Farm Ireland

Wednesday 21 February 2018

What employers owe to their staff – the key facts

Farmers should be aware of their employees' legal rights
Farmers should be aware of their employees' legal rights

Macra na Feirme's 'Land Mobility and Succession in Ireland' has revealed that 48pc of farmers have no identified successor and that about 26.3pc of farmers are aged over 65.

With this in mind it is no surprise that many Irish farmers are turning to employed labour to keep ahead of the work demands of their land.

It is important for all employers, including farmers, to be aware that the costs of an employee are not just financial. Being an employer means that you are responsible for providing certain rights for your employee and proper working conditions.

Financial Duties

While wage rates are generally the result of negotiation between the employer and employee, there are some restrictions on the minimum pay rates.

The national minimum wage for an experienced adult employee is €8.65/hr. An experienced adult employee is an employee who has been in employment of any kind for two years over the age of 18.

Exception to this minimum rule are employees under 18 years: they are entitled to €6.06/hr (this is 70pc of the minimum wage). An employee who is in the first year of employment since the age of 18 is entitled to €6.92/hr (80pc of the minimum wage).

An employee who is in the second year of employment since their work began, who is also over the age of 18, is entitled to €7.79/hr (90pc of the minimum wage).

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Employees under 18 (and over 15) years of age cannot work for more than 8 hours per day and 40 hours per week.

The provision of board and lodgings can be considered to make up part of the minimum wage. For employees who are not receiving the minimum wage they may refer the issue to the Rights Commissioner or a National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) inspector.

The amount that lodgings makes up is set out in law and should be checked by employers, providing this as part payment. Failure to pay the appropriate minimum wage can result in a fine of €952 for every offence.


The general rule is that an employee is entitled to 8pc of the hours worked in a year, up to a maximum of four weeks per year.

Where a worker is ill during holidays (annual leave) and produces a doctor's cert, the days which have been certified as sick days should not be counted as holidays.

In the case of bereavement in the immediate family of the employee, three days paid leave should be paid. An employee is entitled to payment for public holidays if they have worked at least 40 hours in the five weeks before the holiday.

Employer's duties

Employers must register all employees paid more than €8 per week under the PAYE system.

In the case of dismissal, an employee who has been working for 16 weeks is entitled to a minimum notice period.

An employee who has been employed for two years or more, continuously, is entitled to redundancy payment of 2 weeks' pay for each year of continuous work and one further week's pay.



13 weeks-2 years 1 week
2-5 years 2 weeks
5-10 years 4 weeks
10-15 years 6 weeks
15 years + 8 week

Safety & Working Conditions

It is well established in Irish law that an employer has a duty to take reasonable care for the employee's safety. However, the duty is limited to 'reasonable' care.

Factors like the age, experience etc. of the employee are taken into consideration. It is likely that the more experience and knowledge that the employee has, the less care the employer would be expected to take of them.

While it is recognised that the employer does not have to point out obvious risks to their employees, risks which are not obvious should be pointed out.

While every employee is entitled to a written copy of the terms and conditions of their employment, this can be a great way to avoid potential problems between employers and employees.

Also, by giving a job description to an employee, both parties will be clear on what exactly is expected of them and could save difficulties later.

Theresa Murphy, Barrister at Law, based in Ardrahan, Co. Galway. Contact: .This article is intended as a general guide only and professional advice should always be sought for individual circumstances. No liability is accepted for errors.

Indo Farming