Living and working in Ireland

14 október 2020

Data source: Eurostat

Eurofound provides research, data and analysis on a wide range of social and work-related topics. This information is largely comparative, but also offers country-specific information for each of the 28 EU Member States, which included the UK prior to its withdrawal from the European Union on 31 January 2020. Most information is available in English but some has been translated to facilitate access at national level.

Eurofound strives to strengthen the ongoing link between its own work and national policy debates and priorities related to quality of life and work. Increasingly important in this context is the Europe 2020 growth and jobs strategy launched in 2010, which has five headline targets, covering employment through to social inclusion and poverty reduction. The strategy is implemented in the context of the European Semester process – the EU's annual cycle of economic policy guidance and surveillance – which ensures that Member States keep their budgetary and economic policies in line with their EU commitments through, in part, National Reform Programmes. These programmes form the basis for the European Commission's proposals for country-specific recommendations (CSRs) for each Member State.

European Commission: The European Semester
European Commission: The European Semester - EU country-specific recommendations
European Commission: European Semester documents for Ireland

2015 Eurofound EWCS survey results in Ireland: 89% of people are satisfied with working conditions in their job

Living and working in Ireland and COVID-19

COVID-19 continues to have a profound impact on people’s lives across the globe, with major implications for quality of life and work. Eurofound has taken a multipronged response to the pandemic, adapting its research focus in a variety of ways. A new database of national-level policy responses, COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, collates information on measures taken by government and social partners, as well as company practices, aiming to cushion the effects of the crisis. Eurofound's unique e-survey, Living, working and COVID-19, provides an insight into the impact of the pandemic on people’s lives across the EU, with the aim of helping policymakers to bring about an equal recovery from the crisis. Two rounds of the survey in April and July allow for comparisons between a lockdown situation in most Member States and the gradual reopening of society and economies. The survey investigates the impact on quality of life and society, working and teleworking, the financial situation and security of people, and the quality of public services during COVID-19. Findings for each country and a range of data pages are now available.

Explore our data pages by country to find out more on the situation in Ireland.


The country page gives access to Eurofound's most recent survey data and news, directly related to Ireland:

Research carried out prior to 31 January 2020, and published subsequently, may include data relating to the 28 EU Member States. Following this date, research only takes into account the 27 EU Member States (EU28 minus the UK), unless specified otherwise.

Survey results

Ability to choose or change
methods of work

Data source: 2015 EWCS survey

Possibility to accumulate overtime
for days off

Data source: 2013 ECS survey

Recent developments

Eurofound contacts in Ireland

Correspondents in Ireland

Correspondents report on topics related to developments in the country's working life and inform Eurofound’s pan-European comparative analysis. Read more

IRN Publishing Ltd / National University of Ireland, University College Dublin NUID UCD

Eurofound Management Board members from Ireland

Eurofound's Management Board is made up of representatives of the social partners and national governments of all Member States, European Commission representatives and an independent expert appointed by the European Parliament. Read more

Ms Dearbháil Nic Giolla Mhicíl Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

Ms Maeve McElwee Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC)

Mr David Joyce Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU)

Related content

Other country-specific information may be available in certain areas on demand. Please feel free to contact your country contact at Eurofound for this or any other information at

Living in Ireland

Quality of life

Quality of life

Ireland ranks well in most indicators for quality of life, particularly in relation to mental wellbeing, ability to make ends meet, sense of purpose in life and optimism. Overall there has been an increase in life satisfaction since 2011.

Ireland has the highest self-reported levels of health in the EU, with 47% of respondents stating they were in very good health, significantly more than the EU average of 24%. Ireland ranks highest in Europe in the WHO-5 mental wellbeing index, and was higher in 2016 than in 2011 and 2007. The proportion of people at risk of depression is 15%, well below the EU average of 22%. Ireland also ranks highest in terms of sense of purpose in life: 90% feel what they do in life is worthwhile compared with 78% on average in the EU. It is also among the countries with the highest reported rates of optimism from respondents about their own, as well as their children’s future.

There has been a marked decrease in the number of people in Ireland that report difficulty in making ends meet; 27% of respondents reported difficulty making ends meet in 2016, much lower than the EU average of 39% and significantly down on the 43% of respondents that reported difficulty making ends meet in Ireland in 2011. Despite this, Ireland is among the seven EU countries where levels of difficulty in making ends meet are still above pre-crisis levels.

Life satisfactionMean (1-10)
Taking all things together on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy would you say you are?Mean (1-10)
Optimism about own futureAgree & strongly agree---81%
Optimism about children’s or grandchildren’s futureAgree & strongly agree---79%
Take part in sports or physical exerciseAt least once a week--62%55%
In general, how is your health?Very good-47%38%47%
WHO-5 mental wellbeing indexMean (1-100)-676470
Making ends meetWith some difficulty, difficulty, and great difficulty22%22%43%27%
I feel I am free to decide how to live my lifeStrongly agree--28%26%
I find it difficult to deal with important problems that come up in my lifeAgree & strongly agree---22%
When things go wrong in my life, it generally takes me a long time to get back to normalAgree & strongly agree---24%

Work-life balance

Work-life balance

(At least several times a month)   

I have come home from work too tired

to do some of the household jobs which need to be done


It has been difficult for me to fulfil my family responsibilities

because of the amount of time I spend on the job


I have found it difficult to concentrate at work

because of my family responsibilities


Quality of society

Quality of society

Ireland also ranked well on the quality of society indicators, particularly in relation to relatively low socio-economic and racial/ethnic tensions in society. There has been a significant decrease in reported tensions between rich and poor in Ireland since 2011: 19% reported a tension between rich and poor in 2016, down from 28% in 2011. This brings Ireland well under the EU average of 29%.

Ireland also ranks as one of the countries in Europe with the lowest reported tensions between different racial and ethnic groups; this is despite a general increase in tensions in Europe and a marked increase in some countries. Reported tensions between ethnic groups in Ireland has been decreasing consistently since 2003 and now stands at 21%, below the EU average of 41%. The reported tension between people with different sexual orientations is lower in Ireland than in most other EU countries: 14% of people say there is a lot of tension, compared with 20% on average in the EU.

Social exclusion indexMean (1-5)-
Trust in peopleMean (1-10)
Involvement in unpaid voluntary work% "at least once a month"--16%16%
Tension between poor and rich people% reporting 'a lot of tension'30%18%28%19%
Tension between different racial and ethnic groups% reporting 'a lot of tension'47%34%28%21%
I feel safe when I walk alone after darkStrongly agree---39%

Quality of public services

Quality of public services

Quality ratings for seven public services

Note: scale of 1-10, Source: EQLS 2016.

The reported quality of public services in Ireland has increased or remained consistent with 2007 and 2011 levels in most areas. Education and state pension systems were rated positively, coming in at above EU averages.

However, the cost-related difficulties in accessing some public services, notably those related to health and childcare, are amongst the highest in the EU. In the case of childcare this was reflected in the fact that the use of a childminder or a childcare facility, as opposed to family members, is less common in Ireland than in most of the EU: these services are used by 25% people in Ireland compared with 34% on average.

