The National Minimum Wage Act 2000.
  • The Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001.
  • The European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003.
  • The Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003.
  • The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005.
  • The Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Act 2006.
  • The Employment Permits Acts 2003–2014.
  • The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (General Application) Regulations 2007.
  • The Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act 2012.
  • The Protected Disclosures Act 2014.
  • The Workplace Relations Act 2015.
  • The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018.

How common law influences employment laws

Ireland is a common law legal jurisdiction with three main sources of law. These are the:

  1. Irish Constitution.
  2. Common law.

The latter is a body of historic judge made decisions known as judicial precedents that can be applied to subsequent cases where the facts of a case are largely the same.

So as well as their duties under the list of employment statutes above, there are common law duties of an employer that you must respect.

Under common law, for instance employer rights and responsibilities under employment law include a general duty of care owed to their employees. 

Broadly speaking, an employer’s obligations under their common law duty of care require it to provide a safe place of work.

Equally, employee rights and responsibilities under employment law include a common law duty to carry out the job to the best of their ability.

The importance of the contract of employment

Employment laws are drafted for the most part to protect the employee.

As the employee tends to be in a weaker position in the employment relationship, employment laws are designed to ensure that employers treat their employees fairly.

As employer rights under employment law are limited, it’s very important for you to include terms in the contract of employment that protect their interests.

If you have a particular requirement for employees to be available for shift or weekend work for instance, this requirement should be clearly set out in the contract of employment.

You’ll also append an Employee Handbook to the contract of employment that includes HR policies explaining how issues such as:

  • Disciplinary procedures.
  • Equality.
  • Harassment and e-mail/internet usage are handled.

To avoid confusion with employees, it’s vital for you to have bespoke HR policies in place and that they’re clearly communicated to all staff.

Need our help?

Get in touch and we can assist you with any employment law matter: 1890 252 923.

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