The ILO Domestic Workers Convention 2011 (No. 189) defines a domestic worker as any person engaged in domestic work within an employment relationship in or for a household or households. A person who performs domestic work only occasionally or sporadically and not on an occupational basis is not considered a domestic worker.
Domestic work is generally accepted to include cleaning, cooking, laundry, child-minding, care of elderly or sick family members, gardening and maintenance, driving, and any other duties relating to a household. The use of designations such as 'Au Pair' or other descriptions of arrangements between consenting parties do not in themselves mean that a person working in a home is not an employee under Irish law.
Domestic workers enjoy the same protection under Irish employment legislation as all other legally employed workers. The rights of persons employed in private homes are set out in a Code of Practice, produced by the Labour Relations Commission in consultation with representatives of Social Partners. This document may be viewed or downloaded from the link at the foot of the page.
In summary, the employment rights of domestic workers include the following:
- to receive a written statement of terms and conditions of employment, or a written contract of employment
- to receive a written statement of pay (payslip)
- to be paid at least the National Minimum Wage
- to avail of Annual Leave and Public Holidays
- to work on average no more than a 48-hour working week
- to receive a premium for work performed on a Sunday
- to be given breaks/rest periods
- to receive minimum notice before dismissal
- to work in a safe and healthy working environment
- a right to privacy and to pursue personal leisure activities
- to be registered as an employee with Revenue and the Department of Social Protection
- not to be discriminated against because of gender, family or civil marital status, age, disability, race, sexual orientation, religion, or membership of the travelling community
- not to have personal documents (such as passports, ID documents, drivers licence, etc.) retained by employers
- equal rights for part-time, fixed-term and agency workers
- special protections for young persons in employment
- Maternity entitlements
Board and Lodgings
The rate per hour of an employee (for National Minimum Wage purposes) is determined by dividing the gross pay, plus any additional allowances for Board and/or Lodgings where provided by the employer to an employee, by their total working hours. The following allowances may be factored in:
- Full board and lodging — €54.13 per week or €7.73 per day
- Full board only — €32.14 per week or €4.60 per day
- Lodgings only — €21.85 per week or €3.14 per day
Example - an experienced adult employee being paid €150 per week:
To calculate the maximum hours an employee can legally work at the statutory minimum rate and remain in compliance with the National Minimum Wage Act, the gross wage plus the appropriate allowance for board and/or lodgings should be divided by the appropriate National Minimum Wage rate for the employee. Keeping records of hours worked is a legal obligation on employers.
Working in excess of the hours outlined in the table below for an experienced adult worker would be a breach of the National Minimum Wage Act:
- If living in, with meals provided — 22.3 hours
- If being provided with meals only — 19.9 hours
- Living out, with no meals provided — 16.4 hours
Working Hours and Breaks
The maximum average working week for domestic workers must not exceed 48 hours. This does not restrict any particular week to a maximum 48 hours: however, when averaged over a 4-month period, the average weekly hours worked must not exceed 48.
A premium is payable for work performed on a Sunday. If this is not included in the rate of pay, an employer must give one or more of the following for Sunday work - an allowance, a pay increase for the Sunday hours worked, or paid time off work.
An employee is entitled to a break of 15 minutes after a 4½ hour work period, and a break of 30 minutes if more than 6 hours are worked, which can include the first 15-minute break. Such breaks do not have to be paid, and are not part of working time.
All employers must keep detailed records in relation to all employees: these records must be kept for a 3 years. Failure to keep the required records is an offence and may lead to prosecution. Such records may be required by Workplace Relations Commission Inspectors as part of an inspection..
For further information and a full list of all records required, please see the Statutory Employment Records page.
Domestic workers who feel that their employment rights have been breached can make a complaint to Workplace Relations Information and Customer Services and this will be dealt with either through an Inspection or at a hearing by a Workplace Relations Commission Adjudicator. An online Complaint Form may be accessed on the Refer a Dispute/Make a Complaint page.
Inspectors from the Workplace Relations Commission carry out inspections of domestic workplaces and investigate any complaints received from domestic workers.
Anyone wishing to get more information on the rights of domestic workers should telephone Workplace Relations Information and Customer Services on Lo-call 1890 80 80 90 or (+353) 59 9178990. (Note: charges for calls to Lo-call numbers may vary between service providers.)