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Organisation of Working Time Act 1997

Work Hours (Including Holidays/Bank Holidays)


The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 sets out statutory rights for employees in respect of rest, maximum working time and holidays. These rights apply either by law as set out in the Act, in Regulations made under the Act or through legally binding collective agreements. These agreements may vary the times at which rest is taken or vary the averaging period over which weekly working time is calculated.

Maximum Weekly Working Time

The maximum average working week is 48 hours. Averaging may be balanced out over a 4, 6 or 12 month period depending on the circumstances.

The 48 hour net maximum working week can be averaged according to the following rules:

  • For employees where work is subject to seasonality, a foreseeable surge in activity or where employees are directly involved in ensuring continuity of service or production – 6 months
  • For employees who enter into a collective agreement with their employers which is approved by the Labour Court – up to 12 months.
  • In the case of young people under 18, hours of work are fixed by the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996.


Every employee has a general entitlement to:-

  • Daily Rest Period – 11 consecutive hours daily rest per 24 hour period.
  • Weekly Rest Period – One period of 24 hours rest per week preceded by a daily rest period (11 consecutive hours).
  • Rest breaks – 15 minutes where more than 4 and half hours have been worked; 30 minutes where more than 6 hours have been worked which may include the first break. SIPTU has agreements with many employers which specify that the fifteen minute breaks are paid breaks.
  • Employees who work more than 6 hours and whose hours of work include the hours 11.30am – 2.30pm must be allowed a break of one hour which must commence between the hours 11.30am – 2.30pm.

These rest periods and rest intervals may be varied if there is a collective agreement in place approved by the Labour Court or if a regulation has been made for a particular sector. If there are variations in rest periods and rest intervals under agreements or in the permitted sectors, equivalent compensatory rest must be available to the employee.

Night Workers

Night time is the period between midnight and 7 am the following day.

Night workers are employees who normally work at least 3 hours of their daily working time during night time and the annual number of hours worked at night equals or exceeds 50% of annual working time.

Annual Leave/Holidays

Holiday pay is earned against time worked. All employees, full-time, part-time, temporary or casual earn holiday entitlements from the time work is commenced. The Organisation of Working Time act 1997 provides that most employees are entitled to 4 weeks annual holidays for each leave year with pro-rata entitlements for periods of employment of less than a year. In the case of employees working a normal 5 day week this would work out at 12/3 days per month worked or 20 days per leave year.

Depending on time worked, employees holiday entitlements should be calculated by one of the following methods:-

  • 4 working weeks in a leave year in which the employee works at least 1,365 hours (unless it is a leave year in which he or she changes employment).
  • 1/3 of a working week per calendar month that the employee works at least 117 hours.
  • 8% of the hours an employee works in a leave year (but subject to a maximum of 4 working weeks).

The time at which annual leave may be taken is determined by the employer having regard to work requirements, and subject to the employer taking into account the need for the employee to reconcile work and family responsibilities, and the opportunities for rest and recreation available to the employee.

The Organisation of Working Time Act provides that the employees concerned or their trade unions are consulted at least 1 month in advance of the dates selected by the employer for annual leave. The employee’s annual leave must be taken within the leave year to which it relates or, with the employee’s consent, within 6 months of the next leave year. The pay for the annual leave must be given in advance of the commencement of the employee’s annual leave, and is calculated at the normal weekly rate.

Mandate has also negotiated agreements with many employers providing for annual leave entitlement in excess of the minimum outlined above

Public Holidays

The Act also provides the following nine public holidays:-

  1. 1 January (New Year’s Day);
  2. St. Patrick’s Day;
  3. Easter Monday;
  4. the first Monday in May;
  5. the first Monday in June;
  6. the first Monday in August;
  7. the last Monday in October;
  8. Christmas Day;
  9. St. Stephen’s Day.

In respect of each public holiday, an employee is entitled to:-

  1. a paid day off on the holiday, or
  2. a paid day off within a month, or
  3.  an extra day’s annual leave, or
  4. an extra day’s pay

as the employer may decide.

If the public holiday falls on a day on which the employee normally works, then the employee is entitled to either a paid day off, an additional day’s pay, a paid day off within a month of the day, or an additional day of paid annual leave for the public holiday.

If the public holiday falls on a day on which the employee does not normally work, then the employee is entitled to 1/5 of his/her normal weekly wage for the day, which rate of pay is paid if the employee receives options (i) (ii) or (iv), above, as may be decided by the employer.

If the employee is asked to work on the public holiday, then he/she is entitled to either an additional day’s pay for the day, or a paid day off within a month of the day, or an additional day of paid annual leave.

Most SIPTU members who work on Public Holidays are entitled to be paid ‘Time and a half’ or ‘Double time’ in accordance with agreements between the union and employer.

There is no service requirement in respect of public holidays for full-time employees. Other categories of employees (part-time) qualify for public holiday entitlement provided they have worked at least 40 hours during the 5 weeks ending on the day before a public holiday.

(Note that this Act refers to public holidays, not bank holidays. Not every official bank holiday is a public holiday though in practice most of them coincide. Good Friday is not a Public Holiday).

Sunday Premium

If not already included in the rate of pay, employees are generally entitled to paid time-off in lieu or a premium payment for Sunday working. An employee is entitled to the premium payment for Sunday working payable to a comparable employee in a collective agreement in force in a similar industry or sector. This means that the Sunday Premium, if not already paid, will be equivalent to the closest applicable collective agreement which applies to the same or similar work under

similar circumstances and which provides for a Sunday premium. The premium can be in the form of:-

  • An allowance
  • Increased rate of pay
  • Paid time off
  • Combination of the above

SIPTU has agreements with many employers specifying the premium payment that applies to Sunday Working.

Zero Hours

Employees will be entitled to be paid for 25% of the time which they are required to be available or 15 hours whichever is the lesser, e.g. if an employee’s contract of employment operates to require the employee to be available for 48 hours in a week, he/she will be entitled to a minimum payment of 12 hours even if not required to work that week.

The Zero Hours provision does not apply to lay-offs, short-time, emergency or exceptional circumstances, employee illness or employee on-call.


Complaints about any breaches of the Organisation of Working Time Act may be referred to a Rights Commissioner.


Records are required to be kept by the employer. These records must be retained for 3 years and must be available for inspection by Labour Inspectors.

The regulations provide that employers are required to keep:

  • a record of the number of hours worked by employees (excluding meals and rest breaks) on a daily and weekly basis;
  • a record of leave granted to employees in each week by way of annual leave or in respect of a public holiday and payment made in respect of that leave;
  • a weekly record of the notification of the starting and finishing time of employees.

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