All across Ireland, we start going to work at a young age. Whether we are still in secondary school or heading to college most of us will apply for a minimum wage job. They are the easiest to apply for and in the short term the money is great when starting to save and being able to afford a social life, topping up your leap card, travelling and rent. It is no lie that Ireland is one of the most expensive countries to live in so if you have a chance at becoming employed, it is more than likely that you will take it no matter what. When I began working in a shop almost two years ago, I told myself to work hard and put up with whatever issues I would face as I would only be there for the short term. Now, looking back, it is clear to me how vulnerable I was from not being fully educated on my rights and how easy it then was for violating them to become normalised.
First and foremost it is important to read your contract of employment which will be given to you by your employer. This will include details such as the minimum and maximum amount of hours and the amount you will be paid. According to the National Minimum Wage Act if you are above the age of 20 years old you should be getting paid (at least) the full minimum wage of €10.10. In the circumstance that your payslip is incorrect it is within your rights to bring it up with your supervisor or manager to get it sorted as soon as possible. This can be done quickly. Similarly if you find you are working too many hours, not getting sufficient breaks at work or not getting enough rest hours in between shifts it is your right to point it out and ensure you are being treated fairly. While it is your employer’s responsibility to make sure your rights are being upheld when making these decisions, the reality is mistakes can be made and we need to point them out to fix them.
As a woman in the workplace I have experienced sexism, sexual harassment and emotional abuse that have gone unnoticed as they are so subtle they have become normal to not only other staff but also to myself. From being in discussion with colleagues and friends who work in different stores across Ireland it is clear that there is an ancient mindset of men doing certain jobs and women doing others. An example that stands out the most is women being on shop tills for much longer periods of time and not being asked to do certain jobs such as putting the bins out that would be considered a man’s responsibility. It is vital that when you spot these behaviours that you point them out and if they persist go to someone of a higher authority such as your manager to deal with the problem. As a woman in the workplace it is not enough to complain when being asked to do the stereotypical women’s duties (tills, cleaning, cooking), to push for equality it is vital that we ask to do the stereotypical men’s duties (bins, shelf stacking, lifting) too. For equality in the workplace these must be equally shared. We all have the right to be treated fairly and I personally believe we have the responsibility to ensure others are treated fairly too.
If you are starting work or have been working in Ireland make sure you know your rights not only so you know what is wrong when you see it but also so you can feel safe in your working environment. Citizensinformation.ie is a great website with information on your rights as an employee where you can learn what pay you should be getting, your hours and how you should be fairly treated. During the pandemic I joined a trade union for accurate information and support to ensure my workplace is a safe one. Our employers have a responsibility to create a fair and safe environment but as employees we have a
responsibility to stand up for our rights and our colleagues rights for an equal and secure workplace.