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Legal work in Ireland – a guide

Ireland is one of these European Union countries which opened their labour market for Poles for the first day of our membership, that is from 1 May 2004. It means that our countrymen can work in this country without limitation and additional documents – passport or identity card will be enough. Unfortunately, due to the economic crisis of the recent years Ireland stopped being the "green island" in the meaning of the place, where a better job and a decent wage are waiting for everyone. Nevertheless, still many of our countrymen live and work there. In this article you will find information about the formalities needed to be done in order to work in Ireland as well as issues related to the labour law, taxes and insurance.

The first formalities

Taking up work in Ireland does not require work or residence permission, or any visas. The only formality one needs to complete is to obtain the Irish Personal Public Service Number. A PPS application form should be submitted in person in the local social welfare office. Regulations require completing a special form and showing the identity document (passport or identity card). Moreover, a person applying for PPS number will be asked to confirm their place of residence in Ireland. A tenancy agreement would be enough, of course. However, even a simple electricity, phone or gas bill will be sufficient.

General Labour Law

The Irish regulations state that maximum average working time at present is 48 hours a week. Similarly as in Poland, weekly working time is not limited every specific week. Weekly working time is calculated from the average of 4 months period. In some cases weekly working time can be calculated on the basis of six- or even twelve-month period. The work over the working time means the overtime work. There is no statutory regulation in Ireland concerning the remuneration for overtime hours worked. However, many employers provide their employees a system of additional pay for the overtime work – regulations concerning overtime work can be a part of individual arrangements, contract of employment or a collective agreement in force in a given industry.

Employees are entitled to a day off or additional pay for work on Sunday and holidays. In some industries the work on Sunday is also regulated by the collective agreements. Part of employers considers this issue already in the contract of employment entered into with an employee by determining the amount of remuneration. Employees hired full time have the right to paid public holidays.

Every employee is entitled to a paid holiday leave of 4 weeks annually. They acquire the right to a leave on condition they have been employed for a certain period of time. Persons, who work less than 117 hours a month, acquire the right to a leave of 8% of the time worked (but not longer than 4 weeks as stated in the general regulations). Employees, who work at least 117 hours a month, acquire the right to a leave of 1/3 of a working week for each month worked.

A pregnant worker has the right to 27 weeks of paid maternity leave. Moreover, she is entitled to 16 additional weeks of unpaid maternity leave. The right to the maternity leave applies to all employed women (also temporarily) irrespective of seniority and working time. The due money is paid to the entitled person by the employer (can but does not have to do it) or welfare.

Moreover, there is a paid accident leave in Ireland. An employee should notify the employer of the willingness to apply for this kind of leave as soon as possible. The maximum duration of such leave is 3 days within 12 months or 5 days within 36 months.

The general minimum wage in Ireland is 8.30 Euro per working hour for an ‘experienced, adult employee’. This concept means a person of legal age which has or had any job for two consecutive years. Furthermore, there are other slightly higher minimum wages in various sectors of the economy, which are covered by different regulations.

Labour Law Protection

There are many institutions in Ireland which one can contact in case of problems with the employer. These are among others Employment Rights Information Unit, Labour Inspectorate Section, Work Permits Section, Rights Commissioner Service and trade unions.

Health  and Social Insurance

In order to be able to use medical services free of charge in Ireland, one should hold a medical card issued by the Health Service Executive. It provides free access to some medical services, usually includes spouse and children under care. Whether you get the right to hold the card or not, depends among others on the income rate. In order to obtain the card, one should ask in the competent health centre or social welfare unit for the application form and the list of the General Practitioners. Some persons who have no right to the medical card, can apply for a so-called GP Visit Card giving lesser rights, which entitles an insured and their family members to free appointments at the General Practitioners.

Similarly as in Poland, part of social security contributions are paid by the employer on behalf of the employee, and the other part is paid by the employee. These contributions are transferred to the Social Insurance Fund. Apart from that, the employee pays by the employer health contribution, which finances health services.

In Ireland one can buy an additional special health insurance which is used to account for the health care in hospitals and doctor's surgeries. Principles depend on the insurance company – usual insurer enters into the agreement with the hospitals which state that they will pay the insurance directly to the hospital. Usually, a patient pays to the doctor for the medical services, and then applies for the medical costs refund. A health insurance premium is 2% of the total income. The insurance covers at least: costs of day-care services, hospitalization, pregnant women care, convalescence, psychiatric treatment and rehab, half-private stay in the state hospital. Moreover, there is a possibility to conclude the contract exclusively for certain medical services, e.g. dental.

An employee incapable of working due to illness can apply for the sickness benefit. The standard rate is 134.80 Euro. This benefit is granted to employees whose employer paid social security contributions called Pay Related Social Insurance for at least 39 weeks.

At the end of every tax year every employer must give the employee a special form (P60) in which the employee provides information about remuneration paid to them, tax paid and social security contributions paid by the employer. When the employee quits their job, the employer is obliged to give them the P45 form, which is the equivalent of our certificate of employment (includes information about the pay, taxes and social security contributions). This document is essential to avoid paying a special tax rate and, in case of the unemployment, to apply for the tax refund and social security benefits.

Taxes

Majority of people working in Ireland pay taxes via the special PAYE system (Pay As You Earn – pay according to what you earn). The employer deducts the amount of the tax due directly from the employee’s earnings, and then pays it to the IRS. A two-stage tax scale is applied: the income of natural persons is levied a tax of 20 or 42%.

Moreover, there is a tax credit, which means that the income tax is charged only on a certain sum of money. The amount of tax credit depends on the amount of vested tax exemption. Before the tax year begins, employees receive notifications from the Inland Revenue Service of the amounts of vested tax credits and tax schedules applicable to a particular case of an interested person. Along with the notification, one receives a TFA 1 form (Revision of Tax-Free Allowances) to be completed in order to make possible changes, demand the due allowance, notify the IRS of the change in circumstances that may possibly impact the amount of the tax credit and tax schedule included in the notification. You can also get the form in every branch of the IRS.

The basic value added tax rate is 21%. Double taxation agreement between Ireland and Poland has been in force since 22 December 1995.

Sławomir Krenczyk

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