Government agrees major reforming industrial relations legislation

Legislation will provide significant strengthening of laws to protect and promote workers’ rights and the low paid, and certainty for businesses and employers – Minister Bruton, Minister Nash

The Government has agreed the publication of legislation which provides for significant reforms to Ireland’s industrial relations laws.

The new laws will balance the interests of workers and employers by providing certainty and clarity for businesses while enhancing collective bargaining in workplaces, providing for registered employment agreements to be re-established and sectoral wage rates and conditions to be re-introduced and placing the Low Pay Commission on a statutory basis.  

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton TD and the Minister for Business and Employment Ged Nash TD secured Cabinet agreement for the publication of the new legislation. It will provide an improved framework for workers who seek to better their terms and conditions where collective bargaining is not recognised by their employer as well as to provide a replacement for Registered Employment Agreements, and separately another Bill to establish the Low Pay Commission on a statutory basis.

The Collective Bargaining element of the legislation will provide a mechanism for workers who seek to improve their terms and conditions in companies where collective bargaining is not recognised by their employer.  When enacted it will ensure that such workers, aided by a trade union, can advance claims about remuneration, terms and conditions and have these determined by the Labour Court based on comparisons with similar companies.

The proposed laws have strong anti-victimisation protections.  

In addition, any determination by the Labour Court may also be enforced by the Circuit Court, should any employer refuse to engage.  

Ministers Bruton and Nash said that they are confident that the legislation, when enacted, will fit Ireland’s constitutional, social and economic traditions and its international obligations, and will ensure continued success in creating jobs and attracting investment into the economy.



The Programme for Government contained a commitment to address the legislative gaps and the Statement of Priorities agreed by the Taoiseach and Tanaiste in July also committed to prioritise the enactment of Collective Bargaining legislation.

The Ministers are also publishing legislation to provide for a system of Registered Employment Agreements (REAs) and Sectoral Employment Orders.  

As well as allowing trade unions and employers register agreements again, the new legislation will allow trade unions and employers to apply to the Labour Court to undertake a review of pay/pensions/sick pay in terms of workers in a particular sector and make recommendations to the Minister for the making of an order in these areas. These Orders will have legal effect.

Legislation which will establish the new Low Pay Commission on a statutory basis is also being published.  The Commission will recommend to Government on an annual basis the appropriate rate of the National Minimum Wage. In addition, the Commission can examine related matters affecting the NMW subject to agreement at Cabinet in the first quarter of each year.

The Commission is being chaired by Dr Donal de Buitléir and is made up of nine members.  

It has already begun its work on an interim basis, examining data sets and taking submissions on the minimum wage and is due to deliver its first report to Government by mid-July.