Tuesday, 26 February 2019
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
104. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if a review of legislation will be considered to allow employees who work at an embassy here to avail of rights under employment law here, including the pursuance of their cases through the appropriate workplace relations bodies; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [9594/19]
The Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 (“the Vienna Convention”) is an international treaty that provides a framework for diplomatic relations between States. The Vienna Convention was ratified by Ireland in 1967 and incorporated into Irish law by the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Act 1967. The Convention, which enjoys almost universal ratification, provides for various privileges and immunities for diplomats and certain other persons working at a Diplomatic Mission and the Missions themselves. Under the Convention, it is the duty of all persons enjoying diplomatic privileges and immunities to respect the laws and regulations of the host State, which includes applicable employment law.
Persons working for Diplomatic Missions – i.e. for foreign governments – may in certain circumstances bring legal proceedings in relation to their employment against that government, subject to the Vienna Convention and the rules of state immunity, also known as sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is a longstanding principle of international law which applies automatically and is not regulated by the Vienna Convention or domestic legislation. Cases of this nature are on occasion brought to the Workplace Relations Commission.
In addition to workers employed directly by Missions, there are instances in which diplomatic personnel assigned to Missions in Ireland employ private domestic employees. In such cases these relationships are expected to demonstrate respect for Irish laws and good employment practice.
This is set out in Guidelines published by my Department in 2014, which provide clear guidance and a framework for its implementation, underscoring the Government’s commitment to the protection of the rights of domestic workers in Ireland, including those employed by diplomatic staff.
The guidelines, which are available on my Department’s website, set out clearly the Government’s expectations in relevant cases regarding payment, employment records, health insurance and social security. They establish that an agreed undertaking of the terms and conditions of employment, in line with Irish employment law, should be signed by both the employer and the employee - prior to arrival in Ireland - where this is relevant.
Where sovereign or diplomatic immunity restricts legal proceedings in Ireland employment rights and standards at issue may still be enforceable in the courts of the foreign country concerned, if that state subscribes to those rights and standards.
While no review of legislation in relation to these matters is planned at present, my Department considers on an ongoing basis how best we can meet our international and national obligations in relation to these matters.