Work-life balance

Ireland flagThe issue of work-life balance in Ireland is twofold. Firstly, the Irish are a nation that traditionally values the institution of family. Loyalty to the company is often overshadowed by the importance of one’s family life. In many cases the company and family becomes interconnected, particularly in private family businesses. The Irish thus prefer working schemes that allow sufficient time to be spent with the family. They love their work but at the same time assert that they work to live and do not live to work. Recently, as a result of current fast-paced lifestyles, there has been a strong movement to improve  work life balance. However, this has  not been the case with many SMEs, where there has been a culture of working long hours to start up a business, and a similar level of commitment is expected of graduates and employees. In fact this can be an area of conflict amongst those who value a work-life balance and family time and those that expect an exceptional work commitment.

The Irish like to think of themselves as a hard working country.

Secondly, in Ireland, the issue of work-life balance is becoming increasingly important as is the case in all of Western Europe. It is estimated that within 10 years, one of the most significant issues on an employers’ agenda could be the work life balance, as the Irish workforce is changing. To provide an opportunity to retain the brightest and best of their employees, a number of employers are introducing policies that address work-life balance and help workers to successfully combine employment with their family life , as well as caring responsibilities and personal and social life outside the workplace. The main work-life balance policies are annual leave,  maternity and paternity leave, flexible working hours, annualised hours, parental and carers’ leave, career breaks, term-timeworking,  sabbaticals, exam and study leave. The advancement in technology, in particular has allowed for new ways of work-life balancing, such as the creation of virtual teams or working from home.

Although a majority of work-life balance policies are not legally binding, it is to the employers’ advantage to introduce such schemes in order to retain a quality work force and prevent costly high staff turnover.

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 National Holidays

Irish law provides full time employees with a minimum of 20 days annual leave. In practice, many companies allow additional holidays as part of their benefits package and the time when holiday is taken is usually at the employer’s discretion. Some employers adopt a “leave year” policy and employees have to take their holidays during a specified period of the year. Employees who work part-time  are entitled to paid holidays of 6 hours for every 100 worked.

As well as the annual holiday entitlement, there are several public holidays in Ireland. These are:

  • 1st January: New Year’s Day
  • 17th March: Saint Patrick’s Day
  • First Monday in May: Labour Day
  • First Monday in June: June Holiday
  • First Monday in August: August Holiday
  • Last Monday in October: October Holiday
  • 25th December: Christmas Day
  • 26th December: Saint Stephen’s Day

Employees who do not work over a Bank Holiday will still receive a full day’s pay. Those who do work are usually paid and also receive a paid day off in lieu. It is quite common for companies to pay employees  extra when working on a Bank Holiday.

Working hours

In Ireland, the average working week must not exceed a maximum of 48 hours for many employees, in accordance with the European Working Time Directive. Employees are also entitled to a 15 minute break after 4 hour’s work and a further 15 minute break after a 6 hour work period. These breaks are unpaid.

Offices are generally open from 9.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. on Monday to  Friday with a lunch break of one hour. It is still common for companies to close entirely for lunch between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. and the phone will not be answered during this time. On weekends, offices are usually closed. Opening hours in retail are usually 9.00 a.m. to 8.00 p.m. during the week with slightly shorter hours on weekends. Banks open at 10.00 a.m. and close at 4.00 p.m. and on weekends they are usually closed. Opening hours of government offices are 9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. during the week and on weekends they close.

Health insurance

Citizens of the European Union are eligible to receive the same level of health care as the citizens of Ireland. This does not mean that all  medical care is provided  free of charge, some minor charges do apply. Depending on an individual’s income, they  can be eligible for an Irish medical card which entitles them to the full range of medical services at no cost.

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