Workers’ Rights Need Addressing, Commission Reports to Council of Europe

Hours Worked, Pay Levels and Conditions for Groups of Workers Put Under Spotlight

Significant action is needed to meet State commitments for workers in Ireland, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has set out today in its report to the Council of Europe. The report focuses on Ireland’s obligations under the Revised European Social Charter, a binding human rights treaty that Ireland ratified in 2000.

The Commission is concerned that despite being in the Presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers the State has not yet accepted several provisions of the Revised European Social Charter (‘the Charter’).

These include:

  • rights of employed mothers to sufficient time off to breastfeed; (Article 8(3))
  • rights of workers to be consulted on decisions which affect their employment; Article 21(a-b)
  • the responsibility of the State to ensure access to child day-care services and other childcare arrangements; Article 27(1)(c)
  • and the responsibility of the State to promote access to housing of an adequate standard at an accessible price and to prevent and reduce homelessness; Article 31(1-3).


We’re concerned, as set out in this report, about inadequate protections for employees, discriminatory policies that affect disabled employees, and the prevalence of discrimination and sexual harassment in our labour market. In particular, the Commission’s report notes that the failure to acknowledge the social and economic value of care work – mainly provided by women – has led to low pay and conditions.


We highlight that Trade Unions today have no legislative right to be recognised in the workplace for collective bargaining purposes and employees have no right to make representations to their employer through their union. In relation to this we recommend immediate action by the State to address these gaps and the imbalance of power in the labour market.


Ireland must act to properly protect economic, social and cultural rights in Irish domestic law, and to honour fully Ireland’s international commitments. In relation to this the Commission recommends that the best way to ensure protection of these rights in practice is their incorporation at a constitutional level.


We welcome this opportunity to provide the Council of Europe Committee with additional information to support its examination of Ireland’s 19th National Report.

Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said:

“Workers’ rights are key to accessing a range of other rights. If you’re low paid, working long hours under pressure, cut off from information about your job security and unable to join a union, this impacts your health, your family, and whether you can afford adequate accommodation or childcare.

“There’s a real value to society and the economy of an organised and robust workforce with access to representation and voice to proactively negotiate with employers.

“No-one should suffer discrimination due to their economic or social situation, yet we see this happen daily throughout the country. It is vital that the State steps up and delivers on its commitments to all people working to earn a living.”

The Commission’s recommendations include that:

  • the State enshrines economic, social and cultural rights in the Constitution of Ireland.
  • the State conducts research on the impact of the pandemic on labour rights, to assess permanent changes to the labour market and to assist in futureproofing for future crises.
  • the State needs more ambition in ‘examining the introduction of a new ground of discrimination, based on socio-economic disadvantaged status’, the State’s commissioned research on this topic has yet to be published.
  • the State should remove the complete ban of An Garda Síochána members’ right to strike, and other restrictions on our armed forces.
  • disabled employees are not adequately afforded the right to take part in the determination and improvement of their working conditions and working environment; and the State needs to urgently legislate for a proactive duty on employers.
  • Irish law does not adequately protect the right of domestic workers to dignity at work, and that the Employment Equality Acts need to be amended to address this legislative gap.


And the report further highlights that:

  • the provision for different rates of pay for disabled employees is discriminatory, and amounts to inadequate legal protection for their right to a fair remuneration.
  • in the absence of a National Action Plan for Care, and recognition of the economic and social value of care as a form of work, family carers, and particularly women, face barriers in securing remuneration that will provide them with a decent standard of living.
  • employees harassed on the grounds of socio-economic status and intersectional discrimination need to be adequately protected by our equality laws.


The Commissions full submission on Ireland’s 19th National Report on the implementation of the European Social Charter is available here:


The European Social Charter

The Revised European Social Charter is a binding human rights treaty that Ireland ratified in 2000 (replacing the State’s accession to an earlier European Social Charter that had been ratified in 1964). The Charter sets out legal standards in economic, social and cultural human rights, in areas such as housing and accommodation, education, social welfare and protection, and in employment. It also protects vulnerable groups such as children, people with disabilities and older people. It is the Council of Europe’s counterpart for economic, social and cultural rights to the European Convention on Human Rights.

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act (2014) to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s national equality body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.


For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

087 0697095

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