Employment Rights for Migrant Workers in Ireland: Towards A Human Rights Framework

  • Deirdre ToomeyEmail author


This paper considers the right to work for migrant workers in Ireland. The right to work, as recognised in international human rights instruments, encompasses a range of interrelated rights. However, economic and labour market developments at local and global levels play a key role in defining the right to work. Diverse views in relation to conceptions of the right to work and the obligations of states highlight the complexity and controversial nature of these issues. A human rights framework recognises the indivisibility of the right to work from other fundamental human rights where the standards set out in international human rights instruments are reflected in national policies and practices, and ensures that national remedies are in place to address violations. States have the power and responsibility to make legislative and policy choices to protect, promote and fulfil human rights. Legislative and policy choices in Ireland have resulted in a two-dimensional system based on nationality and skill/qualification level. The result is that non-European Economic Area (EEA)/Swiss migrants, especially Black and minority ethnic migrants, and migrants in low-skilled employment areas are particularly vulnerable. In terms of moving towards a human rights framework in Ireland, legislative and policy choices should ensure the development of an employment permit system that is underpinned by the principle of permanence and prevents exploitation, strengthen anti-racism and anti-discrimination strategies, and support integration. However, legislative and policy choices need to be made within a human rights framework which considers state obligations in the context of greater dialogue between those engaged with labour rights, human rights and economic theory and in the context of domestic and global concerns.


Right to work Migrant workers Ireland Employment Human rights Legislative and policy choices 


