When setting up a new business with paid employees, employers must be familiar with a number of basic provisions under Irish employment law.
Employers engage persons on either contracts of service or contracts for services. Only a person engaged under a contract of service will be an employee and therefore protected by the full range of employment legislation; an independent contractor or self-employed person will have a contract for services with the party for whom the work is being done. The distinction between a contract of service, on the one hand, and a contract for services, on the other, is sometimes unclear but the type of contract a person is engaged under can have serious implications for both employer and employee in matters such as employment protection legislation, legal responsibility for injuries caused to members of the public, taxation and social welfare. For further information, please see the “Code of Practice on Employment Status”, which was agreed between the Social Partners, with input from the Office of the Revenue Commissioners, Department of Social Protection and NERA.
Depending on business needs, companies may require to take on part-time employees, fixed-term employees or temporary agency workers. The first two mentioned categories already benefit from specific statutory protections. There is also legislation setting out the rules for employing young persons.
Whilst the full contract of employment does not have to be in writing, certain terms and conditions of employment must be stated in writing within two months of starting employment. These would typically include the method of calculating pay and whether or not there is a sick pay scheme in operation. (For fixed term employees it would also include in what circumstances their employment will come to an end.)
Most experienced adult workers in Ireland are entitled to be paid €8.65 per hour. There are however, some exceptions to the minimum wage, including those employed by close relatives, those aged under 18 and trainees or apprentices.
There are also certain industries in Ireland where a higher minimum wage applies, including the construction industry.
Employers must ensure that employees are given adequate rest. The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, sets down the rules governing maximum working hours, daily and weekly rest breaks, annual leave and public holiday entitlements.
Employers are obliged to allow employees (who meet relevant qualifying criteria, if any) to avail of certain statutory protective leaves, such as maternity leave, health and safety leave, parental leave, adoptive leave, and carer’s leave. There is specific legislation setting down the rules for each entitlement.
Many pieces of legislation establish clear statutory timeframes during which employers must maintain certain records relating to employees and former employees.
Employment contracts can be terminated in a variety of ways, such as dismissal, redundancy, or insolvency. Employers should be familiar with the rules relating to termination of employment in any of these contexts.
The establishment of certain policies and procedures, such as discipline and grievance, dignity at work (including bullying and harassment) policies, is considered necessary. While the establishment of others, such as data protection and absence policies, is considered best practice. This will vary in importance for employers depending on the type of business involved.
Please note that there are a range of other matters which must also be considered when starting a new business including tax and social welfare, pensions, equality, data protection and health and safety issues. For further information on the bodies that may be able to help you with those queries please go to our links section.