What to do when you aren't being treated the right way at work

Sometimes, things won't be right at work:  Employers don’t always follow laws.  You may be paid late, or your tax may not be wrong.  Other staff may be rude to you, or even hurt you.   You might be asked to do something unsafe, or illegal - or which you believe is wrong. 

There is no "right answer" about what to do when things like this happen. 

The list below has some suggestions about what you could do.   You need to decide what you will do, after thinking about:
  • What is going on
  • How much of a problem it is
  • What your employer will do if you complain, and
  • What other options you have.

Find out more

Often you need to start by finding out more about about the laws which apply:
  • If you think that your employer is paying less than the minimum wage, then you need to check if an exemption applies. So look up your employment contract, and the detailed rules from Workplace Relations.
  • If you are concerned about a health and safety issue, read the industry information provided by the HSA.
  • If your colleagues are treating you badly, this may be bullying - read here.
(These links are all for Ireland.  Many countries have similar laws.  Try googling "employment law" with your country-name to find informaiton for other places).

Knowing about the laws is helpful.  But some people don't mind breaking the law.   So you may also want to talk to your colleagues, or people who work in similar jobs to find out how things are for them. 

Or you could ask a question on a discussion forum like Boards.ie or AskAboutMoney.  (Your manager etc might read these too, so change some details so it's not obvious who is posting).

Also, think about what the consequences of an doing something about the problem might be.   Many employers will fix issues when you tell them   But some might just cut your hours or even fire you.

Decide what to do next

After you have the facts, you need to think about what to do next. 

Talk to your employer

Many employers are happy to fix problems without anyone else involved:  you just need to talk to them, and tell them what what is wrong. 

This doesn't always work.  But when it does, it is the fastest way of fixing problems, and it means that you and your employer will still get on well.

Involve the union

If you are a trade-union member, then a union delegate or staff member may be able to convince your employer to do the right thing. 

Unions can also give you information about "taking industrial action":  this means doing other things  like going on strike, or working-to-rule.   Often things like this aren't an option in places where jobs are advertised in shop-windows.   But it can be useful to tlak to the union about their experiences with your employer.

Workplace Relations

In Ireland 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.

Health and Safety Authority

In Ireland the Health and Safety Authority is a government agency that is responsible for making sure people are protected from work related injury and ill-health.

You can ask them a question or make a complaint using this form or by phoning their Workplace Contact Unit on  +353 1 614 7000 / Lo-call: 1890 289 389 between 9:00am and 12:30pm, Monday to Friday, or email them at wcu@hsa.ie

Do nothing - or find a better job

If your employer is treating you badly, or deliberately breaking the law, then it's probably not a great place to work.  Some people say that you should fight to get the problems fixed.  But others say that it's best to just find a better job, and that the best way to punish a bad employer is for no one to be willing to work for them.

Or, especially if you are leaving soon anyway,  you might just put up with how things are, knowing that  it's not for long.

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