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Employment law | Legal Guides

An employment relationship ends in one of three ways:

  • When an employee decides to leave the company. This is called resignation.
  • When an employer decides to end the employment. This is called dismissal.
  • When an employee reaches an age where their employment automatically ends, or they choose to stop working. This is called retirement.

Whenever an employee is leaving a job, an employer must provide him or her with a P45, pension information, and any outstanding pay.

Resignation

When an employee wishes to leave his or her job, he or she should inform the employer in writing.

Notice of resignation

An employee’s contract of employment may set out the minimum notice period that the employer expects.

If an employee’s contract of employment does not specify a minimum notice period, and the employment has lasted at least 13 weeks, the employer is entitled to one week’s notice.

An employer may choose to pay an employee for his or her notice period without that employee working. This is called payment in lieu of notice.

An employee cannot retract his or her notice of resignation unless the employer also agrees.

Constructive dismissal

If an employee resigns because of his or her employer’s unreasonable behaviour, that employee may be able to claim that an unfair dismissal has taken place. This is called constructive dismissal. An employee making a claim of constructive dismissal will have to show that the employer behaved in such a way that his or her resignation was justified. For information on making a claim of constructive dismissal, see unfair dismissals.

Dismissal

Employers are expected to follow fair procedures if they no longer wish to employ a person. If you believe that your employer did not follow these procedures, or if you are an employer in need of advice on these procedures, we recommend that you talk to your solicitor.

In many cases, an employee’s contract of employment will set out the type of situation that could lead to his or her dismissal. This might include a policy on absences due to illness, or procedure for investigating discipline issues.

An employer dismissing an employee must give one of the following reasons:

Employees have legal rights to protect them from discrimination or unfair procedures. For more information. For information about this, see unfair dismissals.

Employers should give employees notice of their dismissal, or payment in lieu of this, and the employee's P45, pension information, and outstanding pay

Capability

If an employee is consistently late or absent from work, this can be grounds for dismissal. This is usually divided into three types of absence:

  • Absence or lateness for non-medical reasons.
  • Frequent absences for short-term illness.
  • Long-term illness.

An employer dismissing an employee for frequent non-medical absences or lateness should have records of this absence. This could include clocking-in records, or documentary proof of absence that was not medically certified. An employer should make the employee aware of the problem, and warn him or her about the potential consequences.

If an employee is often absent from work due for short periods to a medical condition, and an employer dismisses him or her, this is usually called dismissal related to short term illness. In this situation, an employer should show that the absence is frequent, that it is causing problems, and that the situation is unlikely to get better. The employer should have also warned the employee that he or she could be dismissed.

If an employee is absent from work for a long time due to a medical condition, an employer must obtain detailed medical evidence before dismissing him or her. This evidence should show that the employee is unlikely to return to work soon. An employer can require an employee who is absent due to illness to attend a particular doctor.

An employee’s and employer’s doctors may disagree on when an employee is likely to return to work. In this case, the employer is expected to obtain a second opinion before dismissing the employee.

Competence

If an employer feels that an employee is not meeting the standards expected for a job, he or she may be dismissed.

However, employers should make employees aware of the standards expected of them, and these standards must refer to the job that the employee was hired to do.

If an employee is falling short of the required standard, the employer must explain this to him or her clearly through a formal procedure. The employer must specify any improvements that are necessary. These improvements should be realistic, and the employer should allow a reasonable timeframe for the improvement. An employer should give an employee a final warning, explaining that dismissal is likely, before dismissing an employee on grounds of competence.

Qualifications

If an employee misled an employer about his or her qualifications, that employee can be dismissed.

An employer can also make continued employment conditional of obtaining further qualifications. If an employer has given an employee a reasonable opportunity to do this, and he or she has not obtained the qualification(s), he or she can be dismissed.

Conduct

Dismissals on grounds of conduct can cover a wide range of behaviour, from small incidents to obvious cases of gross misconduct.

