Blog by Yvonne O’ Callaghan, activist and Advocate with SIPTU’s Workers Rights Centre. In this blog she offers helpful advice to second level students who are beginning their first job.

Getting your first job is a major event in your life. To help you make the right choices you need to know your rights. There is a wide range of information relating to employment and this short blog is going to explain your basic rights at work.

But if you have any questions after reading this blog you can find further information on our website or you can simply call our dedicated helpline 1890 747 881 where are information assistants can answer your question.

If you are starting work for the first time, you need to do certain things before you start work. Your basic checklist before starting your first day of a job is :

  • What is my Personal Public Service Number ?
  • Do I have a Contract of Employment ?
  • How many hours am I allowed work
  • Am I allowed breaks when I am working?
  • How much will I get paid ?
  • How much Social Insurance will I be paying ?
  • How much Universal Social Charge will I be paying ?
  • Will I be paying Tax and how much ?
  • Join a Trade Union

Remember that employers must see a copy of your birth certificate or other evidence of your age before employing you. If the you are under 16, the employer must get the written permission of your parent or guardian.

So what should be in your contract of employment ?

Within one month of taking up a job, your employer must give you an official summary of the Protection of Young Persons Act, along with other details of your terms of employment which should be in the form of a contract of employment.

The statement of terms should include the following information:

  • The full name of employer and employee
  • The address of the employer
  • The place of work
  • The title of job or nature of work
  • The date the employment started
  • Details of rest periods and breaks as required by law
  • The rate of pay or method of calculation of pay
  • Hours of work

You can find more information on what the statements of terms should include on the website of SIPTU Workers Rights Centre.

You should find out about the minimum rate of pay, what information is in your pay slip and how your tax is calculated.

All workers are entitled by law to a payslip. A pay slip is basically a statement in writing from the employer to the employee that outlines the total pay before tax and all details of any deductions from pay.

Since 1 January 2017, the national minimum wage is €9.25 per hour. This does not mean that everyone is automatically entitled to receive this. Young people aged under 18 are only guaranteed up to 70% of the national minimum wage which is €6.48 per hour. Your employer is, of course, free to pay you more than the minimum wage if they wish, but you should be aware that they are not required to do so by law.

If you are working in a job where staff are given tips by customers (i.e, restaurants, bars, etc.) there is nothing in law to state you are automatically entitled to these tips. However, the law does not require you to hand these tips to your employer either. Instead, it all depends on the custom and practice in your workplace. If all tips are collected by management and paid to staff through the payroll, then these tips are subject to tax in the normal way.

You should find out what working hours you can do and how much breaks you can take during the working day

Under the law workers under 18 years of age are protected by a specific law called the ‘Protection of Young Persons Act 1996’.

If you are under 16 years of age you are protected in the following way :

Under the Act, employers cannot employ anyone aged under 16 in regular full-time jobs. Those aged 14 and 15 may be employed as follows:

  • Doing light work during the school holidays — they must have at least 21 days off work during this time
  • As part of an approved work experience or educational programme where the work is not harmful to their health, safety or development

Those aged 15 may do 8 hours a week light work in school term time. The maximum working week outside school term time is 35 hours or up to 40 hours if they are on approved work experience. Employers may not require children to work before 8am in the morning or after 8pm at night.

Maximum weekly working hours for workers under 16

Time off and rest breaks for workers under 16

If you are aged 16 and 17 ………

The maximum working week for young people aged 16 and 17 is 40 hours with a maximum of 8 hours a day. If a young person under 18 works for more than one employer, the combined daily or weekly hours of work cannot exceed the maximum number of hours allowed. Young persons are only permitted to work between 6am and 10pm.

Working hours, time off and rest breaks for young people aged 16 and 17

As many young people find themselves working in restaurants, hotels and pubs it is important to know what you are allowed to do.

The law permits young people employed on general duties in a licensed premise to be required to work up to 11 pm on a day that does not immediately precede a school day during a school term where the young person is attending school. The Regulations state that the definition of general duties “does not include supplying intoxicating liquor from behind the bar counter in licensed premises or supplying it for consumption off those premises”.

If you are thinking about changing jobs, remember you need to tell your employer

If you are changing, or thinking of changing, jobs, you should find out about giving notice when changing your job.

If you are changing your job you to need to give your employer notice of your decision to leave. The actual length of the notice you are required to give will depend on your contract of employment and on the minimum notice you are required to give by law.

Requirements as to notice are among the items in a contract of employment that should, by law, be in written form. You should therefore check your contract of employment for any provisions as to the notice you are required to give and follow those provisions. Remember that it is always open to agree a different arrangement to that contained in your contract with your employer.

If you do not have a provision in your contract of employment dealing with notice, the statutory minimum notice of one week will apply and this is the notice that you should give your employer of your intention to leave.

So what if you run into a problem at work?

First things first don’t panic. You simply can ring our helpline and we can give you some advice on what to do next. But the most effective way to deal with problems at work is to join a Trade Union. We can be your representative at work and solve the problem with your employer for you.

You want to join the union, here is the link :

This week SIPTU and ISSU are running a workers rights information week for second level students. The week’s events will include a questions and answers session on Facebook concerning young people’s rights at work. There will also be a number of online blog articles released regarding young workers’ experiences at work.

Ireland’s Strongest Union. #ourSIPTU