21 September 2016

Launch of Protection of Employment (Uncertain Hours) Bill 2016

A new Bill published today by Senator Ged Nash has the potential to transform the lives of working people by providing greater certainty and employment security for thousands of atypical workers in sectors such as hospitality, retail and the care sector.

Speaking at the launch of the Protection of Employment (Uncertain Hours) Bill 2016, Senator Nash explained: “Labour is the party of work and the evidence from the CSO shows that over 90% of the 150,000 jobs created between 2011 and the end of 2015 were full-time jobs.

“However, evidence from the University of Limerick study into the prevalence of zero-hour contracts, which I published almost one year ago, points to the evolution of employment relationships of an atypical and casual nature concentrated in areas such as hospitality, retail and the social care sector. These arrangements are occurring at the edge or even outside of our existing laws. Women are particularly affected by this phenomenon.

“Some of these uncertain hours practices have escaped Ireland’s suite of employment rights protections, such as the Organisation of Working Time Act. I believe workers are being exploited because of the deficits which currently exist.

“Under these new arrangements, the company is under no obligation to provide work to you at any time and you are under no obligation to accept it either. If no mutual obligation exists, then there is no enduring contract.

“People in these situations are, in effect, being told that they are casual day labourers, with few rights and no certainty over their hours and pay or security and continuity in terms of planning their lives.

“This is a perverse situation. Job insecurity, the inability to purchase or comfortably rent a home, an incapacity to plan family life, and entrapment in a succession of low-paid, low quality and short term jobs with little or no social safety net or legal protections should not be allowed to become a permanent feature of our landscape.

“I am determined to complete the job I started in office. Enactment of this legislation, which the Labour Party will table when the Seanad returns next week, will represent a major transformation of employment law protection for vulnerable workers in Ireland.”

Some key features of the Bill include:

New rules whereby periods of ‘lay-off’ between fixed term contracts will be deemed to represent continuity of service, rather than broken service

Where an employer registers an employee under the PAYE system, then the employee will be regarded as continuing in employment until the date specified in a notice to Revenue of cessation of employment

Important measures to include casual work in the calculation of continuous employment

An entitlement to request the employer to correct the employment terms so that the stated particulars of weekly hours of work reflect the pattern of work actually done per week in the previous six months

A Workplace Relations Commission complaints procedure to ensure fair and equitable application of cases under the legislation

An important anti-victimisation measure protecting workers from invoking their rights under the legislation

An exemption from the legislation in cases where employers and trade unions have negotiated sectoral employment orders or registered employment agreements, or where an employment regulation order has been signed as a result of a Joint Labour Committee initiative.

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