Employment & Social ProtectionLegislation

Bill to prohibit Zero Hour Contracts reaches Second Stage in the Dáil

New legislation will improve security and predictability of working hours for employees

The Second Stage debate on the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 in the Dáil commenced yesterday (14th February). The bill will prohibit zero hour contracts and provide other protections to vulnerable workers without unnecessarily burdening employers.

The objective of the Bill is to improve the security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and those working variable hours. It follows the publication of the University of Limerick study on zero-hour contracts and low-hour contracts, as well as an extensive public consultation process and in-depth discussions with ICTU and IBEC over a number of months.

Striking a fair balance between rights and obligations of employees and employers

This Bill will apply to all employers across all sectors of the economy. It is important, therefore, that we strike a fair balance between the respective rights and obligations of employees and employers. Our approach in this Bill is to try to ensure that where we are introducing new rights for employees, or strengthening existing provisions in the law, the measures are proportionate and balanced.

The vast majority of employers are honourable in their treatment of their employees, and meet their responsibilities under employment law. These employers should have nothing to fear in this Bill. On the contrary, the Bill is aimed at tackling exploitative employment arrangements, and employers who do not respect even the most basic rights of employees.

Employment Bill 2017 strengthens employee rights in 5 key areas

The Bill addresses five key issues where employment law should be strengthened for the benefit of employees, without imposing unnecessarily onerous burdens on employers. The Bill will:

  1. Ensure that employees are better informed about the nature of their employment arrangements and, in particular, their core terms at an early stage of their employment. A new offence is being created where employers fail to comply with the new information requirements.
  2. Strengthen the provisions around minimum payments to low-paid vulnerable employees who may be called in to work for a period, but not provided with that work.
  3. Prohibit zero hour contracts, except in specific limited circumstances.
  4. Ensure that employees on low hour contracts who consistently work more hours each week than provided for in their contracts, are entitled to be placed in a band of hours that better reflects the reality of the hours they have worked on a consistent basis over an extended period.
  5. Strengthen the anti-penalisation provisions for employees who invoke, or try to invoke, a right that is specified in legislation.

Each of the key measures in this Bill individually, and in the round, will help protect employees from being exploited by ‘if and when’ contracts. The banded hours provision will apply to them, as will the new minimum compensation provisions, and the anti-penalisation provisions that gives them recourse to the WRC.

This is an important piece of legislation which will genuinely help those employed in precarious situations. I look forward to working with Deputies and Senators to ensure that it is enacted as soon as possible.

If you’d like to ask a particular question about the bill or share your own thoughts or experiences please contact me here.