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National Minimum Wage Act 2000

Exceptions

There are some exceptions to those entitled to receive the national minimum wage. The legislation does not apply to a person employed by a close relative (for example, a spouse or parent) nor does it apply to those in statutory apprenticeships. Also some employees such as young people under eighteen and trainees are only guaranteed a reduced or sub-minimum rate of the national minimum wage.

There are other minimum rates of pay for employees in certain sectors. In some sectors they are set out in Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) made by Joint Labour Committees. In other sectors they are set out in Registered Employment Agreements (REAs) made by collective agreements. 

Exemptions for employers

If an employer cannot afford to pay the national minimum wage due to financial difficulty the Labour Court may exempt an employer from paying the minimum wage rate for between three months and one year. Only one such exemption can be allowed. The employer must demonstrate that he/ she is unable to pay the national minimum wage and that, if compelled to do so, would have to lay-off employees or terminate their employment. An exemption may only be sought from paying the full rate of the national minimum wage, not for cases covered by the reduced rate, for example, employees who are under 18 years of age.

The current rates payable under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 are available here.

The Low Pay Commission

The principal function of the Low Pay Commission is, on an annual basis, to examine and make recommendations to the Minister on the appropriate level of the national minimum wage and related matters.

Under the National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Act, 2015 the Low Pay Commission shall make such recommendations to the Minister that are designed to set a minimum wage that is fair and sustainable, and when appropriate, is adjusted incrementally, and that, over time, is progressively increased to assist as many low-paid workers as is reasonably practicable without creating significant adverse consequences for employment or competitiveness. (http://www.lowpaycommission.ie/

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Payment of Wages Act 1991

This Act is designed to ensure that every employee is paid by way of a readily negotiable mode of wage payment. An employee must be paid in cash, by cheque, credit transfer, by postal/money order or by bank draft. It is prohibited to pay an employee in vouchers, for example, or in groceries or by the provision of goods instead of wages.

This Act gives all employees in Ireland the right to a written statement of wages (pay slip) which shows the gross wage and details of all deductions. A pay slip is essentially a statement in writing from the employer to the employee that outlines the total pay before tax and all details of any deductions from pay and it must be included with each pay packet. Where an employee is paid by credit transfer, the pay slip should be given to the employee as early as possible after the credit

transfer has taken place.

An employer may not make deductions from your wages unless:

  • They are required by law, for example, tax (PAYE) and social insurance (PRSI),
  • They are provided for in the contract of employment, for example occupational pension contributions.
  • They are made with your written consent, for example, trade union subscriptions
  • They are to recover an overpayment of wages or expenses
  • They are required by a court order, for example, an attachment of earnings order in a family law case
  • They arise due to your being on strike.

Where your employer suffers loss through your fault, for example breakages or till shortages or your employer supplies a service as part of the job, for example, a uniform, deductions may be allowed but only where:

  • They are allowed for in your contract
  • They are fair and reasonable
  • You have received a written notice of the deduction – a full week’s notice if the deduction arises from your mistake
  • The amount of the deduction does not exceed the loss or cost of the service
  • The deduction takes place within six months of the loss/cost occurring.

Complaints about unauthorised deductions from wages under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 should be made to your SIPTU official, who can bring the case to a Rights Commissioner. A complaint must be brought within six months of the date of the deduction. The Rights Commissioner may extend the time limit for up to a further six months, but only where there are exceptional circumstances which prevented the complaint being brought within the normal time limit.

An employer who fails to provide a pay slip or provides one that is deliberately falsified is guilty of an offence under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 and may be fined.

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Protection of Employment (Exceptional Collective Redundancies and Related Matters) Act 2007

This Act is designed to give greater protection to groups of workers faced by redundancy. In Ireland, collective redundancies arise where, during any period of thirty consecutive days, the employees being made redundant are:

  • Five employees where 21–49 are employed
  • Ten employees where 50–99 are employed
  • Ten per cent of the employees where 100–299 are employed

Thirty employees where 300 or more are employed.

Under the Protection of Employment (Exceptional Collective Redundancies and Related Matters) Act 2007 some collective redundancies may be referred to a Redundancy Panel of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to determine whether redundancies were (or are being) carried out in order to replace the employees with workers on lower pay or other less favourable terms and conditions. These are known as exceptional collective redundancies. If the panel decides the redundancies were carried out for this reason, the employees concerned will be able to take action for unfair dismissal.

