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The national minimum wage in Ireland is set to rise from €11.30 per hour to €12.70 in the wake of Budget 2024. The rise will come as a welcome boost for students working part-time, many of whom will see their hourly pay rise by €1.40 when the minimum wage increase comes into effect in 2024.

The national minimum wage will be replaced by a national living wage from 2026. The national living wage, announced last year, will be set at 60% of the median wage in any given year. The national minimum wage will continue to apply until 2026.

However, despite what the name may suggest, the minimum wage in Ireland is not as black and white as one may think. The minimum wage applies to most employees, with a number of groups being exempt either in full or in part from its application. It applies to full-time, part-time, temporary, casual employees and seasonal workers.

This article aims to explain all you need to know about the minimum wage in Ireland.

Exemptions to Paying Minimum Wage

While the general rule is that employers must pay employees at least the minimum wage, there are a number of exceptions. Individuals employed by a close relative are not entitled to the minimum wage. So, for example, students working for their parents’ business have no entitlement to be paid the minimum wage.

Similarly, those who are in employment as part of a statutory apprenticeship do not have to be paid the minimum wage. Perhaps the most controversial exemption are the sub-minimum wage rates for young people. Workers aged under 20 may, by law, be paid less than minimum wage. A 19 year old may be paid 90% of the minimum wage, an 18 year old may be paid 80% of the minimum wage, and those aged under 18 may be paid 70% of the minimum wage.

Not all employers will choose to avail of these sub-minimum wage rates. However, those that do are, unfortunately for affected young people, well within the rights to do so.

An employer who is unable to pay the national minimum wage to its employees due to financial difficulty may also be exempted from paying the minimum wage for between 3 months and one year. To do so, the employer must apply to the Labour Court, illustrate that they are unable to afford the national minimum wage, and have the consent of all employees.

What do I do if I am not being paid minimum wage?

If an employee is not being paid the appropriate minimum wage and none of the above exemptions apply, employees should raise the issue with their employer.

If the issue cannot be resolved, employees can submit a complaint online to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). The complaining employee may request an investigation by a WRC investigator or refer the dispute to a WRC adjudicator.

What about postgraduate researchers?

There has been much focus in recent months on the pay and conditions of postgraduate researchers in Ireland’s universities. There have been a number of protests by postgraduate researchers, with many citing the fact that the pay for those undertaking research, teaching and supervisory work while pursuing Ph.Ds. is just €7.88 per hour, far below the minimum and living wage.
The issue is that postgraduate researchers are, in most cases, not considered workers. Individuals working on a Ph.D. receive a standard stipend of €19,000 (rising to €22,000 from 2024).

As a result of this, Ph.D. researchers are not covered by minimum wage legislation. Additionally, Ph.D. researchers do not pay PRSI contributions and so are not entitled to many of the state supports that workers receive.

*The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey legal advice.

Mark O’Rourke – Features Editor