  1. Amjad Hussein -v- The Labour Court and Mohammad Younis (2012) No. 194 J.R.Google Scholar
  2. Amnesty International. (2005). Our rights, our future: human rights based approaches in Ireland: principles, policies and practices. Ireland: Amnesty International (Irish Section) and International Human Rights Network.Google Scholar
  3. Barrett, A., Bergin, A., & Duffy, D. (2006). The labour market characteristics and labour market impacts of immigrants in Ireland, 37 The Economic and Social Review 1.Google Scholar
  4. Beirne, L., & Jaichand, V. (2006). Breaking down barriers: tackling racism in Ireland at the level of the State and its institutions. Ireland: Amnesty International and The Irish Centre for Human Rights National University of Ireland, Galway.Google Scholar
  5. Bomberg, E., & Peterson, J. (1999). The internal market. In Decision-making in the European Union. Basingstoke: McMilla.Google Scholar
  6. Burri, S., & Purchell, S. (2010). EU gender equality law update 2010. European Commission.Google Scholar
  7. Butler, P., & Redmond, D. (2003). Promoting an intercultural workplace: building on diversity. Report of the experience of Irish and migrant workers. Dublin: Nexus Research Co-operation.Google Scholar
  8. Campbell Catering Ltd v Rasaq (2004). 15 ELR 310 (EED048 26 July 2004).Google Scholar
  9. Central Statistics Office. (2012). Census 2011 profile 6 migration and diversity. Dublin: Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  10. Central Statistics Office (2011). Census of population 2011 preliminary results 30 June 2011, Accessed 13 Jan 2013.
  11. Central Statistics Office. (2007). Equality in Ireland 2007. Dublin: Stationery Office.Google Scholar
  12. Collins, H. (2011). Theories of Rights and Justifications for Labour Law. London School of Economics, Final 4/5/2011, SPi. Accessed 14/10/2014.
  13. Commission of the European Communities (2007). Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the third annual report on migration and integration. COM(2007) 512 final.Google Scholar
  14. Cholewinski, R. (2000). Economic and social rights of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe. Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law, 14, 709.Google Scholar
  15. Crowley, N. (2010). Hidden messages, overt agendas: A Migrant Rights Centre Ireland pamphlet. Dublin: MRCI.Google Scholar
  16. Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (2014). Welcome to the employment permits homepage—information on employment permit types Accessed 28 Oct 2014.
  17. ECRI (2013). Report on Ireland 4th monitoring cycle. Council of Europe. CRI(2013)1.Google Scholar
  18. European Committee of Social Rights (2013). Conclusions (Ireland) 2012 Articles 1, 9, 10, 15, 18 and 25 of the Revised Charter. Council of Europe.Google Scholar
  19. Fanning, B. (2009). Immigration and social cohesion. 98 Studies 391. Google Scholar
  20. Hammer, T. (2009). (eds). Sweden. In Comparative and ethnic relations: European immigration policy. Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Henkel, C. (2001). Constitutionalism of the European Union: judicial legislation and political decision-making by the European Court of Justice. Wisconsin International Law Journal, 19, 153.Google Scholar
  22. Immigrant Council of Ireland. (2012). Submission to the 4th Programme of law reform under the Law Reform Commission Act 1975—immigration, residence and citizenship—an area for law reform. Dublin: ICI.Google Scholar
  23. Immigrant Council of Ireland. (2011). Taking racism seriously: migrant experiences of violence, harassment and anti-social behaviour in the Dublin area. Dublin: ICI.Google Scholar
  24. Immigrant Council of Ireland (2010). Submission to the special rapporteur on the human rights of migrants on access to economic and social rights by migrants—particularly the enjoyment of the right to adequate standard of living (Art. 11 of IESCR) and right to health (Article 12 IESCR) for undocumented migrants in Ireland. Dublin: ICI.Google Scholar
  25. International Labour Conference, 95th Session (2006). Report of the Director General. Changing patterns in the world of work. Report 1 (C). Geneva: International Labour Office.Google Scholar
  26. Irish Human Rights Commission and National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (2004).Google Scholar
  27. Jaichand, V. (2010). An introduction to economic, social and cultural rights: overcoming the constraints of categorization through implementation. In A. R. Chowdhury & J. H. Bhuniyan (Eds.), An introduction to international human rights law. Leiden: Brill.Google Scholar
  28. Joyce, C. (2009). Annual policy report on migration and asylum 2008: Ireland. Dublin: Economic and Social Research Ireland and European Migration Network Dublin.Google Scholar
  29. Kelleher, C., & Kelleher, P. (2004). Voices of immigrants: the challenges of inclusion. Dublin: Immigrant Council of Ireland.Google Scholar
  30. Kelly, E., Kingston, G. & O'Connell, P. J. (2012). Ethnicity and nationality in the Irish labour market: evidence from the QHNS equality module 2010. Dublin: Economic and Social Research Institute and The Equality Authority.Google Scholar
  31. Kingston, G., McGinnity, F., O'Connell, P. and Quinn, E. (2012). Annual monitoring report on integration 2011. Dublin: Economic and Social Research Institute and The Integration Centre.Google Scholar
  32. Lappalainen (2004). Analytical report on legislation: Sweden. Vienna: EXPO Foundation Stockholm RAXEN National Focal Point European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC).Google Scholar
  33. Lunn, P., McGinnity, F., Nelson, J. & Quinn, E. (2009). Discrimination in recruitment: evidence from a field experiment. Dublin: Economic and Social Research Institute and The Equality Authority.Google Scholar
  34. McCrudden, C., & Kountouros, H. (2006). Human rights and European equality law. Research paper series. Working paper No 8/2006. University of Oxford Faculty of Law Legal Studies.Google Scholar
  35. McGinnity, F., & O’Connell, P. J. (2008). Immigrants at work: ethnicity and nationality in the Irish labour market. Dublin: Economic and Social Research Institute and The Equality Authority.Google Scholar
  36. Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (2014). New legislation will help prevent exploitation of undocumented migrants in Ireland. Accessed 28 Oct 2014.
  37. Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (2010). Regularisation of undocumented migrants policy paper 2010. Accessed 19 May 2013.
  38. National Employment Rights Agency (2012). Review of 2011. Dublin: NERA. Accessed 06 May 2013.
  39. Nic Shuibhne, N. (2002). The European Union and fundamental rights: well in spirit but considerably rumpled in body. In P. Beaumont, C. Lyons, & N. Walker (Eds.), Convergence and divergence in European public law. Oxford: Hart.Google Scholar
  40. Niessen, J., Schibel, Y., & Thompson, C. (Eds.). (2005). Current immigration debates in Europe: a publication of the European migration dialogue. Ireland: Migration Policy Group.Google Scholar
  41. Office of the Minister for Integration (2008). Migration nation: statement on integration strategy diversity and management.$File/Migration%20Nation.pdf. Accessed 18 May 2012.
  42. Power, J., & Szlovak, P. (2012). Migrants and the Irish economy. Dublin: The Integration Centre.Google Scholar
  43. Risse, M. (2008). A right to work? A right to leisure? Labor as human rights. John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, July 6 2008. Accessed 18 Oct 2014.
  44. Ruhs, M. (2006). The potential of temporary migration programmes in Future International Migration Policy. International Labour Review, 145(7), 1–2.Google Scholar
  45. Sarkin, J., & Koenig, M. (2011). Developing the right to work: intersecting and dialoguing human rights and economic policy. Human Rights Quarterly, 33, 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Snyder, F. (2004). Three challenges for the European constitution in the 21st Century. In P. Nebbia & T. Tridimas (Eds.), European Union law for the twenty-first century. Oregon: Oxford and Portland.Google Scholar
  47. Vienna Declaration and Programme for Action adopted at the World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna 14–25 June 1993 (12 July 1993) A/CONF.157/23.Google Scholar
  48. Weissbrodt, D. (2003). Special Rapporteur on the rights of non-citizens to the sub-commission on the promotion and protection of human rights. The rights of non-citizens addendum—summary of comments received from UN member states to Special Rapporteur’s questionnaire. E/CN.4/Sub.2/2003/23/Add.4 [26].Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Irish Centre for Human RightsNational University of IrelandGalwayIreland
  2. 2.Department of Sociology and Political ScienceNational University of IrelandGalwayIreland
  3. 3.EnnisIreland

Personalised recommendations