Local authority employees comprise  approximately 2 percent of the workforce and over 10 percent of the public sector workforce.  Local authorities have powers to employ such persons as they may from time to time think proper and determine and alter their remuneration and terms of employment. Most employment legislation applies to local authority employees.

Employment is subject to overall control by the Department of the Environment and Local Government which lays down objectives in relation to staffing, grading, recruitment practices and terms of employment.

Pay and conditions are negotiated centrally through the Local Government Management Services Board.  The Department of Finance has an overarching role in relation to public expenditure. There are, therefore, common conditions of employment throughout the local authorities.

The functions conferred on elected members of the authority do not apply to employment,  employees of a local authority, the performance of any executive function in relation to such employees, their direction, supervision remuneration or discipline.  Any resolution which claims to so apply is invalid.

Modern Position

Local authorities may employ such staff as are deemed necessary and may determine the terms of employment and remuneration.  The appropriate Minister may determine the retirement age.

The legislation applies to all local authority employees.  The department’s role in individual staff matters is terminated and general employment law applies to local authority staff.

Local authorities’ employees have a statutory obligation to perform such duties as are assigned to them in accordance with the terms of their employment and carry out instructions.

The Unfair Dismissals Act applies to all local authority employees other than the manager.  The manager is appointed, suspended and removed by the elected members.

Grades and Structures

Administrative and technical grades are organized into structures.  Technical grades are those involving technical and professional qualifications in a particular area.Recent reforms have responded to criticism that administrative and technical grades were largely mutually exclusive.

Below county or city manager level, the senior administrative technical grades have been replaced by a Director of Services grade.  Each director is a program manager and is responsible for a particular service area.  Vacancy at Director of Services level are open to all staff.The reforms also saw creation of new senior administrative and technical posts below the level of Director.

Attempts have been made to reduce the dual structure by the increased professionalization of administrative grade and harmonization of pay and conditions at certain levels.

Local authority staff grading embodies a long hierarchy.  Clerical and administrative grades commence at clerical officer progress to assistant staff officer, senior staff officer administrative officer, administrative executive officer and then senior management grades.

Technical and professional grades commence at graduate level moving on to assistant executive, senior executive, potentially progressing to director of services and management grades mentioned above.

A large number of employees of local authorities are outdoor workers.  There are a number of structures including five grades at craft worker structure, eight grades at general operative structure and five grades at water and sewage  structure.

Salary structures are linked to grading. The structures have been criticized in that they do not allow opportunity to reward particular performance.  The principal way to secure a salary increase is by progressing up through grades. Some grades have been amalgamated and attempts have been made to provide for broader grades with salary levels linked to performance.


The Local Appointments Commissioners was established in 1926 in order to create a transparent and objective recruitment system.  It is based on the Civil Service Commissioners introduced at the same time.  The organization selects and recommends persons for appointment to senior manager and professional grades. Other positions are recruited by local authorities themselves in accordance with established procedures common to all bodies.

The Public Service Appointment Commission  was established in 2004 to replace the above Commissioners.  It acts as a single recruitment and selection body for across a range of public service bodies including local authorities.

The Public Service Management Recruitment on Appointments Act 2004 replaced the Local Appointments Commissioner. The Minister determines

  • the classes and grades of employment,
  • age,
  • qualifications

for  local authority employment.

Technically, the local authority determines the remuneration and conditions of employment and may alter them.  The Minister may provide that the powers of a local authority in relation to employment are exercised only with its consent.

Modern Recruitment

Recruitment to the public service at entry grade is at levels (III and IV) Appointments to grades V and VI are by a promotion competition which is also open to those with particular experience in other local authorities, health boards, health service authorities certain other institutions and hospital boards.

The Public Services Appointment Commission fills roles of senior executive officer director of services and county manager (now the chief executive) .  Candidates generally come from a local government background.

Technical and professional grades competitions are usually open.  High level grades may require past experience.  Some of the most senior grades are filled by the Local Appointment Commission] but are likely to come from within the local authority background.

