Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# workplace laws
Ireland doesn't offer workers enough protection against being fired
That’s according to Europe, and unions say that companies are taking advantage.

IRELAND DOES NOT offer workers with less than one year’s service enough protection against dismissal and companies are taking advantage, it has been claimed.

The European Committee of Social Rights recently published its annual report assessing how Ireland complies with the European Social Charter, a Council of Europe treaty that guarantees certain social and economic rights.

The report, which looked at the period between 2011 and 2014, found that Ireland conformed with 11 of the provisions ratified by the country, didn’t conform with five and didn’t supply enough information for a full assessment for five more.

One of the areas that Ireland was found to be in breach of was ‘the right to protection in the case of dismissal’.

In Ireland, most employees who think that they have been wrongly fired have certain protections, such as being able to apply for compensation under the Unfair Dismissals Acts.

However, employees with less than one year’s service are not covered by the act except in certain circumstances.

In the case of statutory apprentices, the Unfair Dismissal Acts do not apply if the dismissal takes place within six months after starting an apprenticeship or one month after its completion.

Not justified

The committee said “employees undergoing probation or training for one year or apprentices during the first six months are excluded from protection against termination of employment, which is not reasonably justified”.

Unite union said that employers are taking advantage of the lack of protection for workers with less experience, and quickly hiring and firing employees so that they do not accrue the same rights as longer-serving staff.

sad worker shutterstock Shutterstock / KieferPix Shutterstock / KieferPix / KieferPix

A spokeswoman for the union said that this is something that Unite encounters “on a fairly regular basis”.

“Some employers use the year as an ‘extended probationary period,’” she said.
“Given that such workers cannot take a case for unfair dismissal, there are no records or statistics available to indicate the incidence of this.”

However, she said that the union would come across employers trying to take advantage of the lack of protection for new employees “quite a lot”, and added that Unite is only aware of cases occurring in unionised workplaces.

“The point we would make is that if we are coming across these cases of exploitation in unionised workplaces, what is the situation in non-unionised workplaces? One may assume that such abuses are rife,” she said.

‘Market flexibility’

A spokeswoman for the Department of Jobs acknowledged that, in the case of apprenticeships, the Unfair Dismissals Acts do not apply until the person has six months service.

For more general employment, she said that there are several exceptions where an employee does not need one year’s service to take an unfair dismissals case.

A few examples of these are when the dismissal relates to:

  • An employee’s pregnancy, giving birth or breastfeeding or any connected matters.
  • An employee’s trade union membership or activities, inside or outside working hours.
  • An employee’s right to parental leave.
  • A  discriminatory dismissal case (for example, relating to age or gender).

The spokeswoman said that outside of these types of situations, “the minister must also have regard to the benefits of labour market flexibility both to employers and to prospective employees by ensuring barriers to the recruitment of new or first time employees are not prohibitive.

“Therefore, the Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation will have due regard to the views of the committee.”

Written by Paul O’Donoghue and posted on