While ratings for quality of GP services are high, access is an issue - 38% of respondents cited cost as a factor making it difficult to see a GP, compared to 16% in EU on average. A particular finding has been that cost was reported as a problem by 46% of people from uppermiddle incomes suggesting rather uneven levels of issues in accessing healthcare in society. Nevertheless, there is a much higher rate of satisfaction for primary care compared to other forms of care than in other EU Member States. Other notable findings for healthcare were that Ireland ranked below the EU average in terms of e-consultations and prescriptions.

The only area in which there has been an overall decline in perceived quality since the 2011 survey is that of social housing.

Health servicesMean (1-10)
Education systemMean (1-10)
Public transportMean (1-10)
Childcare servicesMean (1-10)-
Long-term care servicesMean (1-10)--5.35.9
Social housingMean (1-10)--5.65.0
State pension systemMean (1-10)

Working life in Ireland


  • Szerző: Andy Prendergast and Roisin Farrelly
  • Institution: IRN Publishing
  • Published on: hétfő, november 18, 2019

This profile describes the key characteristics of working life in Ireland. It aims to complement other EurWORK research by providing the relevant background information on the structures, institutions and relevant regulations regarding working life. This includes indicators, data and regulatory systems on the following aspects: actors and institutions, collective and individual employment relations, health and well-being, pay, working time, skills and training, and equality and non-discrimination at work. The profiles are updated annually.


Highlights – Working life in 2019

Highlights – Working life in 2019

Highlights updated on: 28 February 2020
For more information, see working paper:
Ireland: Developments in working life 2018

Pay bargaining continued on an upward trajectory in 2019, with the joint IRN-CIPD pay survey finding that companies were planning an average pay increase of 2.82% for 2019. This was on a par with the 2.8% increase projected for 2018.

The year began with a major nurses’ dispute over pay. The dispute centred on a claim by nurses for pay parity with other health professional grades and resulted in a number of days of strike action in early 2019. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) suspended further strike action following an invitation to a round of talks from the Labour Court. The court recommended that a new Enhanced Nurse Practice salary scale should be introduced, which will mark the beginning of a process of transformation and ‘fundamental change’ for the staff nurse role. The court also issued a further recommendation to address four critical issues relating to the proposed new nursing contract: location, duties, hours of work and qualifying criteria.

Two new initiatives in relations to parental leave were introduced in 2019. The Parent’s Leave and Benefit Act 2019 provides for paid parental leave – in addition to maternity and paternity paid leave – for each parent in the first year of the child’s life. The new provision gives parents two weeks’ paid leave, for every child born or adopted from 1 November 2019. Separately, the Parental Leave (Amendment) Act 2019, enacted earlier this year, expanded the entitlement to unpaid parental leave from 18 weeks to 22 weeks, effective from 1 September 2019, and will be enhanced further to 26 weeks, from 1 September 2020.

Another significant development was the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill 2019, which was published in April. The bill implements a commitment made in the Programme for a Partnership Government Annual Report 2019 to encourage wage transparency. Under the bill, the government can introduce regulations that oblige employers to publish information relating to the disparity in pay between male and female employees.

In July, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) launched a new policy on collective bargaining which focuses on the adoption of an EU Directive to ‘harmonise the laws of EU Member States on collective bargaining and thereby establish the right to bargain in Irish law’.

Key figures

Key figures

Comparative figures on working life in Ireland




% (point) change 2012-2018








GDP per capita







Unemployment rate – total







Unemployment rate – women







Unemployment rate – men







Unemployment rate – youth







Employment rate – total







Employment rate – women







Employment rate – men







Employment rate – youth







Source: Eurostat - Real GDP per capita (chain linked volumes [2010], in EUR) and percentage change 2012-2018 (both based on tsdec100). Unemployment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [une_rt_a]; Employment rate by sex and age - annual average, % [lfsi_emp_a].



Economic and labour market context

Ireland is a small, open economy, heavily dependent on international trade and foreign direct investment. Between 2012 and 2018, Irish GDP grew an impressive 56.73%, about 6 times the EU average for the same period (9.73%). During this time, total unemployment decreased by 9.7 percentage points, reaching 5.8% in 2018, below the EU average rate of 6.8% for that year. Youth unemployment decreased 17 percentage points in the six years, a fall that was over twice the EU average (-8.1 percentage points) for the same period. Employment rates between 2012 and 2018 showed some growth; however, the youth employment rate fell 3.6 percentage points to reach 46.7% in 2018, but still remained above the EU average for the same year (41.7%).

More information on:

Legal context

The industrial relations system has historically been characterised by ‘voluntarism’; this has meant minimum intervention by the law rather than non-intervention by government in collective bargaining.

The growth of individual employment law has led to the development of an increasingly complex system of institutional arrangements that operate in a quasi-legal fashion to adjudicate on cases. In 2011, a reform of the current employment rights institutions was launched. Under the plan the existing five workplace relations bodies will be replaced by a new two-tier structure, with a new Workplace Relations Commission and an expanded Labour Court. The enabling legislation for this change was passed in July 2015.

The reform of legislation for wage-setting sectoral agreements under the Joint Labour Committee (JLC) and Registered Employment Agreement (REA) mechanisms has been completed, with both JLCs and new Registered Employment Agreements & Orders permitted to be established. The new Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015, which provides a new definition of collective bargaining as well as enhanced protection against victimisation of workers, was also passed in July 2015. It corrects aspects of the IR Acts 2001 to 2004 which severely limited the use those Acts.

The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2018 was passed in 2018. The Bill (which came into force from 1 March 2019) has the following provisions:

  • prohibits the use of zero hour contracts, save in limited circumstances
  • provides for the provision of minimum payments in relation to low-paid employees who are required to be available to work but are not called into work
  • creates a new entitlement to banded hour contracts
  • obliges employers to notify employees in writing of five core terms of employment within five days of starting employment.

Industrial relations context

The industrial relations system has changed significantly over the past 20 years, with a concentrated period of change since 2009. There has been a gradual erosion of voluntarism and collectivism and a growing legalisation of the employment relationship – particularly the growth of individual rights-based employment law in certain areas.

The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 gave effect to the Programme for Government Commitment to reform legislation on collective bargaining. The Act defines collective bargaining as voluntary engagements or negotiations between any employer or employers’ organisation on the one hand and a trade union of workers or an excepted body on the other hand, with the objective of seeking agreement regarding the working conditions or terms of employment or non-employment of workers. The definition requires that there be more than consultation or the exchange of information. The purpose of the exercise must be to seek agreement on working conditions and the terms of employment or non-employment.

The Act does not impose any obligation on employers to engage in collective bargaining. However, the Act broadens the circumstances in which workers, whose employers refuse to engage in collective bargaining, can have relevant disputes addressed.

The Competition Amendment Act 2017 provides that trade unions may apply to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to permit certain groups of self-employed workers to act collectively. The Minister will make their decision after consultation with other Government Ministers, and any other person or body the Minister considers ought to be consulted.

