Ireland, officially known as the Republic of Ireland, is a small island country to the west of England and Wales, from which it is separated by the narrow Irish Sea. Since 1921, the Republic of Ireland has occupied 86% of the island of Ireland, with the remainder (usually referred to as “Northern Ireland”) being part of the United Kingdom. Both Irish and English are official languages, although Irish is spoken in mostly non-formal settings. Tourism has long been a staple of the Irish economy, with over 10 million people visiting the “Emerald Isle” in each of the last few years. Pharmaceuticals, organic chemicals, machinery, and cosmetics are major industries in Ireland, with much of what they produce exported abroad, especially to the European Union (which Ireland has belonged to since 1973) and the United States. Technology, financial services, and insurance companies also contribute significantly to the Irish economy. Ireland stands out as a strategic European base and with economic and political stability and is an excellent destination for international expansion.
Employment contracts in Ireland are generally for an indefinite period, though they can be for a fixed term. Fixed term contracts, which are less common but still widely used, are generally used for piece work or to hire a worker for a specific task. There is no requirement that employment contracts must be in writing, but the employer must provide a written statement to the employee within five days of the start of employment which must include:
All Irish employers are required to have written procedures for employee discipline and handling employee grievances and, a new employee must receive a copy of these procedures when they begin work. Within 28 days, the employee must also be given a copy of the employer’s procedures to be followed before an employee is terminated. Within two months of the employee beginning work, the employer must also provide the employee an additional written statement. Employees working on fixed-term contracts must be notified in writing of the date the contract will terminate, if there is a set expiration date, or stating in writing what specific event will cause the contract to terminate. Often, this is the completion of the task which the worker was hired to do. Fixed-term contracts may be renewed but, except in some unusual circumstances, an employee may not work under a continuous series of fixed-term contracts for more than four years. Employment contracts often establish a probationary period, which is capped at 12 months.
The standard work period in Ireland is 39 hours a week and cannot exceed an average of 48 hours per week. The average number of hours does not include annual leave, sick leave, maternity, adoptive or parental leave. Night workers who work for three hours or more between midnight and 7 a.m. and work at least half of their working hours during the year between midnight and 7 a.m. should not work more than eight hours in a 24-hour period.
It is common for employers to allow employees paid sick leave. Employers are required to inform employees of the sick leave policy within two months of the start of employment. Employees are also entitled to a government illness benefit once they have made a minimum required amount of social insurance contributions, generally referred to as PRSI contributions. Employees must apply for illness benefits within six weeks of becoming ill. To qualify, employees must have at least 104 weeks of PRSI contributions from the start of work and meet other PRSI requirements.
Female employees are entitled to maternity leave of up to 26 weeks, with at least two weeks to be taken before the birth and four weeks after. Employers are not obligated to pay mothers on maternity leave, although some do. Mothers who have made sufficient social insurance contributions are entitled to a government maternity benefit of EUR 245 per week for up to 26 weeks. The mother must begin collecting the benefit a minimum of two weeks and a maximum of 16 weeks before she is expected to give birth. The mother may also take an additional 16 weeks of leave without the maternity benefit after the 26 weeks during which she receives it. Fathers receive two weeks of paternity leave, which must be taken within six months of the baby’s birth. Employers are not obligated to pay the employee during this leave, but the employee may be eligible for a government paternity benefit payment of up to EUR 245 if the employee has made sufficient social insurance contributions. The two weeks of paternity leave must be taken consecutively. Female employees (and single male employees) who adopt a child receive adoptive leave of 24 weeks beginning when the child is placed in the parents’ custody. The partner of a woman adopting the child is entitled to two weeks of paternity leave. As with the birth of a biological child, an employer may pay the employee during these leaves, but is not required to. Government benefits may also be available during the 24 weeks of adoptive leave, and the adoptive parents may take an additional 16 weeks of unpaid adoptive leave. Parents who take maternity leave or other parental typed leaves must be allowed to return to their jobs or to a suitable alternative position, that is the same or better as the employee’s previous position.
Ireland has a minimum wage. Bonuses are common and are at the discretion of the employer.
Employees receive 20 days of leave per year.
There are nine public holidays in Ireland, also referred to as bank holidays:
National healthcare is available to residents. Many people also purchase private health insurance.
Employers must give notice before terminating an employee who has worked for the employer for more than 13 weeks. Either the employer or the employee may terminate an employment contract without notice because of misconduct by the other party. Employees in their probation period may be terminated with one week’s notice. If terminating a probationary employee, the employer should make certain that the termination is in accordance with its usual disciplinary procedures or the set out in the official Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures. An employee who is terminated for a reason other than redundancy may request the reason for dismissal and must be provided with a written statement of the reason within 14 days. If the employee feels the dismissal was unfair, they may bring a claim before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), and a hearing will be held before an adjudication officer. In most cases, the WRC will presume that the dismissal was unfair, and the burden of proof will be on the employer to show that the dismissal was fair. This is usually done by showing that the employee was terminated because they were not capable of performing the job, because they were incompetent, or because the employee’s conduct was poor. Severance pay is required in cases of redundancy, and only for employees over the age of 16 who have worked for the employer for a minimum of two years.
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