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8 May 2017

Ireland: Proposals to better regulate precarious work

The Irish government approved beginning of May 2017 draft legislative proposals that will ‘address problems caused by the increased casualisation of work and strengthen the regulation of precarious work’.

The proposals fit in commitments that were made by the current coalition in the Programme for Government. The draft proposals, which address zero hour contracts, low hour contracts, banded hours and related matters, are targeted in particular at low-paid workers on low hour contracts who consistently work more hours each week but whose contracts do not reflect the reality of their hours worked.

Important elements of the draft are the guarantee that workers are better informed about the nature of their employment arrangements and their core terms at an early stage in their employment.

As core terms are defined: the name of the employer and the worker, the address of the employer, the expected duration of the contract, the rate and calculation method of pay, the expected length of the working day and week. The intention is to introduce a floor payment for low-paid workers of minimum paid hours, to compensate workers if they are called in to work but do not receive the expected hours of work. Therefore, the draft introduces a new minimum floor payment, of 3 times the National Minimum Wage or 3 times the minimum rate set down in an Employment Regulation Order. The draft regulation includes an amendment to Section 18 of the Organisation of Working Time Act, which will prohibit zero hour contracts in most circumstances.

The legislative proposals are underpinned by a study conducted by the University of Limerick on zero hour and low hour contracts and by extensive material and practical examples provided by respondents to the public consultation on that study conducted by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.

The proposals have been discussed in a detailed dialogue with trade union confederation ICTU and the national employers’ organisation Ibec. The ICTU took a positive stand towards the proposals, whilst Ibec labelled the draft Bill ‘crude and disproportionate’.

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