Overview of EU Rights on Free Movement of Workers and Families


As of 2017, 3.8% of the EU labour force live and work in another member state. This includes 8.8% of Irish people of working age living in other member states. Common barriers to free movement and discriminatory practices include:

  • Different recruitment practices
  • Nationality conditions for accessing posts
  • Different working conditions in practice (eg. pay, grade and promotions)
  • Problems accessing benefits which are subject to conditions more easily met by a national than by EU citizen of another member state (eg application of the ‘Habitual Residence Condition’ in Ireland)
  • Difficulties accessing services (eg. opening a bank account, hiring a car)
  • Professional qualifications acquired in other member states not taken into account or given less weight

The principle of free movement of workers is enshrined in Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (‘TFEU’). This prohibits discrimination based on nationality between workers of the member states as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment. The Treaty provisions provide that, subject to limitations justified on grounds of public policy, public security or public health, workers have the right to accept offers of employment and to move freely within the territory of the member states in order to take up such offers.

The Treaty rules on free movement of persons initially applied only to economically active persons (i.e. employed persons and jobseekers). In 1993, the Maastricht Treaty gave new life to the EU rules on free movement of persons, enshrining the Article 20 right of EU citizenship and giving, in Article 21, all EU citizens and their family members the right, in principle, to move and reside freely within the EU. These provisions must be viewed in the context of the general principle of non-discrimination based on nationality under Article 18 of the TFEU and in Article 21(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Citizenship rights also include the right to vote for and stand as a candidate at municipal and European Parliament elections in the member state of residence.

Secondary legislation sets out more detailed rules to regulate free movement, through Directive 2004/38/EC on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the member states. Who is classed as a ‘family member’ is defined at Article 2.

The specific rights concerning free movement of workers and their family members are provided in EU Regulation 492/2011.  Accordingly, all EU citizens and their family members have the right to move and reside freely within the territory of the member states including the right not to be discriminated on grounds of nationality regarding:

  • access to employment,
  • working conditions,
  • social and tax advantages,
  • access to training,
  • membership of trade unions,
  • access to housing,
  • access to education, apprenticeships and training for their children, etc.

Inactive EU citizens have the right to reside in another member state for more than three months if they have sufficient resources and comprehensive sickness insurance cover.

The free movement of people also applies to countries which are part of European Free Trade Area, as a result of the Agreement creating the European Economic Area (‘EEA’) and the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (‘AFMP’) with the Swiss Federation.

Although it did not create any new substantive rights, Directive 2014/54/EU was adopted in order to facilitate the free movement of EU workers and members of their family and make the rights more effective. Article 4 of the Directive stipulates that “each member state shall designate one or more structures or bodies (…) for the promotion, analysis, monitoring and support of equal treatment of Union workers and members of their family without discrimination on grounds of nationality (…) and shall make the necessary arrangements for the proper functioning of such bodies”.

The Irish Equality and Human Rights Commission (‘IHREC’) was made the Article 4 ‘Designated Body’ for Ireland under the IHREC Act 2014. In certain circumstances, IHREC may offer legal and/or other assistance to EEA workers and their families to vindicate their rights under the Directive and the IHREC Act 2014. It also has functions for the promotion, analysis, monitoring and support of equal treatment of workers and members of their family without discrimination on grounds of nationality.


Further information and services

For further information on the free movement of workers and the rights see the following resources

Would you like more information?

For more information, you can telephone the IHREC’s information service on 01 858 3000, or Lo Call 1890 245545. Alternatively, you can contact us by email YourRights@ihrec.ie for more information.

As part of its coordination role under the Directive, IHREC has put together this page to make information and services for mobile workers and their families more accessible. Please be aware that the text below comes from the organisations themselves and IHREC takes no responsibility for the content.

Your Europe

Your Europe is a portal with information for EU citizens and their families. For specific information on EU social security rights abroad, click the following link: Social security rights.

Your Europe Advice provides legal information and advice to citizens on their EU rights.  The service is provided by a team of 65 legal experts working with the European Citizen Action Service (ECAS) which operates under contract with the European Commission. These legal experts:

  • provide free and personalised advice either by email or by telephone in the language of your choice within seven days of submission of your enquiry;
  • clarify the European law that applies in your case; and
  • explain how you can exercise your EU rights.

