People professionals with responsibility for employees in Northern Ireland must be aware of the employment law differences from the rest of the UK (Great Britain, made up of England, Wales and Scotland). Whilst many employment rights will be the same in Northern Ireland as in Great Britain, there are key differences and the legal references used in relation to these rights (for example in employment contracts and in Compromise Agreements) may be different due to Northern Ireland-specific legislation. 

Employment law is devolved to Northern Ireland. Until about fifteen years ago, most statutory employment rights and obligations were largely the same in Northern Ireland as in Great Britain. However, there is now substantial divergence due to various factors. These include a wish to find local solutions, changes to the employment laws in Great Britain often not being approved by ministers and then the Northern Ireland Assembly to become policy. Further divergence could lie ahead if the Labour party wins the next UK general election. The party is promising significant employment law reforms and it’s currently unclear if any of these reforms will apply in Northern Ireland. 

It is also worth noting that as well as employment law, the laws on health and safety at work are also devolved and, therefore, these differ from those in Great Britain. This led to differences in the workplace and the return to the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic. The enforcement agency in Northern Ireland is the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI), which is an executive non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for the Economy. The HSENI website has further information regarding the main legislation, codes of practice and guidance applicable in Northern Ireland.

This factsheet for CIPD members provides an introductory overview of the key differences and important areas of employment law. It covers discrimination and promotion of equality, dispute resolution, tribunals and compromise agreements, TUPE, redundancy, working time and holidays, and data protection, as well as other areas. It provides a comparison of the principal Northern Ireland and Great Britain employment laws, and lists codes of practice that apply in Northern Ireland.

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Disclaimer 

​Please note: While every care has been taken in compiling this content, CIPD cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. These notes are not intended to be a substitute for specific legal advice. 

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