Perhaps the most important trend in Irish industrial relations over the past 20 years was the introduction, evolution, and then subsequent breakdown, in early 2010, of national-level collective bargaining and social dialogue (‘social partnership’). In 1987, the first of six tripartite centralised agreements or social pacts were negotiated. These centralised pacts covered not only pay, but a range of social and economic issues. Evaluations of social partnership, before it withdrew, varied from seeing it as contributing to strong economic performance, growing employment, low levels of unemployment, rising real wages and decreasing levels of absolute poverty, to a perception that it increased inequality in wages, and featured high levels of relative poverty and low expenditure on public services compared with other advanced economies. Since the end of formal social partnership, collective bargaining has taken place at company level in the private sector. Meanwhile, in the public sector, successive bi-lateral national collective wage deals have been agreed between the government and the public service unions (the ‘Croke Park’ Agreement, ‘Haddington Road Agreement’ and the ‘Lansdowne Road Agreements’/Public Service Stability Agreement (2018-2020). While the Lansdowne Road/Public Service Stability Agreement (2018-2020) is a bilateral collective bargaining agreement, some view it as a form of shadow social partnership in the public sector.

In 2016, a new Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF), which includes representatives of employers and trade unions with government ministers, was established. The aim of the LEEF is to provide a space to discuss areas of shared concern affecting the economy, employment and the labour market on a thematic basis, such as competitiveness, sustainable job creation, labour market standards and equality and gender issues in the workplace. However, LEEF does not deal with pay issues.

Actors and institutions

Actors and institutions

Trade unions, employers’ organisations and public institutions play a key role in the governance of the employment relationship, working conditions and industrial relations structures. They are interlocking parts in a multilevel system of governance that includes the European, national, sectoral, regional (provincial or local) and company levels. This section looks into the main actors and institutions and their role in Ireland.

Public authorities involved in regulating working life

The Department of An Taoiseach (prime minister) was the Government wing of the former tripartite social partnership system (1987–2009). However, the remit for the Government’s involvement in industrial relations and working conditions today is under the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation. This Department is in charge of all major legislative changes in this area (industrial relations laws; dispute resolution state bodies). It is also tasked with the establishment of the new Low Pay Commission, and is responsible for discussion around the national minimum wage rate.

The Department of Public Expenditure & Reform, established in 2011, is largely responsible for the public sector paybill and pensions. It also negotiated the major public sector stability agreements (the Haddington Road Agreement and its successor, The Lansdowne Road Agreement) with the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions with the assistance of the Labour Relations Commission.

The Workplace Relations Commission was established in 2015. It is an amalgamation of five state bodies which previously regulated employment relations: the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), the Labour Court, the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), the Equality Tribunal (ET), and the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA).

The Labour Court deals with individual and collective dispute referrals.

The Health & Safety Authority is the national statutory body with responsibility for ensuring workers (employed and self-employed) and those affected by work activity are protected from work related injury and ill-health. It enforces occupational health and safety law, promotes accident prevention, and provides information and advice across all sectors.


The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) is the umbrella group for the large majority of trade unions in Ireland, with 48 affiliated trade unions. At national level, such as with the bilateral public sector agreement talks, the ICTU is the central negotiating body. (ICTU was also one of the tripartite bodies during the formal social partnership era, 1987-2009). Trade unions do not have to be affiliated with the ICTU to be a legitimate trade union. However, in the public sector, the employer (Government) does not bargain with non ICTU unions. A trade union must comply with the terms of Trade Union Acts and Industrial Relations Acts and must satisfy a list of criteria to be granted a negotiating licence.

Ibec (formerly known as The Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation/IBEC) is the largest representative body for employers in Ireland. It was a tripartite body involved in social partnership (1987–2009) but has not negotiated at national level since national wage agreements stopped (it does not represent the employer side in public sector-wide talks, but can represent individual public sector employers, such as universities, in dispute resolution).

More information on representativeness of the main social partner organisations can be found in Eurofound’s sectoral representativeness studies.

Trade unions

About trade union representation

Under article 40.6.1(iii) of the Constitution of Ireland, the right toform a union is enshrined. There is no automatic right to join a trade union – such may confer obligation on the part of a trade union to accept membership, which itself could be unconstitutional. Trade union members are protected against discrimination under various laws, such as the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, which makes dismissal for reasons of trade union membership or activity automatically unfair. Some public servants are currently excluded from the ability to form trade unions, and instead form representative associations which entail restrictions around striking. These include members of An Garda Siochána (police force) and the Defence Forces.

Trade union membership and trade union density










Trade union density in terms of active employees










Labour Force Survey Time Series

Trade union membership in 1000








Labour Force Survey Time Series

Main trade union confederations and federations

There is just one trade union confederation in Ireland, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Main trade union confederations and federations

Long name



Involved in collective bargaining

Irish Congress of Trade Unions


44 affiliated unions (2018)

These unions have a combined 527,048 members


Union density is a continuing concern for trade unions, at least in terms of leverage power in the workplace. Trade union density is much higher in the public sector than it is in the private sector; however, there has been a decline in density figures within the public sector in the 2011–2014 period, from 69% to 63% (IRN 35, October 1, 2014, p.3)

In 2011, a report of the Commission on the Trade Union Movement was published. This report recommended that affiliate unions of ICTU, working in common sectors should cooperate more closely and explore possible amalgamations and mergers, in order to increase their capacity to deliver for members and also their wider impact. In 2013, at the ICTU biennial conference, union realignment was formally adopted with exploratory talks between some unions taking place in 2014. A major merger between three public service trade unions Impact, the Public Service Executive Union (PSEU) and the Civil Public & Services Union (CPSU), took effect from January 1st, 2018. This lead to the formation of a new trade union with 80,000 members, known as Fórsa. There may be further reductions and amalgamations of ICTU affiliated unions in future, delineated according to sectors of work (e.g. services; public administration; manufacturing, etc.).

Employers’ organisations

About employers’ representation

Employers’ organisations - membership and density






Employers’ organisation density in terms of active employees




No national data available, 2008 data from Visser (2014) indicates 60% as employers’ organisation density, as a proportion of employees in employment

Employers’ organisation density in private sector establishments*




European Company Survey 2013

*Percentage of employees working in an establishment which is a member of any employer organisation that is involved in collective bargaining.

Main employers’ organisations

The main employer organisation is Ibec, which lists some 7,500 companies as members, and has 60 sub-branches specialising in specific sectors. Part of Ibec is the Small Firms Association, which specialises in representing firms employing 50 people or less.

The Construction Industry Federation (CIF) specialises in representing businesses in and associated with the construction industry. It has around 3,000 members.

Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (ISME) is a representative body for companies with less than 250 employees. It is a lobby group, and does not engage in collective bargaining.

The American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) represents over 500 US multinational companies in Ireland, acting as a lobby group.

Main employers’ organisations and confederations (2017)

Long name



Involved in collective bargaining?

Irish Business and Employers’ Confederation


7,500 firms


Small Firms Association


8,000 firms


Irish Small & Medium Enterprises Association


8,750 firms


American Chamber of Commerce


570 firms


Construction Industry Federation


3,000 firms


Source: organisations’ websites, 2017.

Tripartite and bipartite bodies and concertation

Tripartitism is not part of collective bargaining. This has been the case since the end of 2009. However, with continued momentum in the Irish economy since 2013 (though there is less than consensus on how stable the economic environment is in 2015), there is pressure to formulate some form of national system to funnel the increasing wage pressure, as well as other employment-related factors. Yet, while there is little indication on what form of consensus arrangement there could be in the near future, it is not unlikely that a more coherent bipartite social dialogue system (as opposed to a tripartite social partnership model) may emerge, if only to deal with employment-related matters outside of pay rises.