Other grades are recruited from both internal competition and open competition. As part of employer-staff agreement and organizational reforms local authorities have arranged promotional opportunities which are limited to existing staff at certain level.


The county manager (now the chief executive) has been given authority to create certain new posts at or below grade level VII or technician grade I and fill them by limited competition.  This is subject to being within the overall budget.

Local authorities on occasions create special temporary or contract based positions in order to obtain certain skills.

The Minister may specify qualifications for posts and grades.  The Minister will consult the Public / Local Appointment Commissioner. The local authority may fix qualifications for employment provided the qualifications had not previously been declared by the Minister.

Most local authority have designated training officers to support training and development of personnel. External  trainers may include SOLAS.

The Local Government Services Corporate Bodies Act gives powers to the Minister for Local Government with the consent of the Minister for Finance to establish bodies by way of establishment order.  The establishment order may provide for employment of officers and employees to officers under the body as if it were a local authority.  The local authority officers and employees legislation apply subject to modifications as may be provided.

Minister / Department

The local authority must comply with the directions given by the Minister and guidelines issued by the Local Government Management Services Board.

There is provision for local authority staffing and organisational arrangements to be made by the manager.  Functions of local authority may be discharged by employees for whom the manager is responsible.  Employees must perform the duties assigned to them in relation to the local authority functions concerned.

The appropriate Minister may declare or amend qualifications necessary for particular local authority employment.  Functions of the Minister may be transferred to the Board by order.  The local authority may fix qualifications in the respect of which are not already fixed by the Minister or the Board.

A local authority may not employ a person who is an elected member of a local authority.  A Minister may by order provide that the prohibition does not apply to particular grade.

HR & Industrial Relations

Local authorities are supported by the Local Government Management Services Board.  The board consists of managers and departmental representatives as well as employees human resource personnel. It provides support and advice on human resource matters to local authorities.

It negotiates on local authorities’ behalf in relation to industrial relations issues.  It will therefore handle money matters that would normally be handled by the human resources department in other bodies.

Local authorities’ staff are highly unionised.  Until recently, most of the third party employment bargaining was set in the context of national wage agreement.


Local authority employees are a member of a statutory pension scheme.  Normal retirement age is between 60 and 65.  The scheme is designed to provide an incomes of half the final income plus social welfare pension.

Staff who ‘joined after 1995 are obliged to contribute 1.5 percent of full pay and 3.5 percent of so-called coordinated pay.  This is full pay less twice the rate of old age pension. Staff in officer grades who’ve joined prior to that date have a lower rate PRSI and no additional pension contribution.

The superannuation scheme may apply to the body as if it was a local authority.  The order establishing the body will generally provide for remuneration conditions of service and the tenure of offices of all employees and officers.

The Local Government Superannuation Act 1980 provides for the making of schemes for pensions to local authority officers and employees. A body’s employees may be covered by a scheme.

The Minister may with the consent of the Department of Finance make schemes for the grant of pensions, lump sum gratuities, severance gratuities and injuries benefits as well as allowances on retirement or death. Different circumstances might be specified. The legislation provides for the kind of benefits that might be provided under a scheme.

Authorities whose employees are covered by the scheme are required to establish registers for the schemes.  Scheme benefits may be paid toa  personal representative without probate, subject to certain limitations.

Different schemes might be made in relation to different classes or description of persons employed by the body legislation applied to local authorities, former health boards and bodies established by the Minister under statutory power. The schemes may be amended from time to time by regulations made by the Minister.  Regulations should be laid before both houses.

If a person ceases to be an employee the body may subject to regulations made by the Minister may be paid gratuity on such terms that might be specified.


Qualifications for local authority employment are laid down by the Minister in respect of  various classes, descriptions and grades.  The Minister consults with the Commission for the Public Service Appointment for positions.

A person may not be appointed to employment unless he meets the requisite qualification. Additional conditions are not set by the local authority without the consent of the Department. The required qualifications may be amended from time to time.