If an employee has committed gross misconduct, he or she can be dismissed instantly and without notice. Assault, theft, and a serious breach of an employer’s policies are common examples of gross misconduct. However, an employee’s contract of employment may set out more information on what the employer considers to be gross misconduct.

Several cases of less serious misconduct can justify an employee’s dismissal. In this case, an employer should have given an employee appropriate warnings about his or her conduct, and warned the employee that he or she could be dismissed.

According to the Workplace Relations Commission, employers should have should have written grievance and disciplinary procedures, and give copies of these to employees at the start of their employment. For more information, see the Workplace Relations Commission Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures.

Redundancy

When an employer is closing a business, or if the business is changing so that the employee’s work is no longer required, this is called redundancy.

Employers have to follow certain procedures when making an employee redundant. This includes:

  • Selecting employees for redundancy using fair procedures.
  • Considering alternatives to making an employee redundant.
  • Giving notice of redundancy.
  • Paying employees their redundancy entitlements.

Fair selection procedures

Employers can apply different criteria when selecting an employee for redundancy. For example, this could be based on a practice of ‘last in – first out’, or an evaluation of each employee’s skills.

If an employee claims that the procedures used to select them for redundancy were unfair, and pursues an unfair dismissal claim with the Workplace Relations Commission, the employer will have to demonstrate that fair procedures were followed.

Considering alternatives

Employers are expected to act reasonably when dismissing an employee. This includes consulting with the employee before deciding to make them redundant.

In a redundancy situation, employers are expected to consider all the available options, including offering alternative work to an employee.

If an employer is offering alternative work to an employee, the offer should be given in writing and the employer should provide all the relevant information on the offer.

If an employee refuses a reasonable offer of alternative work, he or she may no longer be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment. A reasonable offer is typically one that does not involve:

  • Travelling an unreasonable distance to work.
  • A loss of status.
  • A worsening of an employee’s terms and conditions.

An employee can take up an offer of alternative work on trial for up to four weeks.

Redundancy entitlements

If an employee’s role is being made redundant, he or she may be entitled to an additional payment.

In some cases, an employee’s contract of employment will set out the redundancy payment that he or she should receive. However, the law sets out minimum statutory redundancy payments for employees.

To qualify for a statutory redundancy payment, an employee must have worked continuously for an employer (while over the age of 16) for at least 104 weeks. If an employee is eligible, he or she should receive two weeks’ pay for every year of service over the age of 16, and one week’s further pay. This is subject to a maximum limit of €600 per week.

The Department of Social Protection has produced a redundancy calculator to help employees and employers calculate statutory redundancy entitlements.

Contravening the law

If continuing to employ a person would contravene the law, an employee can dismiss that employee. For example, if a person is employed as a driver for a company, but his or her driving license has been suspended, that employee cannot work without breaking the law.

Employers are expected to consider alternatives to dismissal depending on the facts of the case.

Other substantial grounds

If an employee is making a complaint about a dismissal under unfair dismissals legislation, and the employer is not citing any of the grounds above, then the employer will have to show that there were other substantial grounds that justified the dismissal.

Notice of dismissal

When an employer is dismissing an employee, he or she may be entitled to notice. A contract of employment may set out the notice that an employee is entitled to. However, the law sets out a minimum entitlement for employees, depending on how long the employment has lasted. This is shown in the table below:

Duration of employment

Minimum notice due

Less than 13 weeks

None

13 weeks to two years

One week

Two years to five years

Two weeks

Five years to 10 years

Four weeks

10 years to 15 years

Six weeks

15 years or more

Eight weeks

An employer can require an employee to work through the notice period, or offer payment in lieu of notice. This means that an employee will not have to work for the period between receiving notice and the employment officially ending, but he or she will be paid as if they are working during this time.  

If an employee is being dismissed for gross misconduct, he or she may not be entitled to notice of dismissal.

Unfair dismissal

The Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2015 protect employees from being dismissed without cause.

