The government has drafted a bill to restrict casualization and precarious work. The Bill has been brought forward after the study conducted by the University of Limerick on the prevalence of zero hour contracts and low hour contracts and their impact on employees.
The Bill aims to address key issues which have been identified as being areas where current employment rights legislation can be strengthened to the benefit of employees, particularly low paid, more vulnerable workers, without imposing unnecessarily onerous burdens on employers and businesses. The Bill addresses the following: –
• Ensuring that workers are better informed about the nature of their employment and the core terms at an early stage. This would entail that employees would be informed about the conditions of employment within 5 days of the start of employment regarding the 5 core terms of employment such as: –
o Full name of the employer and employee
o Address of the employer
o Expected duration of the contract whether it is temporary or fixed-term
o Rate of pay
o Length of the working day and week; how many hours will the employee work.
• Prohibition of zero hour contracts. This would include workers called in for work however when they do not receive those hours would be compensated for the hours which weren’t given to them.
• A proposal that if the contract of employment does not reflect the reality of hours worked on a consistent basis over an 18 month period the employee must be placed on a band which reflects the actual hours worked. If the contract states that they will work 10 hours per week but over an 18 months period they have worked 35 hours then after 18 months they are entitled to be placed in a band of working hours that accurately reflect the hours worked.
Employers are unhappy with the proposed reforms governing low hours or precarious employment contracts as they could have serious consequences for employers and employees. There are a number of reasons for this: –
• Zero hour contracts were not prevalent as only 5.3% of workforce were on variable hours contracts
• The new bill would add huge costs to small businesses and schools
• More administration for businesses without any benefits
• There is an EU directive which deals with the rights of part time workers
My own thoughts on this is that the proposed legislation places a heavy burden on especially small companies regarding administration without any benefits. To send out a letter to a new employee within 5 day with the main points of his contract doesn’t serve any purpose where it would be more beneficial if the employer sent out the contract of employment within 5 days.
For a lot of small and medium size companies part time contracts are necessary for survival as it gives them the flexibility to handle busy periods. Part time contracts are also beneficial for employees as some do not want to work full time and part time work is a proven method of keeping work and getting experience during economically difficult times.
If the government want to improve the situation then they should be doing this through Employment Regulation Orders where this can be discussed and organised for specific sectors and tailor made solutions can be found. To come up with country wide solutions that should fit all different types of organisations is unrealistic. Furthermore there doesn’t seem to be a realisation that the small and medium size businesses are the biggest employers in Ireland and that they are struggling already with the amount of employment administration required.