A bipartite body, recently approved by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, is the Low Pay Commission. This Commission is tasked with looking at the major issues around low-paid work and if the national minimum wage merits an increase. It will comprise of an independent chair; three people representing the interests of low paid workers; three people representing the interests of employers (where the NMW is relevant); and two people from an economics, labour market economics, statistics or employment law background.

The social partners sit on the National Economic and Social Council (NESC); however, the NESC concentrates on environmental and housing issues.

In 2016, a new Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) which includes representatives of employers and trade unions with government ministers was established. The aim of the LEEF is to provide a space to discuss areas of shared concern affecting the economy, employment and the labour market on a thematic basis, such as competitiveness, sustainable job creation, labour market standards and equality and gender issues in the workplace.

Main tripartite and bipartite bodies




Issues covered

Low Pay Commission







Housing, environment




Economy, employment, labour market

Workplace-level employee representation

Regulation, composition and competencies of the bodies




Competencies of the body

Involved in company level collective bargaining?

Thresholds/rules when they need to be/can be set up

Works council

Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees Act, 1996 (for European Works Councils)

Employees of relevant undertaking


For 1996 Act to apply, employer must have at least 150 employees in Member State.

For the 2006 Act to apply there must be > 50 employees in the undertaking. 10% of employees must ‘trigger’ the Act.

Trade union

Yes, under the Trade Union Acts and Industrial Relations Acts

Trade union membership open to relevant workers (application decided by the trade union)



Collective bargaining

Collective bargaining

The central concern of employment relations is the collective governance of work and employment. This section looks into collective bargaining in Ireland.

Bargaining system

Collective bargaining in the private sector currently occurs at enterprise/local level. National level bargaining in the private sector was abandoned in 2009 after the breakdown of social partnership, yet the social partners annually agree to a protocol (private sector protocol) for how collective bargaining should be exercised. In the public sector, three major cost reduction agreements – the Croke Park Agreement 2010, the Haddington Road Agreement 2013 and the Lansdowne Road Agreement 2015 – followed negotiations between the public services committee of ICTU and Government representatives.

Collective agreements in the private sector accord with the ‘voluntarist’ approach of industrial relations in Ireland, in that they are not strictly legally binding or enforceable. However, disregard for collective agreements is consistently and strongly advised against by the Labour Court. Non-adherence to agreement terms could give rise to industrial action or disciplinary measures.

The public sector agreements, similarly, are not legally enforceable. However workers have accepted them as preferable to the more severe terms – which are legally enforceable – that apply to those groups of workers who choose to remain outside those agreements. The less favourable terms are enforced through the financial emergency measures in the public interest (FEMPI) laws 2009–2015.

Wage bargaining coverage

Wage bargaining coverage in the private sector, though not calculated to a certain degree, would be at a percentage level higher than trade union density, given collective bargaining can be conducted without union involvement. However, gathering data on non-union company-level bargaining is difficult and a recent, national-level survey of such scope is not in place.

Wage bargaining in the public sector covers the entire sector.

Collective wage bargaining coverage of employees at different levels




All levels


2013 – ECS

All, excluding national level


2013 – ECS

Sources: Eurofound, European Company Survey 2013 (ECS), private sector companies with establishments >10 employees (NACE B-S) – multiple answers possible.

Bargaining levels

Collective bargaining in the private sector is at present mainly at local level. However, the early stages of reformed sectoral bargaining are well under way, following the Ministerial orders to re-establish joint labour committees in early 2014. A new Sectoral Employment Order (SEO) covering rates of pay, sick pay, and pensions across the construction sector was signed into legislation on 19 October 2017, following acceptance by the Minister of State at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation of a recommendation from the Labour Court. The SEO places a legally binding floor on rates and obligations in the construction sector throughout the country. A further SEO application for about 10,000 mechanical craft workers was heard by the Labour Court in October 2017. In other sectors, such as hotels, there is stronger resistance to SEOs.

In the public sector, since 2010 successive major agreements have provided the national framework for industrial relations for the whole of the public sector: the Croke Park Agreement 2010, the Haddington Road Agreement 2013 and the Landsdowne Road Agreements 2015 and 2017 (these are incorporated into one continuing public sector agreement).

Levels of collective bargaining 2018


National level (Intersectoral)

Sectoral level

Company level



Working time


Working time


Working time

Principal or dominant level

x (public sector)



X (private sector)


Important but not dominant levels


x (public sector)

x (public sector)


Existing level





In the private sector, there is only local/enterprise level bargaining in play, although, as noted above, there are moves towards sectoral bargaining in sectors like construction.

In the public sector, bargaining for the public sector agreements was conducted at a national level (the relevant Government department and the public services committee of the ICTU).

Timing of the bargaining rounds

As there are no national wage agreements in force, there are no bargaining rounds in the private sector. Company level agreements cover periods of between one and three years.

In the public sector, each national bilateral agreement lasts approximately three years. The Public Service Stability Agreement is in place from 2018-2020.


The largest union, SIPTU, operates an average 2% pay increase over 12 months strategy in local bargaining in its manufacturing division. This approach is not rigid and depends on other localised factors. Other unions, such as the retail union Mandate, seek the same measures across different employments, namely banded hours arrangements (this is where part-time workers can gain access to a greater level of minimum working hours with service).

Ibec and other employer representative bodies continue to provide advice to members in respect of local bargaining. With the collapse of social partnership national agreements, for example, Ibec advised its members that they should not be obliged to pay the terms of the last national wage deal (a phased 6% pay increase over 2008/2009) due to prevailing financial circumstances – Ibec withdrew from social partnership in 2009.

Extension mechanisms

The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 reformed the existing Joint Labour Committee wage-setting mechanisms. The Act provides for the Labour Court to adopt an Employment Regulation Order (ERO) drawn up by a JLC. These Orders set down minimum legally binding terms and conditions for the sector and are extended beyond the bargaining parties to all employees/employers in the sector. The ERO is then given statutory effect by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. The Act's provisions include:

1. JLCs have the power to set a basic adult wage rate and two additional higher rates.

2. Companies may seek exemption from paying ERO rates due to financial difficulty.

3. JLCs no longer set Sunday premium rates. A new statutory Code of Practice on Sunday working is to be prepared by the Workplace Relations Commission.

4. When setting wage rates JLCs will have to take into account factors such as competitiveness and rates of employment and unemployment.

New Employment Regulation Orders in the Security and Contract Cleaning sectors have been established since the 2015 legislation was introduced. The IR (Amendment) Act 2015 also provides for Registered Employment Agreements (REAs) on pay and conditions of employment in individual enterprises. The effect of registration with the Labour Court is to make the provisions of an REA binding.

Derogation mechanisms

Under the reformed sectoral wage-setting system, a detailed process is established by which individual employers can seek temporary derogation from the sector-level minimum pay and conditions set by both REAs and EROs, on grounds of financial difficulty.

The derogation provisions are identical for both EROs (which cover lower-paid sectors) and REAs (which cover more skilled workers and tend to have higher pay rates). An exemption is to be for a maximum of 24 months and a minimum of three months, with employers barred from seeking exemptions if they have already been granted an exemption in the case of the same workers in the previous five years.

