Employment protections extended to Seafarers – Seafarers directive transposed into Irish law

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Transposition of Directive (EU) 2015/1794 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 October 2015 amending Directives 2008/94/EC, 2009/38/EC and 2002/14/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, and Council Directives 98/59/EC and 2001/23/EC, as regards seafarers ('the Seafarers Directive')

Thursday, 18th January 2018: The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty T.D. today announced that the new European Communities (Seafarers) Regulations 2018 have been signed into law.

This new legislation transposes EU Directive 2015/1794, the objective of which is to improve employment protections for seafarers.

From today, seafarers on Irish registered vessels are now specifically brought within scope of the Protection of Employment Acts 1977 to 2007, which means that seafarers must be informed and consulted by employers in situations of collective redundancies.

The Regulations signed by Minister Doherty today also mean that seafarers’ rights are safeguarded where their employer transfers the business to another employer within the meaning of the Regulations, as they are now brought into scope of the European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 131 of 2003).

The new Regulations further clarify the situations where the Transfer of Undertakings Regulations apply to the transfer of a seagoing vessel.  They also provide additional protections to allow seafarers to participate in consultation and negotiation meetings under the Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees Act 1996.

On signing the new regulations Minister Doherty said: “In bringing these important Regulations into law, I am giving effect to an EU Directive agreed by the Member States, European Council and European Parliament, and which was based on an agreement reached by the European Social Partners in the maritime sector.

These Regulations now mean that seafarers will no longer be excluded from information and consultation rights and the rights to fair working conditions provided for in situations of collective redundancies and the transfer of undertakings.”

The Minister went on to affirm that: “From today, seafarers are entitled to the same employment protections as other workers when collective redundancies are anticipated by an employer.  Seafarers are now also afforded significant protections when their employer transfers the business to another employer.

These Regulations will help ensure seafarers are afforded the same protections as other workers and are better protected in terms of working conditions and information and consultation rights.”


Note for Editors  – the Seafarers Directive

What is the purpose of the Directive?
The objective of Directive (EU) 2015/1794 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 6 October 2015 is to provide seafarers with the same employment protections as those enjoyed by on-shore workers.

What does the Directive do?
The Directive amends five earlier Directives which either excluded seafarers from scope or allowed Member States the option of excluding them. The five Directives are:

  • Directive 2008/94/EC (Insolvency Directive),
  • Directive 2009/38/EC (European Works Council Directive)
  • Directive 2002/14/EC (Information and Consultation Directive)
  • Directive 98/59/EC (Collective Redundancies Directive), and
  • Directive 2001/23/EC (Transfer of Undertakings Directive).

In addition to removing the exemptions relating to seafarers, the Directive also inserts new sub-paragraphs in the European Works Council Directive and in the Transfer of Undertakings Directive which provide clarification about the operation of each Directive in relation to seafarers.

Who is covered by the 2018 Regulations?
It is intended that persons who are employed in any capacity on board a ship (whether involved in the operation of a ship or in ancillary work eg catering) are covered by these Regulations. However, they must fall under the definition of ‘employee’ as provided for in each of the national transposing legislative instruments referred to in order for the relevant protections to apply.

What do the 2018 Regulations provide for?

  • The Regulations amend the Protection of Employment Acts 1977 to 2007 in order to remove the exclusion of seafarers. These Acts provide for a process of information and consultation between the employer and the employee representatives in circumstances where a collective redundancy is proposed, with a view to avoiding the proposed redundancies, reducing the number of employees affected by them or mitigating their consequences. 
  • The Regulations also provide that where the proposed collective redundancies concern members of the crew of a seagoing vessel, the employer shall notify the competent authority of the State under whose flag the vessel flies. This means that only Irish registered ships are required to notify the Minister.

  • The Regulations also provide for an amendment to the European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003 (S.I. No. 131 of 2003) in order to bring seafarers within scope of the Directive.  The 2003 Regulations are aimed at safeguarding the rights of employees in the event of a transfer of an undertaking, business or part of a business to another employer, within the meaning of the Regulations.
  • The new Regulations also provide clarification that a transfer consisting exclusively of one or more seagoing vessels is not a transfer of an undertaking for the purposes of the directive.

  • Finally, the Regulations amend the Transnational Information and Consultation of Employees Act 1996, to provide that specific arrangements should be made in respect of crews of sea-going vessels attending meetings of the special negotiating body/European Works Council. No amendment is required in relation to bringing seafarers within the scope of this legislation as they are already in scope, the exemption allowed by the original Directive not having been availed of by Ireland in the transposition process.

Why is the Directive being transposed?
This is a mandatory Directive and therefore no policy choices are available with respect to its transposition.

Why was Ireland late in transposing the Directive?
The Seafarers Directive was due for transposition by 11 October 2017. The short delay in transposing the Directive was due in the main to the transfer of functions from the Department of Business Enterprise and Innovation to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection during the summer.

What is the impact of the Regulations/Directive on Ireland?
The new Regulations mean that employment protections already available to other employees in relation to collective redundancies and transfer of undertakings situations will now apply to seafarers, but only if they are employees as defined by the relevant national Act/Regulations.

In relation to the other two existing Directives referred to in the Seafarers Directive – the Insolvency Directive and the Information and Consultation Directive – no action is required by Ireland.  This is because Ireland never excluded seafarers from the scope of the Irish transposing legislation in this regard.

The Regulations extend to seafarers the protections already enjoyed by the majority of other employees. While the numbers of such employees are relatively low in a national context, the Regulations fulfil an important obligation on our part to transpose a Directive agreed by Member States on foot of an agreement reached by European Social Partners in the maritime sector.


Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
Contact Details
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Last modified:18/01/2018