Six interesting facts about employment law in Ireland

Employment law in Ireland

Employers in the Republic of Ireland have to pay a contribution of employees’ earnings to a national training fund and there are grants to encourage employers to recruit female apprentices; just two of Ireland’s employment regulations that global employers need to know.

The latest data from Ireland’s Central Statistics Office ushered in a period of twelve consecutive months with unemployment rates below 10%. Welcome news indeed for the recovering “Celtic Tiger” severely wounded in the 2008 crash.

With economic conditions improving and investor confidence growing, Sarah Anderson highlights six facts relating to employment law in Ireland.

1. Training and development in Ireland

Employers must pay a contribution of 0.7% of employees’ earnings to the National Training Fund.

A statutory apprenticeship system applies to craft trades, mainly in the engineering, construction, motor, electrical and printing industries.

There is also a national traineeship programme for non-crafts occupations, which combines formal training with the Further Education and Training Authority and workplace “coaching” with an employer for labour market entrants and unemployed people.

2. Collective bargaining

While the Irish constitution establishes a right for workers to join a trade union, it does not oblige employers to recognise a union for collective bargaining purposes.

However, where an employer refuses to engage in collective bargaining, there is a statutory mechanism whereby a trade union may request Labour Court intervention.

Although the court cannot order the employer to engage in collective bargaining, it can in certain circumstances require the employer to improve pay and conditions, and to introduce or amend dispute resolution and disciplinary procedures.

3. Force majeure leave

Irish employees are entitled to take paid force majeure leave for urgent family reasons, owing to an injury or illness to a family member.

The leave may consist of one or more days, but cannot exceed three days in any 12-month period or five days in any 36-month period.

4. Equal opportunities in Ireland

Discrimination in employment is prohibited by law on nine grounds, including family status, age and membership of the Traveller community.

The Workplace Relations Commission, which deals with claims of discrimination in the first instance, may award compensation of up to two years’ pay. In sex discrimination cases referred to the Circuit Court, there is no cap on the amount that may be awarded in compensation.

5. Sick pay in Ireland

There is no statutory sick pay scheme nor any obligation on employers to pay employees during a period of sickness absence.

However, in practice, many employers do pay their employees their full wages during short absences due to illness and subsequently recoup any state benefit paid to the employee.

6. Unfair dismissal

To bring a claim of unfair dismissal, an employee must generally have one year’s continuous service with his or her employer. The dismissed employee must lodge the claim within six months of the dismissal or “in exceptional circumstances” within 12 months.

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