Changes to employment laws in Ireland in March 2019

Some new laws about employee rights apply from 4 March 2019 - thanks to the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018,

This is a plain English list of the main changes.

If you need more information, see a full explanation of the changes here.

Please note:  the Staff-Wanted network aren’t lawyers - and this is very simple description of the changes.   If you think there is a problem with these new laws and your job, then you need to check the details with a lawyer: do NOT rely on this article.)

What does the new law say

Most of the changes are for people who work part time, temporary or casual jobs - exactly the ones that are listed on Staff-Wanted.

Very roughly:

  • You must get a written contract within  five days
  • Zero hours contracts aren't allowed  (but there are exceptions)
  • If you're called, you should get at least three hours pay
  • If you work more hours than you contact says for 12 months, then your should be changed.
  • Minimum wage is basedon your age, not working time after age 18.

Read on for more details about how these rules will work.

Your written contract

Within 5 days of starting a job, your employer must tell you in writing:
  1. Their full name and address (this can be the company name/ address)
  2. How long they think your job will last for 
  3. The pay rate
  4. How many hours you will probably work in a normal week.

There are still some other things they have to give you in writing.  These haven’t changed, and your employer still has two months do give them to you.

Zero hour contracts

You must be guaranteed at least 3-5 hours of work each week. The times when hours don’t have to be guaranteed, is if you are doing:
  • Work of a casual nature  (the law doesn't explain what this means)
  • Work done in emergencies  or
  • Short-term relief work to cover routine absences for the employer.

Minimum paid hours

If you are called in to work but don’t actually get to work for as many hours of work as expected, then you need to be paid for at least three hours at the minimum wage.

Banded Hours

Some people have contracts to work for a number of hours each week - eg an 8-hour contract, or a 20-25 hour contract. The contract doesn’t say exactly when they work: This comes from a rota or roster, and may change each week. 

Sometimes people find that they are regularly rostered to work for more, or less, hours than their contract says.

From 4 March 2019, if you regularly work for more or less hours than your contract says, then you can ask to for your contract to be changed to a that band of hours you have worked over the last 12 months, based on these categories:

Band A     3 - 5 hours
Band B   6 - 10 hours
Band C  11 - 15 hours
Band D  16 - 20 hours
Band E  21 - 25 hours
Band F  26 - 30 hours
Band G  31 - 35 hours
Band H  36 + hours

You must ask for this in writing. Your employer has four weeks to think about it. They can only say “no” if :
  1. You didn’t actually work the hours you said, or
  2. Significant things have affected the company (e.g. they lost a big contract), or
  3. There are emergency circumstances (e.g. business has had to close due to flooding), or
  4. The hours you worked were really temporary (e.g. you were covering for someone on sick leave).

If they do say “no” and you disagree, then you can ask the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) for mediation or adjudication.  If the WRC agree with you, your contract must be updated and you must get the new number of hours of work each week.

However this doesn’t apply to if your employer has a banded hour arrangement that was agreement by collective bargaining . And they don't have to offer your hours of work in a week when you were not expected to work or when the business isn’t open.

Changes to the minimum wage

The minimum wage is the lowest hourly rate that an employer is allowed to pay you. There are different rates for adults and young people. (Read more about the minimum wage in 2019).

From 4 March 2019 the rates for young people are only based on age (before they also looked at how long you had worked since turning 18), and there isn’t a separate rate for trainees. So the rates are:

Everyone age 20+ no matter how much work experience they have    €9.80
People aged 19€8.82
People aged 18€7.84
People aged less than 18€6.86

Protection against penalisation

An employer must not treat you badly (eg fire you, cut your hours, change your job) because you ask for the rights that employment laws give you or other employees.

If they do this, then you can complain to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

And if the WRC agree with you about what happened, they can order the employer to stop treating you badly, and to pay you up to four weeks pay as a fine.

What to do if your employer is breaking these new laws

Employers don’t always do what the law says they “must” do. If you think that your employer isn't following this new law, then first you should check if any exemption applies. You need to read the detailed document to look for these: If we tried to list them here, this article would be far too long!)

After that, you need to choose what to do next.   You might:

Talk to your employer

It's usually best to ask your employer about any problem first and give them a chance to fix it before getting anyone else involved.

Some employers won't know about these new laws.   You may need to tell them where to find more information about what has changed.

Talk to your union

If you are in a union, then a union delegate or staff member can talk to your employer about the new laws and what they mean.

Talk to Workplace Relations

The Workplace Relations Commission is a government agency that helps to protect employees' rights. 
  • You can ask them a general question using this form or by phoning 059 9178990  / Lo-call: 1890 80 80 90 during office hours.
  • Find out about making a formal complaint to them is on this page.

Do nothing - or find a better job

If someone is breaking the law in your job on purpose, then it's probably not a great place to work.  Many people think that it's best to find a better job, with an employer who is not going to be like this.

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