*A ruling of the European Court of Justice in Junk v Wolfgang Kühnel (Case C-188/03, January 2005) has established that this obligation commences when the employer tells workers of an intention to make some or all of them redundant, not once they have given notice to terminate the contracts.

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Terms of Employment (Information) Acts, 1994-2001

The Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994 and 2001 state that an employer is obliged to provide an employee with a written statement of terms of employment within the first two months of the commencement of employment.

  • The statement of terms must include the following information:
  • The full name of the employer and the employee
  • The address of the employer
  • The place of work
  • The title of job or nature of work
  • The date the employment started
  • If the contract is temporary, the expected duration of the contract
  • If the contract of employment is for a fixed term, the details
  • The rate of pay or method of calculation of pay
  • The pay reference period for the purposes of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000
  • Pay intervals (whether they are daily, weekly, monthly or otherwise)*
  • Details of paid leave (breaks, rest periods and leave must conform to the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997)*
  • Sick pay and pension (if any)*
  • Period of notice to be given by employer or employee*
  • Details of any collective agreements that may affect the employee’s terms of employment.*

* In the case of these items instead of giving each employee the details in writing, the employer may refer an employee to other documents, for example, a pension scheme booklet or a collective agreement, provided that the employee has easy access to such documents.

The employer may also refer the employee to other documents or Orders of the Labour Court which contain the information required. The statement must be signed by or on behalf of the employer and must be retained by the employer for one year after the employment has ceased. An employer is further required to notify the employee of any changes to the particulars listed above, not later than one month after the change comes into effect.

Probationary period

The contract can include a probationary period and can allow for this period to be extended. The Unfair Dismissals Acts will not apply to the dismissal of an employee during a period at the beginning of employment when she/he is on probation or undergoing training, provided that:

  • The contract of employment is in writing
  • The duration of probation or training is one year or less and is specified in the contract.

The above exclusion from the Acts will not apply if the dismissal results from trade union membership or activity, pregnancy related matters, or entitlements under the maternity protection, parental leave, adoptive leave and carer’s leave legislation.

If your employer fails to give you written details of the terms of your contract, you can bring a complaint to a Rights Commissioner through your SIPTU official. You must make the complaint while you are in employment or within six months of leaving your employment.

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Freedom of Information Act 2014

The Freedom of Information Act 1997 as amended by the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Act 2003 obliged government departments, the Health Service Executive (HSE), local authorities and a range of other public bodies to publish information on their activities and to make the information they held, including personal information, available to citizens.

On 14 October 2014, the Freedom of Information Act 2014 came into effect and repealed the 1997 and 2003 Acts. The new Act introduced a number of changes to the Freedom of Information scheme and widened the range of bodies to which the FOI legislation applies to all public bodies, unless specifically exempt. It also allows for the Government to prescribe (or designate) other bodies receiving significant public funds, so that the FOI legislation applies to them also.

The old legislation continues to apply to any FOI request made before the new legislation came into effect. It also applies to any subsequent review or appeal.

The Freedom of Information Act 2014 provides the following statutory rights:

  • A legal right for each person to access information held by a body to which FOI legislation applies
  • A legal right for each person to have official information relating to himself/herself amended where it is incomplete, incorrect or misleading
  • A legal right to obtain reasons for decisions affecting himself/herself

Publication scheme

Under Sections 15 and 16 of the old FOI legislation, information about the activities of bodies covered by the Freedom of Information Acts, and the records they held, were contained in their Freedom of Information manuals, which each body was obliged to publish. These Section 15 and 16 manuals are being replaced by a publication scheme under Section 8 of the 2014 Act. Section 8 is not yet in effect.

The publication scheme will contain the same information as published in the manuals, as well as any information that may be required under a model scheme or guidelines that the Minister for the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform may set out.

