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Work Rights for Migrants in Ireland

Find out about who can work in Ireland and what there rights are


Written by SpunOut | View this authors Twitter page and posted in employment


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A migrant worker is anybody who works in a place that is not their country of citizenship. Around 10% of the Irish population is estimated to be made up of nationals of other countries, with the biggest groups being British people and citizens of other EU countries. Migrant workers contribute around €3.7 billion to the Irish economy every year, but many face difficulties knowing and using their rights in the workplace.

If you’re a migrant worker, you have the same rights and protections in work as Irish nationals. It’s not legal for your boss to discriminate against you based on your accent, your nationality or the colour of your skin. Use this handy guide to know your rights and stand up for them if you think they’re being ignored.

Who can work in Ireland?

Before taking up work in Ireland you’ll have to make sure you have official permission to do so.

Citizens of countries that are in the European Union have an automatic right to live and work in other EU countries. This means, if you’re an EU citizen, you can take a job in Ireland without an employment permit. You also don’t need an employment permit if you’re from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland due to agreements between those countries and the EU. Although the United Kingdom has voted to leave the EU, the effect this will have on British workers in Ireland is currently unclear.

People who have been granted refugee status or permission to remain in Ireland on humanitarian grounds don’t require employment permits. Students from non-EU countries don’t require permits if they work up to 20 hours a week during term time, or full-time during holidays.

If you’re a citizen of a non-EU country that isn’t mentioned above, you’ll need to get an employment permit to legally work in Ireland. There are nine different types and you can find out how to apply here. Once you have a valid employment permit your rights in work are the same as any other employee’s.

What are my work rights as a migrant?

Your work rights as a migrant are the same as any Irish worker. There are no special rates of pay, annual leave or tax conditions for migrant workers. You have the same protections from workplace discrimination and bullying as employees who are Irish citizens, and discrimination based on your race or religion is illegal.

Some examples of workplace rights you are entitled to include:

  • Being paid at least the full national minimum wage
  • Not being expected to work more than 48 hours a week (40 if you’re under 18)
  • Receiving written terms of employment and pay slips
  • Your employer making the necessary tax/PRSI contributions on your behalf
  • Safe conditions at work
  • Receiving full annual leave
  • Not being unfairly dismissed from your jobs.

How to make a complaint

If you feel your workplace rights are being violated, there are a number of things you should do. First off, make sure you write down the details of any incidents as soon as you can. You should also take down the names of any people who saw what happened in case you need to back your story up later.

If possible, you should bring complaints to your employer or manager directly. It’s also a good idea to talk to a trade union representative if your workplace has one. If not, you can try get in touch with a trade union branch in your local area to see if they can be of assistance.

If you can’t talk to your employer or the situation isn’t being fixed, you will have to make an official complaint. For most workplace complaints, you can fill in an online form at the Workplace Relations Commission website.

If your complaint is related to a Health and Safety issue, contact the Health and Safety Authority through the methods on this website. If your complaint is about non-payment of tax, you can contact the Revenue service directly. If your employer hasn’t paid PRSI, inform the Social Welfare Inspectorate here.

Make sure to carefully read the requirements of each body before you send in your complaint. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or need some extra help, you can talk to the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland. The MRCI is an organisation set up to fight for the rights of migrant workers in Ireland and can offer advice and guidance on what to do if you’re unsure. 

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Published September 9th, 2016
Last updated November 23rd, 2016
Tags employment work rights rights
Can this be improved? Contact editor@spunout.ie if you have any suggestions for this article.

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