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Employment law is crucial for every workplace. It’s a necessary part of owning and operating a company, just as much as employees must understand their rights. 

From workplace discrimination to wage and benefits, and from family leave to termination, employment law covers all of it. 

As a business owner, finding answers to critical questions, such as how does employment law impact a business, is the first step in staying compliant and protected. 

In this guide, we’ll explain more about employment law in Ireland, why it’s important, and how to stay compliant.

What Is Employment Law?

Employment law is the collection of rulings that protect the rights and duties of both employees and the businesses in which they work. Whether it’s regarding equality in the workplace, the number of hours an employee is allowed to work, or proper working conditions, employment law is in place to protect everyone involved. 

Businesses in Ireland must comply with the laws to avoid paying fines, legal action, or worse, having to suffer consequences of treating employees unfairly. 

What Employment Law Covers

Employment law covers the vast majority of areas of employment. You can expect there to be laws regarding equal employment opportunities, equal and fair payment opportunities, sick time, annual leave, maternity and paternity leave, employee recruitment, and working conditions. 

The most widely discussed areas of employment that are covered include: 

Discrimination

Employment law in Ireland justly demands that all employees are treated fairly. This means that a place of business cannot discriminate against employees or interviewees based on demographics such as:

  • Gender identity
  • Civil status
  • Age
  • Sexual orientation
  • Race
  • Religion
  • National origin
  • Disability 

Discrimination, according to The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015, is defined as someone who is treated differently or less favourably based on one of the above demographics.

Pay

Legislation regarding pay requires businesses to pay, at least, the national minimum wage set by the government for any position.

Starting in 2023, the national minimum wage will transition to the national living wage. Employment laws in Ireland will require businesses to pay 60% of the median wage of a given year.  

The goal of these laws is to pay employees fairly with a livable wage so they may provide for themselves and their families. 

Recruitment

Employment law regarding recruitment governs how employers recruit, interview, and hire staff. Businesses need to be clear of job responsibilities for employees when hiring. They also need to provide newly hired staff with an employment contract. 

Upon hiring new employees, businesses need to protect them against wrongful dismissal. This means that staff can’t be terminated without a legitimate reason or for a reason that doesn’t adhere to government regulations.

Working Conditions

Employers are obligated to provide safe working conditions for their staff members. This includes having the appropriate, safe equipment to do their job well. 

It also includes creating work environments that are compliant with the Safety, Health, and Welfare at Work Act of 2005. To stay compliant with this employment law, workplaces need to have proper staff training, drinking water, first aid equipment, and a respectable place to use the restroom. 

Regulations surrounding working conditions have also been updated due to the return to work after COVID-19. Employment regulations in Ireland now include the Work Safely Protocol to provide safer working environments because of the pandemic. 

Finally, employment law in Ireland surrounding working conditions includes the number of hours one can work per week. The maximum workweek cannot exceed 48 hours per employee. While it’s okay for employees to work past 48 hours occasionally, they cannot do so on average.

Why Is Employment Law Important? 

The importance of employment law compliance is multifaceted. It protects employees, as well as employers. Understanding the common laws that are in place is key to keeping your doors open and creating a great place to work. 

What Is the Purpose of Employment Law in Ireland?

The purpose of these regulations is key in understanding how employment law impacts a business. 

These legislations are put into place to make sure that employees are offered an acceptable, safe, non-discriminatory place to work. Keeping these in place raises the quality of workplaces and the quality of employees’ lives. 

Why Do Employers Need to Know About Employment Laws?

Employers need to be aware of employment law in Ireland because they are responsible for staying compliant. Unfortunately, a company’s knowledge of these regulations or the lack thereof, does not hold up in court if they happen to find themselves in the face of legal action in civil courts. 

Knowing about employment laws helps businesses stay compliant so they don’t find themselves in any legal trouble. More importantly, it allows your business to create and maintain a reputation as a great place to work. That can be beneficial for any organisation as it promotes trust and loyalty among both employees and clients or customers.  

How Does Employment Law Impact a Business? 

Employment laws have been created to protect employees, employers, and their working relationships. Businesses that are not compliant with these regulations may find themselves facing lawsuits, fines, or even needing to close their doors altogether. 

Employment law compliance directly impacts a business and we highly suggest seeking legal advice to make sure your organisation is up to date with these important laws and regulations. 

How to Prepare for Employment Law Compliance

Once you’re aware of the employment laws in Ireland, the next step is to make sure that your business is compliant with those regulations. The best way to do so is to ensure your business has employee contracts in place. An employee handbook is also useful in making sure that employees are aware of their rights. 

Employee Contracts

Employee contracts are written agreements that are signed by both the employer and the employee. These contracts include the core terms of employment and what to expect within the working relationship. 

Employment contracts put the majority of information regarding the terms and conditions of employment into a written statement. They must include the 5 core terms of employment, according to the Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2018.  

That means the contract needs to clearly state:

  • The full names of the employer and business
  • The address of the employer and/or business
  • The expected length of the contract if the agreement is fixed-term or temporary
  • The payment rate or the calculation of the payment rate and the payment schedule
  • The duration of an average work day and work week 

The contract can also include other relevant information, such as 

  • The job title, description, and responsibilities
  • The start date for employment
  • Any other terms and conditions regarding work time and locations
  • Paid leave, annual leave, sick pay
  • Maternity and paternity leave
  • Terms and conditions regarding notice to the employee or employer
  • Any other collective agreements, such as non-compete agreements or non-disclosure agreements

What Are Employee Contract Benefits? 

Overall, the benefit of having an employment contract is simply keeping everyone aware of the working agreement. When all of the information is adequately spelled out, it leaves little room for miscommunication or misunderstanding. 

This protects both parties should anything happen. 

Because an employment contract is one of the first lines of defense for both employees and employers, it’s necessary to have one that checks all of the boxes. Seeking legal advice from appropriate sources is key to having a contract that protects your business. 

Consequences of Failing to Comply with Employment Laws

The consequences of failing to comply with employment laws can be severe. From a legal perspective, failure to comply can result in fines, legal action from an employee, or even imprisonment. 

Not keeping a business up to date with current employment laws in Ireland can also be damaging to the business itself. You may lose your reputation as a great establishment or a wonderful place to work. Other current staff or potential staff may decide not to work with you. You may even have to shut down your business for a period as you put compliance parameters in place. 

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Gave us practical guidance throughout the pandemic and guided us expertly and calmly through some very difficult decisions with regard to laying off staff. Their team were available to us throughout this at any time of day.’

Employment | Legal 500 EMEA 2021

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Pat McInerney has a notably strong profile among public sector clients, for whom he advises on employment, grievance and disciplinary policies. He represents clients in judicial reviews and employment litigation.

Pat McInerney

Employment | Legal 500 EMEA 2021

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Associate Shane Costelloe has been advising clients on Covid-19-related employment issues, such as pay reductions, lay-offs and the Return to Work Safely Protocol.

Shane Costelloe

Employment | Legal 500 EMEA 2021

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‘Shane Costelloe, one of their associate solicitors, demonstrated expert knowledge in his field and was a very reassuring help to us while guiding us through difficult decisions in our business. Calm, collected, knowledgeable, practical, realistic, expert.’

Shane Costelloe

Employment | Legal 500 EMEA 2021

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‘Very speedy, sensible, practical advice, delivered in a very professional, friendly and approachable manner.’

Employment | Legal 500 EMEA 2021

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