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.

Employment Law Procedures and Policies

Employment Rights Infringed in Ireland? Where Should You Go?


Yes, it’s confusing.

Where to go if your employment rights have been infringed?

Well, there is good news due to the new Workplace Relations Bill, 2014.


And there were big changes introduced on 1st October 2015.

Read about the Workplace Relations Commission and the procedure for pursuing employment and equality claims now.

Prior to this there was a wide number of forums available for employees to seek to have their employment rights upheld and vindicated, as set out below.

But now you must go to the new body, the WRC.


It is important to note that the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Rights Commissioner service are not courts of law and cannot award your costs of representation.

Both parties will pay their own costs.

These include

• The Rights Commissioner service

• The Employment Appeals Tribunal

• The Labour Court

• The Labour Relations Commission

• The Equality Tribunal

• The Courts

• The Health and Safety Authority

• The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA)

Here is a brief look at these bodies and their remit. There is also a table below which gives a summary of where to go, the time limit, remedies available, and where appeals can be taken.

Elsewhere on this site you will see the occasions when you have to go to one of these bodies or the other as breaches of various pieces of employment law legislation occurs.

Rights Commissioner

The Rights Commissioner service can deal with transfer of undertakings, unfair dismissals (if there is no objection by either party), health and safety, protection of employment, protection of young persons in employment, protection of fixed term workers, adoptive leave issues, carer’s leave, industrial relations, minimum wages, organisation of working time, terms of employment, payment of wages, parental leave, maternity protection, persons reporting child abuse.

Take a look at the Labour Relations Commission website at for more information and to download the relevant forms.


Employment Appeals Tribunal

The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) is the traditional venue for unfair dismissal cases, even though a Rights Commissioner can hear such a case provided there is no objection by either party. The EAT can determine cases itself  in certain circumstances as well as deal with appeals from decisions of the Rights Commissioner.

It can hear cases concerning minimum notice, terms of employment, payment of wages, organization of working time, transfer of undertakings, parental leave, redundancy payments, carers leave, maternity protection, adoptive leave, and more.

Labour Court

The Labour Court is essentially an industrial relations tribunal, notwithstanding it’s name. It’s principal task is to attempt to resolve industrial relations disputes.

Whilst it can hear cases at first instance in certain matters such as organisation of working time, protection of employment, industrial relations, protection of part time employment, protection of fixed term employment, employment equality and minimum wages it sees itself as a forum of last resort and cases should only be referred to it when all other attempts at dispute resolution have failed.

Labour Relations Commission

The Labour Relations Commission is concerned with industrial disputes and providing the Rights Commissioner Service.

The Equality Tribunal

The Office of the Director of Equality Investigation (the Equality Tribunal) is the venue for redress under the Employment Equality Acts. Decisions of the Equality Tribunal can be appealed to the Labour Court.

The Courts

The Civil Courts deal with applications for injunctions, wrongful dismissal, and breach of contract. The can also hear appeals from the other forums above.

The Health and Safety Authority is concerned with occupational health and safety and can prosecute breaches of health and safety law. It also plays a large role in the enforcement of anti bullying and harassment policies and procedures in the workplace.

NERA (National Employment Rights Authority)

NERA’s primary function  is to provide information to employers and employees and to monitor and inspect employment conditions. It can also prosecute breaches and enforce compliance re holidays, organisation of working time, dismissal, notice, working time, and payment of wages.

It’s enforcement services unit can attempt to have determinations of the Labour Court or EAT enforced through the Courts. (However you might be better off engaging the services of a solicitor and pursuing this yourself as it is likely to be quicker.)

Legislation Forum Time Limit Redress/Remedy Appeal
Adoptive Leave Acts, 1995-2005 Rights Commissioner 6 months DecisionDirection20 weeks compensation Employment Appeals Tribunal
Carer’s Leave Act, 2001 Rights Commissioner 6 months DecisionGrant of Leave26 weeks compensation Employment Appeals Tribunal
Civil proceedings Civil Courts 6 years DamagesInjunction
Data Protection Acts, 1988 & 2003 Data protection commissioner Na Enforcement noticeProhibition noticePenalties Circuit CourtHigh Court
Employment equality acts, 1998-2007 Equality tribunal 6 months Equal payArrears of remunerationUp to 2 years compensation Labour Court
Equal Status Acts, 2000-2004 Equality tribunal 6 months DecisionCompensation up to €6,349An order Circuit Court
European Communities (protection of employment) regulations, SI 488/2000 Rights commissioner 6 months DecisionCompensation up to 4 weeks remuneration EAT
European Communities (protection of employees of transfer of undertakings) SI 131/2003 Rights commissioner 6 months DecisionCompensation up to 4 weeks remuneration (breach of regulation 8) EATCompensation if breach of any regulation other than 8
Industrial Relations Acts, 1946-2004 Rights commissionerLabour Court RemunerationRecommendationDetermination Labour Court
Maternity Protection Acts, 1994-2004 Rights commissioner 6 months DecisionDirectionsGrant leaveCompensation up to 20 weeks’ pay EAT
Minimum Notice and terms of employment acts, 1973-2001 Employment appeals tribunal 6 months Up to 8 weeks’ pay compensation High Court on a point of law only
National Minimum Wages Act, 2000 Rights commissioner 6 months DecisionArrearsReasonable expensesEmployer to remedy breach Labour court
Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 Rights commissioner 6 months DecisionCompensation up to 2 years remuneration Labour court
Parental Leave Acts, 1998-2006 Rights commissioner 6 months DecisionGrant of leaveCompensation up to 20 weeks’ remuneration EAT
Payment of Wages act, 1991 Rights commissioner 6 months DecisionCompensation up to 2 years remuneration EAT
Protection of Employment Acts 1977-2007 Rights commissioner 6 months DecisionCompensation up to 2 years remuneration Labour Court
Protection of Employees (fixed term work) act, 2003 Rights commissioner 6 months DecisionReinstatement/re-engagementCompensation up to 2 years compensation Labour Court
Protection of Employees (employers’ insolvency) act 1984-2004 Employment appeals tribunal 6 weeks Declaration that Minister is to make payment and specify amount High court
Protection of young persons (employment) act, 1996 Rights commissioner 6 months RecommendationCompensation as is equitable Eat
Redundancy Payments Acts, 1967-2007 Employment appeals tribunal 6 months Determination as to entitlement to lump sumEntitlement to rebates High court on a point of law
Safety, Health and welfare at work act, 2005 Health and safety authority Na Improvement noticeProhibition noticeDirection re improvement plan District court
Terms of employment (information) act, 1994 and 2001 Rights commissioner 6 months Recommendation to correct statementCompensation up to 4 weeks remuneration Eat
Unfair dismissal acts, 1977-2007 Rights commissionerEatCircuit courtHigh court Six months Recommendation from rights commissionerEat may award reinstatement, re-engagement or compensation of up to 2 years remunerationCircuit court may award damages for wrongful dismissal EatCircuit court


NOTE: most decisions can be appealed to the High Court on a point of law only.