Information that can be requested

  • Any records relating personally to an individual, whenever they were created
  • All other records created after a certain date:
    21 October 1998 for the HSE and local authorities
    21 April 1998 for public bodies that were covered by the old FOI legislation
    21 April 2008 for public bodies that were not covered by the old FOI legislation
    the date of the prescribing order (or a specified date) for prescribed bodies

A record can be a paper document or information held on computer. It includes, for example, printouts, maps, plans, microfilm, audio-visual material, disks and tapes.

Applying for information

FOI requests should be addressed to the FOI Unit of the body holding the records.

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Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015

The Regulation of Lobbying Act 2015 is designed to provide information to the public about lobbying activities and its aim is to make the process of lobbying more transparent. The Act provides for the establishment and maintenance of a publicly accessible register of lobbying.

The Standards in Public Office Commission (The Standards Commission) is the regulator of lobbying. Anyone who fulfils the definition of a lobbyist must register and must provide information about their activities on a regular basis. If they are professional lobbyists, they must provide information about their clients. They are also obliged to conform to a code of conduct (the Transparency Code) about their activities.

Definition of a lobbyist – For the purposes of the Act a person is considered to be carrying on lobbying activities if the person:

  • Makes, or manages or directs the making of, any relevant communications on behalf of another person in return for payment (in money or money’s worth) in any of the circumstances in which subsection (2) applies to that other person.
  • Makes, or manages or directs the making of, any relevant communications in any of the circumstances in which subsection (2) applies to the person.
  • Makes any relevant communications about the development or zoning of land under the Planning and Development Acts 2000 to 2014.

Subsection (2) is relevant if the person has:

  • More than 10 full-time employees and the relevant communications are made on the person’s behalf,
  • One or more full-time employees and is a body which exists primarily to represent the interests of its members and the relevant communications are made on behalf of any of the members
  • One or more full-time employees and is a body which exists primarily to take up particular issues and the relevant communications are made in the furtherance of any of those issues.

Persons precluded from lobbying for a ‘cooling-off’ period:

  • Some former government officials/senior civil servants are precluded from taking up employment as professional lobbyists or engaging in lobbying activity for a ‘cooling-off’ period of one year from the date on which they cease engagement in one of the designated occupations.
  • These are Ministers and Ministers of State; TDs and Senators; MEPs for constituencies in the Republic of Ireland; Members of local authorities; Special Advisers to ministers and/or government departments; Secretaries General and Assistant Secretaries in the Civil Service and Chief Executive Officers and Directors of Services in Local Authorities.
  • The above list may be extended by Ministerial Order to other categories over time. Public bodies will publish a list of Designated Public Officials within their organisations on their individual organisation websites from 1 September 2015.

Excepted or Exempted communications
The following are ‘Excepted or Exempted Communications’ according to the Act and are not, therefore, regarded as lobbying activities:

  • Diplomatic relations: Communications by or on behalf of a foreign country or territory, the European Union, the United Nations or other international intergovernmental organisations.
  • Factual information: Communications requesting factual information or providing factual information in response to a request for the information.
  • Published submissions: Communications requested by a public service body and published by it.
  • Trade union negotiations: Communications forming part of, or directly related to, negotiations on terms and conditions of employment undertaken by representatives of a trade union on behalf of its members.
  • Safety and security: Communications the disclosure of which could pose a threat to the safety of any person or to the security of the State.
  • Oireachtas committees: Communications which are made in proceedings of a committee of either House of the Oireachtas.
  • Communications by designated public officials or public servants: Communications by a designated public official in his or her capacity as such; communications by public servants (or those engaged on contract by a public service body) made in that capacity and relating to the functions of the public service body.
  • Governance of commercial state bodies: Communications by or on behalf of a commercial state body made to a Minister who holds shares in, or has statutory functions in relation to, the body, or to designated public officials serving in the Minister’s department, and which are made in the ordinary course of the business of the body.
  • Policy working groups: Communications between members of a relevant body appointed by a Minister, or by a public service body, for the purpose of reviewing, assessing or analysing any issue of public policy with a view to reporting to the Minister or public service body on it.
  • Private affairs: Communications by or on behalf of an individual relating to his or her private affairs about any matter other than the development or zoning of any land apart from the individual’s principal private residence.

The Standards Commission has the power under the Act to investigate complaints and to bring prosecutions against offenders. Successful prosecutions will subject the offender(s) to a fine and/or a term of imprisonment.