An Open Letter to Employees Who Think They Have No Employment Rights


open letter employee rights

I was amazed when I read it.

And, yet, I have seen the same opinion voiced before on my Facebook page about employment law in Ireland. Here’s what the guy said: “workers have no rights”.

The opinion is still there, I have not deleted it as everyone is entitled to their opinion.

But it is complete nonsense, quite frankly.

Employees have very extensive rights in Ireland thanks to a number of sources including:

  • EU directives and regulations
  • Irish statutes
  • Common law
  • The Constitution.

EU directives, such as the working time directive, are transposed into Irish law by Statute such as the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, regulations, and statutory instruments. This ensures Irish employees have extensive rights in relation to working time, rest breaks, paid leave, public holiday, and so on.

Irish Statutes regarding employment law

A non exhaustive list of primary legislation regarding employment law in Ireland includes Acts dealing with

  • Terms and conditions of employment
  • Working time
  • Minimum notice
  • Whistleblowing
  • Wages-payment of wages and minimum wage
  • Annual leave
  • Maternity leave
  • Adoptive leave
  • Other statutory leave entitlements
  • Part time employees
  • Fixed term employees
  • Agency workers
  • Health and safety
  • Data protection
  • Discrimination and equality
  • Transfer of undertakings (TUPE)
  • Young persons in the workplace
  • Dismissal
  • Redundancy
  • Industrial relations

All of these acts have teeth-real rights that can be upheld by employees at the risk of costly financial punishment for the employer, for example 2 years’ remuneration for unfair dismissal, up to 5 years’ in the whistleblowing/protected disclosure legislation.

employee rights ireland

Common law

Under common law the employee has extensive rights in respect of health and safety, notice of termination, wrongful dismissal, an entitlement to natural justice and fair procedures, and the right to have trust and confident in the employer.

The Constitution of Ireland

Rights for employees pursuant to Bunreacht na hÉireann include

  • The right to earn a living
  • The right to join a trade union
  • The right to strike
  • The right to his good name
  • The right to fair procedures and natural justice
  • The right to equality before the law, and the avoidance of discrimination


You will see from the above that employees have a multitude of rights. In fact, employers feel that they are the ones in the relationship who have no rights and would laugh at the suggestion that “workers have no rights”. It is up to the employee on occasion, however, to stand up for their rights and this can take a lot of courage.

It is not easy to stand up against the employer.

Before you do that, though, you should check that you have a justiciable right to fight for and that you are on solid ground and you are not fighting an avoidable battle that you may lose and which can lead to a deterioration in the relationship with the employer.

Once you do discover, however, that your employment rights have been breached there should be no difficulty in pursuing the matter with your employer with the assistance of your trade union or appropriate professional advisor.