An exemption can be sought, not only if the employer has entered an agreement with the majority of the workers or their representatives, but also without agreement if the Labour Court is satisfied that the employer cannot maintain the terms of the ERO/REA and compliance would result in considerable lay-offs and adverse effects on the survival of the employer’s business.

Trade unions have argued consistently that such individual exemptions would undermine EROs/REAs, by creating an uneven playing field and allowing employers with exemptions to undercut their competitors, who would still be bound by the ERO/REA norms.

To guard against this, the Bill requires the Labour Court to consider whether the exemption would have an adverse effect on employment levels and distort competition in the sector to the detriment of other employers. The Court also has to have regard for the implications of an exemption for the long-term sustainability of the employer’s business.

In addition, the exemption cannot allow an hourly wage which is less than the National Minimum Wage and it must not reduce the pension contributions paid by the employer.

There are currently only two EROs in existence so the derogation mechanisms would not be widely used.

Expiry of collective agreements

In practice, generally, terms of a collective agreement continue to apply upon their expiry, in the period between expiry and the start of a new agreement. Regarding wage bargaining in between pay deals, the parties may agree a pay freeze or a pay pause.

Peace clauses

During the social partnership era, a number of peace clauses were incorporated within national wage agreements, and many industrial relations observers associated them with relatively high levels of industrial peace. In the public sector, the Public Service Stability Agreements contain industrial peace clauses, including the Public Service Stability Agreement (2018-2020), which stipulates that the maintenance of industrial peace is an essential requirement of the Agreement. Accordingly, all forms of industrial action are precluded in respect of any matters covered by the Agreement, where the employer, trade union or staff association are acting in accordance with the provisions of the Agreement. There is an Oversight Body, which will oversee compliance with industrial peace requirements across sectors, in conjunction with sectoral oversight bodies. The Oversight Body will be responsible for proactively addressing matters of implementation and interpretation during the term of the Agreement, including:

  • addressing any anomalies that may arise under this Agreement;
  • addressing any major disputes that arise;
  • making the final determination on whether a dispute shall be determined in accordance with the procedures laid out in the Agreement;
  • determining any matter associated with the correct operation of dispute resolution procedures including the question of timelines, cooperation with disputed change, etc;
  • determining the correct operation of those procedures in any case where that matter is disputed; and
  • adjudicating in the event of a dispute regarding compliance with the outsourcing provisions of this Agreement.

At local level, some company level collective agreements contain explicit peace clauses. However, they are not very frequent at this decentralised level.

Other aspects of working life addressed in collective agreements

In the recent past, there have been a number of collective agreements focusing on reform of company pension schemes. Many schemes have switched from defined benefit to defined contribution.

In the retail industry, which is marked by part-time working hours, successful company-union negotiations have resulted in banded hours arrangements. This requires employees to be guaranteed more weekly working hours, depending on service. It reduces the potential for inconsistency in working hours. Examples include companies such as Tesco, Penneys, and Marks & Spencer. These deals have been largely negotiated by the Mandate trade union, as well as SIPTU.

Industrial actions and disputes

Industrial actions and disputes

Legal aspects

Industrial action is any action taken by a trade union, workers, or by an employer in the course of a dispute. The term is sometimes used to mean ‘strike’, but in fact it encompasses a significant number of other forms of action, including a ‘go-slow’, overtime ban, ‘work to rule’ , and so forth.

In section 8 of the Industrial Relations Act 1990, a ‘strike’ is defined as: ‘a cessation of work by any number or body of workers acting in combination, or a concerted refusal or a refusal under a common understanding of any number of workers to continue to work for their employer done as a means of compelling their employer, or to aid other workers in compelling their employer, to accept or not to accept terms or conditions of or affecting employment.’

Industrial action is defined as ‘any action which affects, or is likely to affect, the terms or conditions, whether express or implied, of a contract and which is taken by any number or body of workers acting in combination or under a common understanding as a means of compelling their employer, or to aid other workers in compelling their employer, to accept or not to accept terms or conditions of or affecting employment.’

There is no explicit ‘right to strike’ in Ireland; rather, workers are immune from penalisation if the industrial action they engage in is lawful, in accordance with the Industrial Relations Acts.

For the purpose of national statistics measurement, a strike must meet the following criteria for it to be included in CSO industrial dispute statistics: (1) involve a stoppage of work lasting for at least one day; (2) the total time lost is 10 or more person-days.

In the past five years or so, official strike action has been most frequent in the public transport sector, with high profile disputes at tram company LUAS and Bus Eireann. Overall, however, strike action in Ireland remains at historically low levels in relative terms.

Unofficial action is where some other form of industrial action has happened but which either did not have formal sanction by a union or is not approved by the union (also known as ‘wildcat’ strikes, which are highly unusual in Ireland). For example, the largest strike of 2014, at the Greyhound facility in Dublin, began initially as an unofficial strike, as the required seven days’ notice to the employer of action was not served by the time the action commenced. The strike then became official and lasted for another three months. High Court injunctions were used to prevent the striking workers from blocking the entrance to the facility. In the past couple of years, unofficial action has been prominent in the public transport sector, at Dublin Bus and Iarnrod Eireann.

Occurrences of workplace ‘sit-ins’ have increased in quantity, and become more visible, in the past five years. These usually occur where working has already stopped (for instance, when the business has ceased trading) but where workers involved have not received redundancy compensation or due wages. High profile examples in Ireland include: Vita Cortex, Lagan Brick, Paris Bakery.

Industrial action developments 2011–2017









Working days lost per 1000 employees








Number of strikes








Source: CSO Statistical Product – Industrial Disputes tables IDA01 – IDA03

Dispute resolution mechanisms

Collective dispute resolution mechanisms

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was established on 1 October 2015 under the Workplace Relations Act 2015. It has taken over the functions of the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission and the Director of the Equality Tribunal. It has also taken over some of the functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT). However, the appeal functions of the EAT have been transferred to the Labour Court, which is now the single appeal body for all workplace relations appeals.

Conciliation Service

The Conciliation Service helps employers and their employees to resolve disputes when they have failed to reach agreement during their own previous negotiations. An Industrial Relations Officer of the Commission acts as chairperson during meetings to negotiate an agreement. The majority of the cases referred to conciliation are settled. If no agreement is reached then, if the parties wish, the dispute may be referred to the Labour Court.

The Labour Court

The Labour Court investigates collective trade disputes under the Industrial Relations Acts, 1946 to 2015. It can also investigate, at the request of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, trade disputes affecting the public interest, or conduct an enquiry into a trade dispute of special importance and report on its findings.

Individual dispute resolution mechanisms

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was established on 1 October 2015 under the Workplace Relations Act 2015. It has taken over the functions of the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission and the Director of the Equality Tribunal. It has also taken over some of the functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT). However, the appeal functions of the EAT have been transferred to the Labour Court, which is now the single appeal body for all workplace relations appeals.

Mediation Service

Mediation is a voluntary process which needs to have both sides agreeing to participate and to work towards resolving the problem. It ensures that all the sides are heard and the participants are involved in finding an agreed solution.