Unfair dismissal claims

The Workplace Relations Commission assesses claims of unfair dismissal by employees. To make a claim of unfair dismissal, an employee must:

  • Have been an employee.
  • Have been dismissed, or have resigned because the employer’s conduct forced them to. This is called constructive dismissal.
  • Have had at least 12 months of continuous service with the employer. This is not needed if an employee was dismissed for:
    • Any matters connected with pregnancy or birth.
    • Trade union membership or activity.
    • Making a protected disclosure under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.
    • Availing of rights under the Adoptive Leave Acts 1995 and 2005, the Carer's Leave Act 2001, the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004, the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, or the Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2006.
  • Bring the claim within six months of the dismissal, or have had ‘reasonable cause’ for the delay.

If an employee qualifies to bring a claim, an adjudicator will hold a hearing on the issue and decide on the appropriate solution. The employer will have to show that the employee was dismissed under fair grounds. Constructive dismissal is an exception to this: if an employee is claiming constructive dismissal, he or she will have to show that their resignation was justified.

Certain reasons for dismissal are always considered to be unfair. There are:

  • Availing of rights to maternity leave, adoptive leave, carer's leave, parental or force majeure leave.
  • Legal proceedings against an employer where an employee is a party or a witness.
  • Making a protected disclosure under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.
  • Membership (or potential membership) of a trade union, or engaging in trade union activities.
  • Pregnancy, giving birth or breastfeeding or any matters connected with pregnancy or birth.
  • Race, colour, sexual orientation, age or membership of the Traveller community.
  • Religious or political opinions.
  • Unfair selection for redundancy.

Redress for unfair dismissal

If the adjudicator decides that an unfair dismissal has taken place, he or she will recommend redress for unfair dismissal.

In some cases, the adjudicator will decide that the employee should get his or her job back, either from the date of dismissal, or from a set date. However, adjudicators are more likely to award compensation for financial loss.

In most cases, the maximum compensation for financial loss suffered by an employee is two years’ pay. An adjudicator may award up to five years’ pay to an employee who was dismissed for making a protected disclosure.

Employees or employers can appeal the decision of an adjudicator appointed by the Workplace Relations Commission to the Labour Court. Either party can appeal decisions of the Labour Court to the High Court, but only on a point of law.

If you have any questions about the unfair dismissals process, we recommend that you talk to your solicitor.

Retirement

There is no set retirement age under law for employees. However, an employee’s contract of employment may set out a mandatory retirement age, and provide for early retirement.

Mandatory Retirement

If an employee’s contract of employment states that the employment automatically ends once he or she reaches a certain age, this is called a mandatory retirement age. Employers are allowed to set a mandatory retirement age, provided it is objectively justified.

This age can vary depending on the type of employment. For example, for people who joined the public service after 1 January 2013 the minimum retirement age is 66, while the mandatory retirement age is 70. However, occupations such as the Gardaí and the Defence Forces provide for earlier retirement.

Early Retirement

Aside from a mandatory retirement date, an employee’s contract of employment may set out procedures for early retirement. This is particularly relevant if an employee is entitled to pension benefits from his or her employer.

Employees considering early retirement should consult their contract of employment carefully, and research their rights to any state benefits.

P45, pension information, and outstanding pay

When any employment is ending, an employer should provide the following information and payment to the employee who is leaving:

P45

A P45 is a statement of the employee’s pay to date and the tax, Universal Social Charge (USC) and PRSI that the employer has deducted.

Employees need this to:

  • Avoid paying emergency tax when starting a new job.
  • Claim a tax refund or social welfare benefits.

The date on the P45 is the date that the employee physically left the job.

If you have left your job, and your employer did not give you a P45, you should first ask your employer for it. If the employer does not supply it, contact your tax office. Revenue will then contact the employer and obtain the P45.

Pension Information

If an employee is a member of a company pension scheme, the employer should provide him or her with information on his or her pension entitlements.

Outstanding pay

When any employee is leaving, the employer should pay him or her for:

  • Work that the employee has done to date.
  • Any annual leave days that the employee has earned but not taken.
  • Payment in lieu (if applicable) for the notice period that the employee is entitled to.