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Irish employment law

Employment law in Ireland is governed by common law, an extensive statutory framework (some of which has its origins in European Union law) and a range of fundamental rights protected by the Constitution of Ireland.

In Ireland, the core documentation governing the employment relationship in practice is (i) a written contract of employment (which is common at all levels and across all sectors) and (ii) an employee handbook containing company/HR policies (which is typically provided to employees in conjunction with the contract of employment).

Key Points

  • Probationary periods in the private sector cannot exceed 6 months, save for exceptional circumstances such as where it is ‘in the interest of the employee’ or where an employee is absent during the probationary period.
  • Employees in Ireland have a wide range of protections under applicable legislation including protection from unfair or discriminatory dismissal, protection from penalisation or dismissal on the grounds of having made a ‘protected disclosure’ (i.e. a whistleblowing complaint) and protection against unlawful deductions of wages by an employer.
  • Irish law places significant emphasis on fair procedures being afforded to employees (e.g. right to know the case against him/her, a right to reply, a right to a fair and impartial hearing), particularly in the context of conduct-related dismissals.
  • Statutory employment law claims and disputes are dealt with through statutory forums (namely, the Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”) or the Labour Court (on appeal)), which sit outside the civil courts system in Ireland.
  • The forms of statutory leave available to parents include maternity leave, adoptive leave, paternity leave, parent’s leave and parental leave.  There is no obligation on the employer to pay employees during these leave periods but a State benefit is available in most cases.
  • A statutory sick pay scheme was introduced, for the first time in Ireland, on 1 January 2023.
  • Trade union membership in Ireland is relatively low (particularly amongst multinationals).  Unions are generally more prevalent in the public sector than in the private sector.
  • European and local level works councils are provided for under statute but, in practice, works councils are rare in Ireland.
  • The Irish government has proposed introducing a pensions auto-enrolment scheme in 2024.

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