Your Europe Advice answers questions from…

  • individuals who are nationals of the European Union, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein;
  • non-Europeans – if they are family members of an EU national or resident in an EU country;
  • businesses having their seat in the EU;
  • European/national information and advice services, on behalf of individuals.

Typical areas for enquiries

  • your rights when travelling, living, working, retiring or studying in another EU country
  • the rights of consumers within the EU

You can submit your question online using a simple form on the following website:  http://ec.europa.eu/eu-rights/enquiry-complaint-form/home?languageCode=en&origin=ecas.org

The Citizens Information Board

The Citizens Information Board (CIB) is the statutory body which supports the provision of information, advice and advocacy on a broad range of public and social services. These services are available to the public and  all migrants. In 2016 over 90,000 migrants used Citizens Information Services in Ireland  – 12% (47,998) of callers were from the EU and 10% (42,060) were from non-EU countries.

CIB supports the delivery of information through online, telephone and face-to-face channels:

  • Information is available directly to the public via the Citizens Information website www.citizensinformation.ie, other microsites and publications. The website provides fast and easy to access information on a wide range of rights and entitlements for migrants – http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/employment/migrant_workers/. Information is available in English and Irish and a range of information is also provided in French, Polish and Romanian.
  • The nationwide network of Citizens Information Services (CISs) provide a free, independent and confidential face to face information and advice  service on all aspects of social and public service provision in Ireland. CISs also provide an advocacy service to people who may have difficulties accessing their entitlements. You can locate your nearest centre by using the following link: http://centres.citizensinformation.ie/
  • Information and advice  is also available through the Citizens Information Phone Service (CIPS) – a national service that can be reached on 0761 07 4000, Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm.
  • CIB funds and supports the Money Advice and Budgeting Service which provides free debt advice throughout the country   www.mabs.ie
  • CIB funds and supports the National Advocacy Service for People with Disabilities (NAS) which provides an independent, confidential and free, representative advocacy service. NAS can be contacted on their National phone number 076 107 3000 or by emailing info@advocacy.ie.


SOLVIT is an informal problem-solving network created to solve problems that EU citizens or businesses are experiencing with the public administrations of EU member states. These problems must be associated with a denial of their Internal Market rights due to Internal Market law not being applied correctly. There are SOLVIT Centres in each EU country and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. Citizens are advised to contact the SOLVIT Centre in the member state of their nationality. SOLVIT aims to solve people’s problems within a 10 week deadline.

As SOLVIT represents an informal approach to problem solving, the SOLVIT system would not be used in situations where:

  • Legal proceedings are under way
  • The problem relates to a legal obstacle e.g. where the problem concerns an obstacle which results from a legal provision of national law. In this situation, it is unlikely that an informal system such as SOLVIT will be able to provide redress
  • Where deadlines under national law need to be respected

SOLVIT mainly operates online and cases are submitted via the Commission SOLVIT website complaint form or by email.



Irish Single Point of Contact

The Irish Point of Single Contact (PSC) is located in the Single Market Unit of the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.

The main role of the PSC is to provide general information on the procedures required for Irish/EU Businesses who intend operating in Ireland. (e.g. procedures required for working as an Architect in Ireland).

The PSC is also part of the European Commission EUGO Network of Points of Single Contact established in each EU country. Irish businesses can use the EUGO Network as a key information resource when operating in the Single Market. (e.g. If intending doing business in France – contact the French Point of Single Contact for information on the relevant procedures required).

The Irish Point of Single Contact (PSC) was established as the Point of Single Contact for Ireland as required under the Services Directive 2006/123/EC.

The Irish Point of Single Contact is not an information service. Some information of a general nature is contained on the website but it will always be limited. Persons seeking more detailed information will need to contact the relevant organisations, bodies or websites, contact details for these bodies can be found within the relevant articles on the PSC website.


European Commission Representation in Ireland

The Representation is the local office of the European Commission in Ireland, based in Dublin.

Our role is to:

Explain how EU policies will affect you in Ireland
Be a source of EU-related information for your government and other authorities and stakeholders in Ireland
Offer press & media services in Ireland
Speak for the European Commission as its voice in Ireland
Report back to the Commission in Brussels on important political, economic and social developments in Ireland.