Adjudication Service

The Adjudication Service (formerly the Rights Commissioner Service) investigates disputes, grievances and claims that individuals or small groups of workers make under the employment legislation listed in Schedule 5 of the Workplace Relations Act. Adjudicators are independent in the performance of their duties and have a wide range of functions under this employment legislation.

Under the Workplace Relations Act 2015, the Labour Court is the single appeal body for all workplace relations appeals, including those previously heard by the Employment Appeals Tribunal. A party may appeal the decision of the adjudicator to the Labour Court.

Use of alternative dispute resolution methods

From the 1990s, a growing number of firms in Ireland began to adopt ‘alternative dispute resolution practices’ for resolving both individual and collective forms of workplace conflict. However, the last survey data on the extent of ADR is from 2008. The overall incidence and workforce penetration of individual and group ADR practices by 2008 are outlined in Tables 1 and 2. Individual forms of ADR, other than the use of external experts acting in a mediation, facilitation or other related capacity, remained uncommon. The incidence and penetration of various forms of group ADR were, however, significantly higher. Large minorities of firms reported having adopted, or resorting to, one or more forms of group ADR, including assisted negotiations, brainstorming or related problem-solving techniques and interest-based bargaining. These forms of ADR were found to have covered significant sections of the workforce.

The incidence of ADR practices for resolving individual and group conflict

Table 1: ADR practices for handling individual grievances in firms in Ireland (2008)


% of firms

% of employees

Conventional DR practices


Formal written grievance & disciplinary procedures involving progressively higher levels of management in resolving disputes



ADR practices


Use of external experts (other than Rights Commissioners, LRC or Labour Court)



Use of review panels comprising

employees’ peers



Use of review panels comprising




Use of an employee ‘hotline’ or

email-based ‘speak-up’ service



Use of company ombudsperson



Table 2: ADR practices for handling group disputes in firms in Ireland (2008)


% of firms

% of employees

Conventional DR practices


Formal written grievance & disciplinary procedures involving progressively higher levels of management in resolving disputes



Resort at final stage in procedure, where deadlock remains, to LRC and Labour Court



ADR practices


Use of external experts to assist in

reaching settlement or to prevent

deadlock in discussion or negotiation with the company



Use of ‘brainstorming’, problem-solving and related techniques to solve problems or resolve disputes



Use of formal interest-based (‘win-win’) bargaining techniques to resolve disputes



Source: Based on a representative sample of 505 firms in the private &commercial state-owned sectors in Ireland, employing 20 or more employees, in 2008. For details of the survey, see Hann et al. (2009).

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations

Individual employment relations are the relationship between the individual worker and their employer. This relationship is shaped by legal regulation and by the outcomes of social partner negotiations over the terms and conditions governing the employment relationship. This section looks into the start and termination of the employment relationship and entitlements and obligations in Ireland.

Start and termination of the employment relationship

Requirements regarding an employment contract

The Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994–2012 requires employers to provide written terms and conditions for an employee within two months of the employment relationship beginning. There is no statutory obligation to provide a written employment contract.

The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 provides that core employment terms must be provided to employees within five days of starting work for the employer, including, name and address of employer, rate of pay and hours of work. If an employer fails to specify to an employee, in writing, these core terms of employment within one month of the date of commencement of employment an employer could be liable on summary conviction (i.e. in the District Court) to fine not exceeding €5,000 or up to 12 months imprisonment.

Dismissal and termination procedures

The Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act 1973 provides a minimum period of notice to employees of employment termination depending on length of service.

The Redundancy Payment Acts 1967-2012 provides for statutory obligations in respect of redundancy scenarios, such as a minimum severance payment of two weeks’ pay per year of service, plus one week’s wages. Statutory redundancy applies to employees with two years’ service with the employer and who are over the age of 16.

The Protection of Employment Acts 1977-2007 obliges employers to enter a 30-day period of consultation in respect of redundancies.

The Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Act 2006 requires employers to consult with employees on substantial workplace changes (in companies of 50 employees or more).

The Protection of Employment (Exceptional Collective Redundancies and Related Matters) Act 2007 provides for a Redundancy Panel (from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation) to assess whether a collective redundancy in question is a genuine redundancy situation or an attempt to replace current workers and their terms & conditions with others on less favourable terms.

The Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 is the core protective legislation for employees against unfair dismissals.

See also further information on unemployment benefit provisions in Ireland.

Entitlements and obligations

Parental, maternity and paternity leave

The Family Leave Bill – not yet published – is expected to consolidate all maternity and parental leave rights into one law.

Statutory leave arrangements

Maternity leave

Maximum duration

Total of 40 weeks. Two weeks of leave have to be taken before the end of the week of the baby’s expected birth and four of the weeks have to be taken after the birth.


26 weeks paid, plus a further 16 weeks unpaid (if certain social insurance contribution conditions are met).

Who pays?

Maternity Benefit paid by the State if the worker has sufficient social insurance contributions.

Employers are not obliged to pay employees who are on maternity leave but some may pay employees.

Legal basis

Maternity Protection Acts 1994–2004

Parental leave

Maximum duration

18 weeks unpaid. Both parents have equal and separate entitlement to 18 weeks unpaid parental leave per child (for a child up to the age of 8).



Who pays?


Legal basis

Parental Leave Acts 1998–2006

Paternity leave

Maximum duration

2 weeks


A worker may qualify for Paternity Benefit from the Department of Social Protection if they have sufficient PRSI contributions.

Who pays?

State pays paternity benefit if the worker has sufficient social insurance contributions.

Employers are not obliged to pay employees who are on paternity leave but some may pay employees.

Legal basis

Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016

Sick leave

There is no legal requirement on private sector employers to pay their employees sick pay. Company sick pay schemes are more common in larger employments.

Employees in the public sector have access to the State’s sick pay scheme, outlined in the Public Service Management (Sick Leave) Regulations 2014. This provides for sick leave with full pay for a period of three months, followed by leave on half pay for another three months over a four-year rolling period. Within the regulations there is provision for a critical illness protocol to permit those suffering from serious illness/injury (according to criteria) to receive six months’ full pay and six months’ half pay.

In the 2014 budget, the State Illness Benefit payment waiting period was changed from three days to six days. Those on sick leave have to be off work for six days before they can be eligible for the payment. Private sector sick pay schemes have generally had the same waiting period.

Retirement age

There is no general automatic retirement age in Ireland. The State pension age is now paid at age 66, and this will rise to 67 in 2021 and to 68 in 2028 for both women and men. Some occupations have set retirement ages, such the police force/An Garda Siochána (age 60) and firefighters. The statutory minimum retirement age in the public sector (for those who have joined since 2004) is 65 (except An Garda and firefighters). Judges must retire at 70 or 72, depending on how long they have served.

The Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018 was enacted in December 2018. The Act provides for an increase in the compulsory retirement age of most public servants recruited prior to 1 April 2004, from age 65 to age 70. Under the Act, any relevant public servant who had not already reached his/her compulsory retirement age before 26 December 2018 has a new compulsory retirement age of 70.

Most public servants recruited before 1 April 2004 previously had a compulsory retirement age of 65. Public servants who were recruited between 1 April 2004 and 31 December 2012 (‘new entrants’) have no compulsory retirement age and are not affected by this legislation. Public servants who were recruited since 1 January 2013 are members of the Single Pension Scheme and already had a compulsory retirement age of 70. With the enactment of the Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018, no public servant, other than a member of the uniformed fast accrual group has a compulsory retirement age of less than 70.

