The Government has approved a new pay agreement which will provide pay increases and wage structure for early learning and childcare workers.

Employment Regulation Orders will commence on 15 September and will provide new minimum hourly rates of pay for various roles in the early years services sector, ranging from €13-an-hour for early years educators and school-age childcare practitioners, to €17.25-an-hour for graduate managers.

It is estimated that 73% of those working in the sector will see their wages rise as a result of the Employment Regulation Orders.

"I am very pleased to approve these Employment Regulation Orders which will commence on 15 September," said Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English.

"The proposals submitted to me will apply to some 27,000 staff and are a welcome acknowledgement of the importance of the work carried out by everyone working in the early learning and childcare sector," he added.

The Employment Regulation Orders are being supported by the Government's €221m Core Funding Scheme, which will see increases in funding to early learning and childcare services to support improvements in staff wages, alongside a commitment to freeze parental fees.

The Core Funding Scheme was announced by Minister for Children Roderic O'Gorman as part of Budget 2022.

"I have always said that I believe early years educators and school-age childcare practitioners need their pay and conditions to reflect the importance of the work they do," Minister O'Gorman said.

"Today's announcement is an historic first step towards that," he added.

SIPTU, which has 6,000 members in the early childcare and education sector, has welcomed the pay agreement.

"Low pay has caused a staffing crisis in early years as services struggle to recruit and retain staff," SIPTU Head of Organising Darragh O'Connor said.

"This pay deal, and future pay increases, mean that early years professionals can plan to stay in their chosen profession in the long term," he added.

Childhood Services Ireland (CSI), the Ibec group that represents the childcare sector in Ireland, said the new pay agreement will help improve staff retention and quality, but cautioned that it will be unsustainable for many childcare providers without ambitious support from the Government's Core Funding Scheme.

"With increasing inflationary pressures and a freeze on parental fees, childcare services will struggle to sustain higher wages and will be forced to close their doors without significant Government investment," said CSI Director Darragh Whelan.