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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnanehttps://www.thatsfarming.com/
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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‘This does not mean that an employee can never work over 48 hours’

In Ireland, every employer must provide the core terms of employment to an employee within five days of commencement of employment, according to Clarissa O’Nuallain, HR Services Manager with IFAC. 

This must include ten or more core terms and the employer then has one month to issue the remaining terms of employment, as per changes to legislation as and from December 16th, 2022.

Prior to this date, the employer had to provide a minimum of five core terms within the initial five day period.

As O’Nuallain highlighted during her appearance on Teagasc’s Dairy Edge podcast which focused on the importance of employer compliance and legislation, “things are constantly changing and it is difficult to stay on top of these changes”.

“What we would recommend doing is to issue a contract of employment before the employee starts with all the core and all the remaining terms and conditions so that you just issue this contract once and you cover yourself.”

“If you are experiencing a WRC audit, they will ask for contracts of employment for all employees and if you do not have a contract of employment for everyone, you could be looking at a fine of up to €2,000.”

“Your employees could also put in a complaint against you as well,” she explained to podcast presenter, Stuart Childs. 

Probation period

There is a probation period, a window which is usually six months, at the beginning of a term of employment, where the employer can assess whether the employee is suitable for the job or not.

“Sometimes, employees might think or say ‘I better not put anything in writing yet – sure I will do a trial period with them first to see if they are suitable or not’.”

“Not only is this illegal, but you are putting risk on the business as well, so include a probationary period in the contract of employment as well.”

“So this will essentially be your trial period and then you have six months to see if this employee is working out or not.” 

Minimum wage in Ireland

Since January 1st, 2023, the new minimum wage is €11.30/hour, and, therefore, employers should review their wages to ensure they are complying with the new legislation and liaise with their accountant  if necessary. 

Some people – including those under 20 or part of an apprenticeship programme – can avail of sub-minimum rates, as per different rates depending on age categories.  

Rates on or after January 2023

Age group

Minimum hourly rate of pay

% of minimum wage

Aged 20 and over €11.30 100%
Aged 19 €10.17 90%
Aged 18 €9.04 80%
Aged under 18 €7.91 70%

Source: Citizens Information 

She continued: “The maximum number of hours that an adult employee can work in an average working week is 48 hours.”

“This does not mean that an employee can never work over 48 hours, but it is the average that is really important here.” 

Usually, this average is calculated over a 4-month period, but in the case of the agricultural sector, it can be calculated over a 6-month period, to which you must deduct time spent on breaks, annual leave, or sick leave.

Different rules apply to employees under 18 years of age. 

Employers must also record working hours and if subjected to a WRC audit, they will request time sheets and records of working hours.

Employers must keep records of daily working hours, including start and finish times, breaks, and any annual leave, which must be the case for employees paid on an hourly basis and also those paid a salary.  

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