The following groups are not covered.

  • ‘Uniformed pension fast accrual’ group. There are certain groups of employees in the public service who, for operational reasons are required to retire early. This is the group comprising members of An Garda Siochána, members of the Permanent Defence Force, Firefighters and Prison Officers.
  • Groups who, by convention, have no compulsory retirement age: the President of Ireland, a Member of either House of the Oireachtas or a member of the European Parliament, the holder of a qualifying office as defined in the Public Service Superannuation (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 (e.g. members of the Government, Ministers of State, Ceann Comhairle, Attorney General).
  • Members of the Judiciary and others whose compulsory retirement age is the responsibility of the Minster for Justice and Equality under Court and Court Officers legislation: Judges, Master of the High Court, County Registrars etc.
  • Public servants who have retired and been re-hired on contract. Their fixed term contract terms continue to apply.



Pay: For workers, the reward for work and main source of income; for employers, a cost of production and focus of bargaining and legislation. This section looks into minimum wage setting in Ireland and guides the reader to further material on collective wage bargaining.

Average pay trends over past five years (2012–2017)

According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) Earnings and Labour Cost Quarterly survey, in the five years from Q3 2012 to Q3 2017 average weekly earnings rose by 3.0%, from €693.74 in Q3 2012 to €714.41. There were large differences in the changes to average weekly earnings across individual sectors over this time period, ranging between -6.0% in the Education sector to +14.0% in the Professional, scientific and technical sector.

Ireland Average weekly earnings by economic sector and other characteristics and quarter

NACE Principal Activity








Quarterly change

Annual change






































Wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles













Transportation and storage













Accommodation and food services













Information and communication













Financial, insurance and real estate













Professional, scientific and technical activities













Administrative and support services













Public administration and defence


























Human health and social work













Arts, entertainment, recreation and other service activities

























Public/Private Sector


Private sector












Public sector












Source: CSO

Minimum wages

Ireland’s statutory minimum wage was established under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000.

These are the National Minimum Wage Rates that apply in Ireland from 1 January 2019:

  • experienced adult worker: €9.80 per hour
  • aged over 18 and less than 2 years since first job: €8.82 per hour
  • aged over 18 and less than 1 year since began first job: €7.84 per hour
  • aged under 18: €6.86 per hour.

An experienced adult worker – for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage Act – is an employee over the age of 18 who has an employment of any kind in any 2 years.

Development of minimum wage rates 2015–2019







Adult rate






Youth rate





Under the 2015 National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Act, 2015, the Low Pay Commission shall make such recommendations to the Minister that are designed to set a minimum wage that is fair and sustainable, and when appropriate, is adjusted incrementally, and that, over time, is progressively increased to assist as many low-paid workers as is reasonably practicable without creating significant adverse consequences for employment or competitiveness.

Wage-setting mechanisms, such JLC/EROs and REAs, can also set legally binding minimum pay rates.

For more information regarding the level and development of minimum wages, please see:

Collectively agreed pay outcomes

For more detailed information on the most recent outcomes in terms of collectively agreed pay, please see:

Working time

Working time

Working time: ‘Any period during which the worker is working, at the employer’s disposal and carrying out his activities or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice’ (Directive 2003/88/EC). This section briefly summarises regulation and issues regarding working time, overtime, part-time work as well as working time flexibility in Ireland.

Working time regulation

The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 sets out the average maximum working week cannot exceed 48 hours. The average is calculated over a reference period of, usually, four months. There are specific exemptions for trainee doctors and road transport workers from the working time provisions, including rest breaks, under select statutory instruments (S.I. 494/2004 & S.I. 20/1998 respectively).

In the public sector, the minimum working week is 37 hours, as per the Haddington Road Agreement.

For more detailed information on working time (including annual leave, statutory and collectively agreed working time), please consult:

Overtime regulation

There are statutory regulations for overtime and its inclusion in the maximum working week. Overtime provisions vary from company to company. The standard working week was defined as 39 hours in 1987 Programme for National Recovery agreement, but there is no rule/law that says overtime is defined as working in excess of 39 hours in one week. Neither is there a statutory obligation on the part of an employer to pay an overtime rate. Overtime rates, if applicable, are either detailed in employment contracts or in collective agreements. A common overtime rate, at least for the first few hours of overtime working, is 1.5 times the hourly basic rate.

Part-time work

Part-time working is regulated by the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001. This provides protection for part-time workers against unfavourable treatment compared to full-time workers. Part-time work is defined in law as: ‘an employee whose normal hours of work are less than the normal hours of work of an employee who is a comparable employee in relation to him or her. The proportion of part-time working has slightly decreased between 2012 and 2018, from 22.4% to 18.1%.

Persons employed part time in Ireland and EU28 (% of total employment)









Total (EU28)








Total (Ireland)








Women (EU28)








Women (Ireland)








Men (EU28)








Men (Ireland)








Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsi_pt_a] – Persons employed part-time (20 to 64 years of age) – total and by sex.

Involuntary part-time

Involuntary part-time workers can be defined as those working part-time because they could not find a full-time job.

Persons employed in involuntary part-time in Ireland and EU28 (% of total part-time employment)









Total (EU28)








Total (Ireland)








Women (EU28)








Women (Ireland)








Men (EU28)








Men (Ireland)








Source: Eurostat Labour Force Survey [lfsa_eppgai]- involuntary part-time employment as a percentage of the total part-time employment, by sex and age (20 to 64 years of age)

Night work

The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 sets out that night work is work carried out between midnight and 7am the following day. A ‘night worker’ is an employee who normally works at least 3 hours of his or her daily working time during night time and the number of hours worked by whom during night time, in each year, equals or exceeds 50% of the total number of hours worked by him or her during that year.

Shift work

The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 sets out that shift work is any method of organising work in shifts whereby workers succeed each other at the same work station according to a certain pattern, including a rotating pattern, and which may be continuous or discontinuous, entailing the need for workers to work at different times over a given period of days or weeks. A shift worker is any worker whose work schedule is part of shift work.

Weekend work

The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 sets out special arrangements for Sunday working. If an employee works on Sunday, they are entitled to extra pay to be agreed between the worker and their employer. Under the Organisation of Working Time Act, if there is no agreement about pay, the employer must give one or more of the following for Sunday working:

  • A reasonable allowance
  • A reasonable pay increase
  • Reasonable paid time off work

Rest and breaks

The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 sets out the following:


Employees are entitled to a break of 15 minutes after a 4 and a half hour work period. If they work more than 6 hours they are entitled to a break of 30 minutes, which can include the first 15-minute break. There is no entitlement to be paid during these breaks and they are not considered part of working time.

Shop employees who work more than 6 hours and whose hours of work include 11.30am–2.30pm are entitled to a one-hour consecutive break which must occur during those hours.

Rest Period

The definition of a rest period is any time that is not working time. The rest periods set out in the Act are as follows:

(a) 11 consecutive hours rest in any period of 24 hours. In addition an employee should get 24 consecutive hours rest in any period of 7 days and this should normally follow on from one of the 11-hour rest periods already mentioned, or

(b) As an alternative the employer can give two 24-hour rest periods in the week that follows one in which the employee did not get the entitlement described in (a) above.

