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- Developments

AOC
- Developments

Significant changes made to ‘zero hours’ Bill in preparation of its enactment.

Last week a number of significant amendments to the Employment (Miscellaneous) Bill were agreed to. These amendments appear to be big wins for the union side, whom have played a substantial role in getting the statutory foundation for banning zero hour contracts and putting banded hour contracts into the mainstream. Ibec have responded to the recent developments with alarm stating that allowing the Bill ‘to encroach into new areas of employment would be irresponsible and is no way to regulate a business relationship of such critical importance to the successful operation of Ireland’s economy’.
State Micromanagement of contracts of employment
Amendment 36, which was moved by Deputy Joan Collins and reads “In the event of hours becoming available an employer shall be required to offer any surplus hours to existing part-time employees first”. This potential new obligation to offer more working hours to existing part-time employees is jarring. Meave McElwee, Ibecs head of employer relations stated that this represents “State micromanagement of contracts of employment” as it would remove an employer’s ability to manage their business and staff. The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, was unsure about how this amendment would operate and be enforced. It was on this basis that she sought more time to discuss it outside of the committee hearing.
Tighter Bands and shortened look-back/reference period
The banded hour’s system may provide employees with greater minimum contractual hours than previously entitled to if it can be shown that the employee is working more hours than contractually entitled to, over a reference/look-back period.
The original Government ‘bands’ were as follows: Band A (1 hour to 10 Hours); Band B ( 11 Hours to 34 Hours); and Band D (35 Hours or more). The amendment suggested by Deputy Brady was carried which will now provide the following bands; Band A (3 Hours or more, less than 6 Hours); Band B (6 Hours or more, less than 11 hours); Band C ( 11 Hours or more, less than 16 Hours); Band D (16 Hours or more, less than 21 Hours); Band D (16 Hours or more, less than 21 Hours); Band E (21 Hours or more, less than 26 hours); Band F (26 Hours or more, less than 32 Hours); Band G (31 Hours or more, less than 36 Hours); Band H (36 Hours and over). The look-back/reference period has also been reduced from 18 months to 12months.

‘Deliberately and Recklessly’
It be noted that also introduced into the Bill last week was a provision to abolish training rates, under the National Minimum Wage Act and WRC adjudication officers will now have the ability to compel witnesses to attend hearings on unfair dismissal cases (under the UD Act 1977). It has also been proposed that it will now be an offence for an employer to deliberately or recklessly provide misleading information on an employee’s statement of terms of employment. The new ‘deliberately and recklessly’ measure would relieve the need on the WRC to prove that an employer set out to provide false or misleading information. The employer will be given five days to provide this information.

Conclusion
The recent amendments to the Bill which will mostly ban zero-hour contracts and provide a right to request more working hours have been advocated by Trade Unions but the employer body, Ibec, has expressed serious concern at how the Bill is developing. Its concerns go beyond the shorter look-back period and tighter bands of hours, to other amendments, as outlined above, which the body says, “far exceed[s] the remit of the Bill.”

The bill next goes to Report Stage in the Dail. The Minister said she hopes to have the Bill enacted before the summer recess.

31st May 2018

Anne O’Connell
Solicitors
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Sandyford
Dublin 18
www.aocsolicitors.ie

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