Industrial Relations

High Court Strikes Down Sectoral Employment Orders and Chapter 3 Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 is Unconstitutional

The legislation, which confers on the Minister the right to make a sectoral employment order, has been held to be invalid by the High Court.

This finding arose in a case brought by the National Electrical Contractors of Ireland against the Labour Court and others (Náisiúnta Leictreach Contraitheoir Eireann -v- The Labour Court, The Minister for Business Enterprise and Innovation, Ireland, the Attorney General [2020] IEHC 303) which challenged a sectoral employment order made by the Minister.

The legislation which purported to give the power to the Minister is contained in Chapter 3 of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015.

This act made it a condition precedent that the Labour Court must firstly have complied with the requirements of Chapter 3 of the Act.

The High Court held that the Minister erred in so finding because the report submitted to the Minister by the Labour Court was deficient on a number of heads, including:

  1. The report failed to record the conclusions of the Labour Court on important matters
  2. The report failed to set out a fair and accurate summary of the submissions made by interested parties who were against the making of the sectoral employment order.

The National Electrical Contractors of Ireland had made submissions concerning various matters prior to the making of the sectoral employment order. The High Court held that the Labour Court had failed to engage with them in the statutory report.

Mr Justice Simons held that the Minister should have refused to make the sectoral employment order as a consequence of the deficient report. The Minister acted “ultra vires”, therefore.

Even though the Court did not have to concern itself with the constitutionality of the legislation per se the parties in this judicial review agreed that the Court could go ahead and do so to resolve the issue one way or the other.

The Court held that the offending legislation, Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 did not contain sufficient policies and principles to guide the Minister in exercising discretion regarding such employment orders.

The Court noted that the making of such orders had important ramifications from the perspective of i) promoting fair competition and ii) ensuring appropriate terms and conditions for workers.

Mr Justice Simons held that the making of these significant policy decisions were “abdicated” to the Minister and involved the “standard-less delegation of law making to the Minister”.  This is unconstitutional by reference to article 15.2.1 of Bunreacht na hEireann which states:

° The sole and exclusive power of making laws for the State is hereby vested in the Oireachtas: no other legislative authority has power to make laws for the State.

The High Court held, accordingly, that Chapter 3 of the Industrial  Relations  (Amendment)  Act  2015 is invalid and is to be struck down. It follows that the Sectoral Employment Order (Electrical Contracting Sector) 2019 (SI 251 of 2019) is invalid and must fall with the parent legislation.

It follows that all other sectoral employment orders (construction and mechanical engineering) are also invalid.

Read the full decision in Náisiúnta Leictreach Contraitheoir Eireann -v- The Labour Court & ors [2020] IEHC 303.

Payment of Wages Workplace Relations Commission

New Pay Rates and Conditions of Employment for Plumbers and Pipefitters

plumber and pipefitter SEO

Are you a plumber or pipefitter?

If you are there is a new sectoral employment order which sets minimum pay rates and other conditions of employment for you.

The sectoral employment order (SEO) came into force on 6th March, 2018 and covers the following employees:

Qualified Plumbers and Registered Apprentice Plumbers (Craftsperson) and Qualified Pipefitters and Registered Apprentice Pipefitters (Craftsperson) working in the Sector.
For the avoidance of doubt qualified plumbers and pipefitters who have acquired additional or advanced welding qualifications and who are required to function as welders on a day to day basis within the sector come within the scope of this Order.

Rates of Pay (hourly)

Category 1 €22.73
Category 2 €23.33
Category 3 €23.60


Apprentice Year 1 33.3% of Category 1 hourly rate of pay

Apprentice Year 2 50% of Category 1 hourly rate of pay

Apprentice Year 3 75% of Category 1 hourly rate of pay

Apprentice Year 4 90% of Category 1 hourly rate of pay

The SEO also defines the normal working week, normal daily working hours, and unsocial hours payments.

  • Hours worked between normal finishing time and Midnight Monday to Friday inclusive-time plus a half
  • Hours worked between Midnight and normal starting time Monday to Friday-Double time
  • First four hours worked after 7 am on Saturday-Time plus a half
  • All other hours worked on Saturday-Double time
  • All hours worked on Sunday-Double time
  • All hours worked on Public Holidays-Double time plus an additional day’s leave

The SEO also deals with pensions, pension contributions, a sick pay scheme and how disputes are to be resolved.

Legally Binding

This SEO is legally binding in the sector, regardless of whether the employer has a unionised workforce or not, as these are statutory minimum rates and conditions in the sector. These SEOs replace the old Registered Employment Agreements which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2013.


Blog Industrial Relations

Construction Workers Improved Terms and Conditions of Employment from October, 2017

construction worker

50,000 workers in the construction sector were granted improved terms and conditions of employment from 19th October, 2017.

The improved terms and conditions include statutory minimum pay, improved pension and sick pay entitlements. The backgournd to the improved conditions and the minimum rates of pay are set out in an Order called “Sectoral Employment Order (Construction Sector 2017)”.


Pay rates

Category 1 Worker: €17.04 per hour

(General Operatives with more than one year’s experience working in the Sector)

Category 2 Worker: €18.36 per hour

(Skilled General Operatives, Scaffolders who hold an Advanced Scaffolding Card and who have four years’ experience, Banks operatives*, Steel Fixers, Crane Drivers and Heavy Machine Operators)

(*Banks operatives are more generally known as banksmen)

Craft Worker: €18.93 per hour

(Craft Workers in the following trades: Bricklayers/Stone Layers; Carpenters and Joiners; Floor Layers; Glaziers; Painters; Plasterers; Stone Cutters; Wood Machinists; Slaters and Tilers)


(Apprentices in the following trades: Bricklayers/Stone Layers; Carpenters and Joiners; Floor Layers; Glaziers; Painters; Plasterers; Stone Cutters; Wood Machinists; Slaters and Tilers)

Year 1: 33.3% of Craft rate

Year 2: 50% of Craft Rate

Year 3: 75% of Craft Rate

Year 4: 90% of Craft Rate

New Entrant Worker: €13.77 per hour

(General Operatives who are over the age of 18 years and entering the Sector for the first time).

The SEO also includes recommendations in relation to sick pay, pensions and unsocial hours payments.

The full order can be accessed here: Sectoral Employment Order (Construction Sector 2017).

October 2019

There is a new sectoral employment order for the construction sector from 1st October 2019: statutory instrument 234 of 2019.

There is also an employment sectoral order for the electrical contracting sector since September 2019: statutory instrument 251 of 2019.