Ireland Work Culture

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Work Culture

To do business in Ireland, it is vital to have a good understanding of its business or work culture. Making the right impression with the right people is the key to success in Ireland, and it is important to back this up with the right research on the market and potential business associates.

Foreign companies targeting Ireland for their international expansion plans must have a thorough understanding of the country’s work culture and business environment as well as the economy.

Ireland has one of Europe’s fastest-growing economies – advancing at almost double the European average, with over 40% of its Gross Domestic Product centered on the capital, Dublin. Service industries, including a huge IT sector, account for 60% of GDP with industry accounting for virtually all the remainder.

Legislation covering the workplace applies strict rules on discrimination and health and safety, but the atmosphere itself tends to be open and relaxed with employers aware of the importance of a satisfactory work-life balance. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development ranks Ireland in Europe’s top 10.

Hierarchies are flexible, first name terms are generally used early in business relationships and the Irish might prefer to know who you are by socializing rather than giving them a business card. Here are some other tips about the local work culture that will help you succeed in Ireland:

  • Punctuality: A relaxed approach to meeting and greeting does not stretch to punctuality, so be on time. Plan your journey carefully if the meeting is in busy Dublin – which is likely to be the venue.
  • Language: Meetings will be conducted in English – a working knowledge of Gaelic is not expected.
  • Business Relationships: Be prepared to spend time building trust and relationships, so chatting about the weather, traffic and family is fine and helps to relax the atmosphere. If you’re on the end of a well-meaning joke, that probably means you are being accepted. However, once this marker has been reached the focus will quickly switch to the business reason for the meeting.
  • Introductions and Greetings: Firm handshakes, a ‘Hello’ are a good start. Maintain eye contact otherwise you may seem shifty and insincere. Good humor, modesty and a friendly approach will go down well. Start the handshakes with your most senior counterpart, usually the person chairing the meeting, and work down from them. If introductions begin with ‘Mr.’ and ‘Mrs.’ they generally quickly move to first name terms.
  • Gift-giving: There is little tradition for this in Ireland, so any small gifts should be thoughtful rather than ostentatiously expensive. Flowers are best avoided as certain species or colors can have particular significance. If invited into a home, chocolates or wine are a good bet.
  • Dress Code: This can vary between companies, but the safe option for business professionals is dark suits for men, and trousers, dresses. or skirts for women.
  • Negotiating the Deal: Informal agreements round the table should be turned into a formal written document as soon as possible. Meetings are generally run by a chairperson; judging their response should be a good way of assessing how the deal is moving forward.
  • Business Meals: If matters are progressing well, business discussions can be moved to a restaurant, pub, or coffee shop. Golf courses are another possible venue. This may seem an unstructured approach, but it is all part of the process.

Ireland Minimum Wage

There was a rise in the National Minimum Wage (NMW) in Ireland in 2021 from €10.10 per hour to €10.20 for adults above 20 years of age. For a basic 39 hours a week before deductions, this is €397.80 (US$472.38) per week, €1,723 (US$2,946) per month and €20,685 (US$24.563) per year.

Hourly rates for other ages: 

  • 19 years – €9.18 (US$10.92)
  • 18 years – €8.16 (US$9.70)
  • Under 18 – €7.14 (US$8.49)

Probation Periods in Ireland

A probation period in employment is a trial period for the employee and employer to assess suitability, competence, reliability and working conditions and can last between three and 12 months. The details should be written into the employment contract including holiday entitlements, possible extension, and notice period.

The contract will not be confirmed until after completing the probationary period to the employer’s satisfaction. Review meetings should be held and at the end of the probation it will either be success, fail or the employer may want to extend the trial. A notice period of one week (statutory minimum notice period) is given if they terminate the contract after the first 13 weeks.

There are circumstances, under the Unfair Dismissals Act (1997-2007), where employees cannot be dismissed, due to:

  • Pursuing trade union membership or activities
  • Matters relating to pregnancy
  • Protection given regarding maternity, parental, adoptive or caregiver’s leave

Working Hours in Ireland

The average working week in Ireland is around 39 hours. However, the Organization of Working Time Act (1997) stipulates that they cannot exceed 48 hours on average, which is calculated over a four-month period for most workers. This includes any overtime worked. However, certain sectors/industries can calculate over a longer period such as:

  • Key workers over a six-month period – security, hospital, airports, utilities etc.
  • Employer – employee agreements. Over a 12-month period when certified by the Labor Court

Exceptions are:

  • Police and Defense workers
  • The self-employed /family businesses
  • Seasonal workers

Employees receive a 15-minute break for working four-and-a-half hours and a 30-minute break after six hours, which can include the first 15 minutes. Payment for the breaks is not mandatory and depends on contractual arrangements. Workers should receive 11 hours continuous rest every 24 hours and two 24-hour breaks in seven days.

Overtime in Ireland

Overtime in Ireland is part of the employment contract. If an employee is contracted for a 39-hour week, then any hours over this are classified as overtime. This is up to the maximum number of hours allowed per week under the Organization of Working Time Act (1997) which is 48 hours on average over a four-month period. Overtime can also be written into the contract depending on company policy or can be governed by an industry or sector agreement –Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) and Registered Employment Agreements (REAs) which are legally binding in the sectors to which they apply and may also determine overtime pay rates.