For more, visit: https://ec.europa.eu/ireland/services_en

Europe Direct

Europe Direct can provide information about the EU – https://ec.europa.eu/ireland/node/209_en and has a series of helpful guides for individuals and businesses.

EURES Ireland

EURES Ireland – EURopean Employment Services

1.) Helping Jobseekers to find work in Europe

EURES (euresireland.ie) was set up by the European Commission to facilitate the free movement of workers between the European Union (EU)/ European Economic Area (EEA) countries. The purpose of EURES is to provide information, advice and recruitment/placement (job-matching) services for the benefit of jobseekers and employers interested in the European labour market. EURES is a free service for jobseekers, job changers and unemployed.

2.) EURES Ireland services: Information and advice on job search in Europe;

  • DSP has 14 EURES Advisers specialising in European recruitment and mobility matters. They provide EURES services to Irish jobseekers who wish to work in the member states of the EU/EEA.
  • Job matching and recruitment assistance;
  • European database of employment opportunities with over 1 million vacancies;
  • CV Database of European Jobseekers and automatic matching service;
  • All of the above are available on eures.europa.eu
  • Onsite and online European Job Days in Ireland or Europe;

3.) EURES programmes/schemes including financial support to cover costs of relocating for work to another EU country (‘Experience Your Europe’):

  1. Co-Sponsored Placement Programme (aimed at unemployed jobseekers aged 18-30 (not necessarily on live register);
  2. Your First EURES Job (aimed at young people aged 18-35, available for EU countries+ Norway and Iceland);
  3. Reactivate (aimed at those aged 35+, available for EU countries only).

EURES Programmes and supports for Jobseekers/ Job changers and the Unemployed:

Your First EURES Job (YFEJ) and Reactivate offer 5 separate allowances:

  1. Interview – typically €300-€500 depending on distance to interview and number of days away;
  2. Relocation – from €700 – €1400 depending on the country, e.g. to the UK €1170 and to Spain €980;
  3. Language – Up to €2000 for YFEJ and up to €800 for Reactivate;
  4. Recognition of qualification/ Registration fees – Max allowance of €400;
  5. YFEJ Supplementary – available for both Interview and Relocation applications – up to €500 based on disability, economic circumstance or peripheral EU location e.g. Canary Islands or Azores;
  6. Reactivate Family – for relocation applications, €350 per partner/child – Max of €1000.

Please note you do not need to be unemployed to avail of these schemes. The work contract must be for a minimum of 6 months.
The allowances in most cases are paid as a part reimbursement of the expenses incurred.

Application forms for YFEJ and further information is available on www.euresireland.ie

Application forms for Reactivate are presently only available from EURES Advisers and EURES National Coordination office in Dublin. Further information can be found on www.euresireland.ie

N.B All applications must be received before leaving Ireland to travel to an interview or when relocating to another European country.

For any queries please email:   yfej@welfare.ie ; reactivate@welfare.ie  Or Phone 01 6732739

Co-Sponsored Placement Programme

The Co-Sponsored Placement programme supports unemployed jobseekers (not necessarily on the live register) aged 18-30 in taking up a work placement in Europe for up to 12 months. Casual workers aged 18-30 (who earned less than €9,776 in the 12 month period prior to applying for this programme) may also be eligible.

During the placement the jobseeker will be co-sponsored by EURES Ireland and the Employer offering the work placement. The following supports are available:

  • A relocation allowance: €635 to €1,270 depending on the country (subject to a minimum 6 month placement);
  • A weekly allowance of €205 per week for the duration of placement (supplemented by employer);
  • Reimbursement of flight cost up to a maximum of €350;
  • Language training allowance (If required).

More information on EURES Ireland services and contact details for EURES Advisers in Ireland can be found on: www.euresireland.ie  or www.welfare.ie  or by phone: 01 6732739

Civil Society

The Immigrant Council of Ireland is running a campaign to remind people of their right to political participation – ‘Did you know you can vote in local elections?’
In May 2019 there will be local elections across Ireland to elect public representatives to City and County Councils. Every resident in Ireland regardless of their nationality can vote in the local elections in May. Also every resident in Ireland regardless of their nationality can run as a candidate in the local elections in May.
However in order to be eligible to vote your name needs to be added to the electoral register. See https://www.immigrantcouncil.ie/vote for further information and videos in a number of European languages.