The local authority may set terms and conditions of employment in respect of which the Minister has not made the requisite declaration. Where the Minister declares qualifications this shall supervene any local authority conditions.

The general statutory prohibition on  local authorities employees being members of the authority may be modified by ministerial order in respect to such classes descriptions and grades of employment as the Minister decides.

There are similar provisions to those above in relation to related bodies, which are  modified.

Conflict of Interests

Local authority employees may not engage in an occupation other than as employees of the authority to an extent that it impairs their performance of their duty.  They may not engage in an occupation that may conflict with their interest or be inconsistent with the performance of their duty.

An employee who is in professional grade is not permitted to engage in private practice or a profession where he is employed or a similar profession.

Employee must make declarations of interest dependent on their grade.  These are available for public inspection.

An ethics registrar must be appointed within each local authority. Local authorities may not employ persons who are elected members.

Ethical Obligations

The Local Government Act provides an ethical framework for the local government service.  The main provisions of the legislation apply to

  • members of local authorities,
  • officers and  employees of local authorities of a grade and class prescribed by the Minister and
  • other employees in position designated by an order of the manager of the authority
  • Certain provisions apply to all local authority employees.

The Minister for Finance in consultation with the Commission issues codes of conduct for the guidance of members and employees of local authorities.  They deal with the conduct standards of integrity of members, officers and employees in the performance of their functions.  It is designed to uphold public confidence in the integrity and discharge of local authority functions.

There is a national code for the conduct of local authority employees.  The Minister may review the code of conduct and amend it from time to time.  Members, officers and  employees must be guided by the code in the exercise of their functions.

The national code of conduct for local authority employees is to provide to all employees, officers and members.  Regard is to be had to the code by courts in any proceeding.

Ethics Legislation

An employee or member of the local authority is not to seek extract or accept payment from any person, other than the local authority, any fee remuneration or favour for anything done or not done in his employment.  This is without prejudice to the prevention of corruption legislation generally.

Certain classes of employee must make an annual declaration to the ethics registrar setting out particulars of declarable interest and undertakings by him or her.

He or she is to be guided by the code of conduct in the exercise of its function.  Each employee of the local authority is to prepare and furnish an annual declaration to the ethics registrar.

The ethics register is a public register comprising one part dealing with elected members’ interests and one dealing with officers / employees’ interest.  Copies of the register of interests may be obtained on paying a fee.

Declarable Interests

Each of the following is a declarable interest

  • Any profession, business or occupation whether on his own on behalf or on behalf of another which relates to dealing or developing a land during the appropriate period
  • Any remunerated profession, employment or vocation of the person concerned during that period
  • Any interest in land or options held directly or indirectly
  • Any business of dealing in a developing land in which the person or a nominee is involved
  • Various directorships and shareholding
  • Gifts excluding certain gifts given by friends of clearly personal nature gifts less than a certain value
  • Property supplied subject to minimum exceptions
  • Contracts in which the person is concerned directly or indirectly above a certain level
  • Remunerated positions

Disclosure of Interest

Where an employee of the authority or other person whose services are being used by the authority has actual knowledge that a connected person has a pecuniary or beneficial interest in the matter he must not seek to influence or influence or seek to influence a decision in relation to the matter concerned.

Where he or she is  an employee concerned in the matter he or she  must disclose this matter to the manager and follow the manager’s direction. Where his personal services are being availed of by the local authority he must disclose this to the manager and comply with directions

Breach of the legislation is an offence.  It may be subject on  summary conviction or on  conviction on indictment to  fine  up to €12,700, three years imprisonment in the latter case.


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Draft Articles; The articles on this website are in draft form and are subject to further review for typographical errors and, in some cases, updating and correction. It is intended to include references to the sources of materials and acknowledgements in the final version. The content of articles with [EU] in the title and some of the articles in the section on Agriculture are a reproduction of or are based on European or Irish public sector information.

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