Small Business

Are Timesheets a Legal Requirement in Ireland?

Understand your legal obligations when it comes to recording your employees' working time...
Sean QuinnPosted on Friday, March 3rd 2023

If you employ people in your small business, you'll need to be aware of the rules surrounding their working time and breaks, and what records you'll be legally required to keep. There are strict rules in place in Ireland to protect employees, but we're here to help you keep on top of your time tracking responsibilities.

Most rules apply to all employees, however there are exceptions, for example the Gardaí and Defence Forces are not governed by the same rules on their working hours. There are also exceptions to be made for employees who are under the age of 18. Generally though, for most small businesses, the rules apply in the same way across the board.

How many hours can you work a week?

The Organisation of Working Time Act in Ireland dictates employees' maximum hours, as well as their entitlement to breaks for rest. The act stipulates that employees cannot work more than 48 hours a week on average. Working time does not include time spent travelling to and from work (unless there is no fixed place of work) and doesn't include time spent on annual leave, sick leave, adoptive or parental leave.

The reference period for calculating an employee's average weekly hours depends on the industry; for the majority of businesses, the reference period is 4 months, however businesses such as hospitals, prisons and tourist attractions may use a reference period of 6 months. Employees can agree with their employer to extend their reference period to 12 months.

The Organisation of Working Time Act also stipulates that employees are legally entitled to breaks during the working day. After 4.5 hours worked, they're entitled to 15 minutes. After 6 hours, they're entitled to 30 minutes total rest time - which can include the first 15 minute break.

Breaks aren't included as working time, and there's also no legal right to paid breaks. Whether a break is paid or not should be laid out in an employee's employment contract.

Additional rights to breaks are given to shop workers, with the Act stipulating that they must receive a one-hour consecutive break between the hours of 11.30AM and 2.30AM, if they work for greater than 6 hours between those times.

Breastfeeding mothers are also legally entitled to extra paid rest time for the first 6 months of their baby's life to breastfeed or express milk; this can either be taken as a 60 minute break during the day, or a 60 minute reduction in their usual working hours.

How long should employees rest between working days?

There are laws surrounding both daily rest periods, and weekly rest periods.

The right to a Daily rest period means that employees should have at least 11 hours rest between working days. For example, an employee who finishes their working day at 6PM should not begin work until 5AM the next day.

Weekly rest period rules mean that employees are entitled to a period of 24 hours away from work in any 7 days, which should be taken on a Sunday unless otherwise stipulated in their employment contract. If they are unable to take a weekly rest period, they are entitled to two 24 hour rest periods in the next week.

Do the rules on breaks apply to all employees?

The rules on breaks usually apply to most workers, with the exception of certain industries such as the Gardaí, Defence Forces and those involved in transport activities. Employees aged 16 and 17 also have slightly different entitlement to rest breaks, governed by the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act

Exceptions can also be made for shift workers, or in case of an emergency - in these circumstances, workers can take compensatory rest at another time to make up for any missed breaks.

What records do I need to keep about my employees' working time?

As an employer, you are responsible for keeping detailed records for each day and week about your employees' working time, rest periods, breaks and leave taken from work.

These records can be kept either electronically or in the form of a physical OWT1 form, but must always be accessible to inspectors from the Workplace Relations Commission if required. Working time records are excluded from the General Data Protection Regulations, and must be stored for 3 years.

Failure by an employer to keep these records can result in a fine of up to €1,900.

Whose responsibility is it to fill in timesheets?

Although employees may be asked to fill in daily or weekly timesheets, the legal responsibility for keeping records on employees' working time falls with the employer.

Employees cannot be penalised for failure by their employer to keep accurate records of their working time.

What records need to be kept by employers in Ireland?

Your records for each employee should include:

  • Their name, address, Personal Public Service number, and a description of their duties
  • Their employment contract
  • Their total hours worked for each day and week
  • A record of hours of leave taken, along with payment received for that leave
  • A record of additional pay for public holidays
  • A written record of notification of working time (ie. their weekly rota)

TimeKeeper can help you fulfil your legal obligations with regard to your employees' working time, rotas, breaks and overtime, as well as tracking their annual leave and public holidays. Human Resources information can be stored too, including documents and contracts which can be viewed by employees at any time.

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