Legislation to improve the security & predictability of working hours for employees


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Legislation to improve the security and predictability of working hours for employees passes Committee Stage in the Dáil

The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017, brought by Employment Affairs and Social Protection Minister Regina Doherty, T.D., has today (17th May 2018) cleared the Committee Stage in the Dáil. 

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.
 
Commenting on the Bill, Minister Doherty said: “This is a substantial piece of legislation that will improve the security and predictability of employment for thousands of workers. Once passed, the Act will apply to all employers across all sectors of the economy. We have sought to 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.”
 

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.

The Minister also successfully  introduced two important amendments which further enhance a number of provisions of the Bill. The amendments implement the Low Pay Commission  recommendations to abolish trainee  rates and also simplify minimum wage rates for younger workers.

The Minister said: 
“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. 
The Minister concluded: “This is an important piece of legislation which will genuinely help those employed in precarious situations. I am very pleased to see this Bill progressing through the Oireachtas and I look forward to working with Deputies and Senators to ensure that we deliver legislation that is fair and balanced."

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Last modified:18/05/2018