Unless the contract provides otherwise, the 24-hour rest period referred to above should include a Sunday.

Working time flexibility

In the private sector, working time flexibility arrangements are agreed and conducted at company level.

In the public sector, there is a provision on work sharing and flexible working arrangements as part of the Haddington Road Agreement (HRA) (HRA section 3.15-3.18: ‘work sharing’ & ‘flexitime’)

Health and well-being

Health and well-being

Maintaining health and well-being should be a high priority for workers and employers alike. Health is an asset closely associated with a person’s quality of life and longevity, as well as their ability to work. A healthy economy depends on a healthy workforce: organisations can experience loss of productivity through the ill-health of their workers. This section looks into psychosocial risks and health and safety in Ireland.

Health and safety at work

The recession period in Ireland between 2008 and 2012 was associated with a significantly lower probability of accidents at work, occupational injury and illness than from 2013 when the economy was in recovery. The number of days lost to accidents at work by far exceeds the number of days lost through industrial action which tend to receive more prominence in the media and public debate. Over the period, the highest injury rates are found in five economic sectors: agriculture/forestry/fishing, industry, construction, transportation/storage and human health and social work activities. For example, fluctuations in accidents at work in the construction sector can largely be explained by the rapid shrinkage in the construction industry during the financial crisis and subsequent recession during 2008-2012 (employment in the construction industry fell by 37% between 2008 and 2009, and the decline in construction employment continued through to 2012 but not as sharply). However, employment in construction has been growing year on year since 2013, with the economy recovering from its deep slump.

Accidents at work, with four days’ absence or more – working days lost











All accidents










Percentage change on previous year










Per 1,000 employees










Source: Eurostat, [hsw_mi01] and [lfsa_eegaed].

Psychosocial risks

The Employment Equality Acts provides that employers must prevent harassment in the workplace. The Safety, Health & Welfare at Work Act 2005 outlines an extensive array of workplace measures that are designed to maintain the health of employees in the workplace. Section 8 of the SHWW Act sets out measures that employers must observe as part of their duty of care towards employees.

The Health & Safety Authority (HSA) provides guidance for employers on work-related stress and has produced a Code of Practice on the Prevention and Resolution of Bullying at Work.

Skills, learning and employability

Skills, learning and employability

Skills are the passport to employment; the better skilled an individual, the more employable they are. Good skills also tend to secure better-quality jobs and better earnings. This section briefly summarises the Irish system for ensuring skills and employability and looks into the extent of training.

National system for ensuring skills and employability

The National Competitiveness Council was established in 2000, under the Partnership 2000 national agreement, to ensure ongoing national competitiveness in Ireland. This encompasses ‘education and training, entrepreneurship and innovation, Ireland’s economic and technological infrastructure and the taxation and regulatory framework.’ The Council reports to the Department of An Taoiseach (prime minister). It comprises of representatives from employer and trade union sides, as well as one rep from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation.

The Expert Group on Skills Needs was established in 1997 and ‘advises the Irish Government on current and future skills needs of the economy and on other labour market issues that impact on Ireland’s enterprise and employment growth. It has a central role in ensuring that labour market needs for skilled workers are anticipated and met.’ It comprises of civil servants and representatives from the employer and trade union sides.

Forfas was Ireland’s policy advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation, but has since been dissolve, with its functions integrated into the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation.


SOLAS (formerly FAS) is the further education and training authority in Ireland. It is responsible for funding, planning and co-ordinating training and further education programmes.

Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) is responsible for maintaining the ten-level NFQ (National Framework of Qualifications). It also is an awarding body and sets standards for awards in the NFQ. QQI validates education and training programmes and makes extensive awards in the Further Education and Training sector including in the Education and Training Boards.

Work organisation

Work organisation

Work organisation underpins economic and business development and has important consequences for productivity, innovation and working conditions. Eurofound research finds that some types of work organisation are associated with a better quality of work and employment. Therefore, developing or introducing different forms of work organisation are of particular interest because of the expected effects on productivity, efficiency and competitiveness of companies, as well as on workers’ working conditions. Ongoing research by Eurofound, based on EurWORK, the European Working Conditions Survey and the European Company Survey, monitors developments in work organisation.

More information on:

For Ireland, the European Company Survey 2013 shows that between 2010 and 2013 47% % of establishments with 10 or more employees reported changes in the use of technology, 35% introduced changes in ways to coordinate and allocate the work to workers, and 24% saw changes in their working time arrangements.

Equality and non-discrimination at work

Equality and non-discrimination at work

The principle of equal treatment requires that all people, and in the context of the workplace all workers, have the right to receive the same treatment, and will not be discriminated against on the basis of criteria such as age, disability, nationality, race and religion.

The Employment Equality Acts 1998–2011 outlaw discrimination on nine grounds: gender; civil status; family status; age; race; religion; disability; sexual orientation; membership of the traveller community.

The Irish Human Rights & Equality Commission is the State body responsible for equality and non-discrimination at work (formerly the Equality Authority).

Equal pay and gender pay gap

The Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015 outlaw pay discrimination based on gender.

A Morgan McKinley Report on the Gender Pay Gap in Ireland (2016) found that:

  • The average gender pay gap in Ireland in 2016 was 20%.
  • The average gender pay gap is significantly higher for male professionals in Dublin than it is in Cork or other regional locations. The gender pay gap is higher in Dublin due to two main reasons: firstly, the dominant industries in each of the cities and secondly the location of senior management.
  • Financial services are the main professional industry in Ireland with 19% of all professionals employed in this sector. It is also a sector that has the highest gender pay gap of 29% and has a greater proportion of employers and positions in Dublin than any other location nationally. The most represented industry in Cork is technology & telecommunications with a gender ay gap of 7% in this sector.
  • The gender pay gap increases along with the education level attained. The gap increases from the lowest overall earnings gap of 10% for employees holding a BSc degree up to 33% for executive MBA holders. That represents a gender pay gap of €32,500 annually compared to €11,500 (22%) difference between men and women with no degree.
  • There is a narrowing of the gender pay gap for women who make it to the executive level; They are paid almost the same as men at the same level (1% pay gap). That is largely compensated by the fact that there are less women at the executive level than in any other position (only 24%).
  • The gender pay gap widens with years of experience from 12% for 0–5 years’ experience through to 28% for 15+ years’ experience.

Quota regulations

Under the Disability Act 2005, public bodies are required to recruit at least 3% of their workforce from among people who have a disability. For the years 2011–2013, this 3% target for the public sector overall was surpassed, according to the data gathered by the National Disability Authority.

The Electoral (Amendment) (Political Funding) Act 2012 requires 40% of political party candidates to be women. If they do not meet this quote, their funding will be reduced. The target for subsequent general elections is therefore 40% women candidates.



Gunnigle, P. et al. (2017), Human resource management in Ireland (5th edition). Dublin: Institute of Public Administration.

Murphy, A. and Regan, M. (2017), Employment law in Ireland. Dublin and London: Bloomsbury Professional Ltd.

Roche, W. (2016), ‘The development of conflict resolution practices in Irish workplaces’, Administration, 64(3/4): 61-89.

Wallace, J. et al., (2013), Industrial relations in Ireland (4th edition). Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.

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