On Thursday 7th December 2017, Employment Affairs and Social Protection Minister, Regina Doherty, T.D. published the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017.

The Bill seeks to deliver on the government’s commitment to tackle the problems caused by the casual work and to better regulate such casual work, with the key objective of the bill being “to improve the security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and those working variable hours.”

The key changes are as follows:

  • Employers must give employees basic terms of employment within five days

The Bill provides that employers must give employees five core terms of employment within five days of commencement of employment. Currently, 15 terms of employment are required to be given by employers to employees within two months of commencement. Instead it is proposed that the following five key terms of employment must be provided within five days of starting work for that employer:

  1. The full name of the employer and employee
  2. The address of the employer
  3. The expected duration of the contract (where the contract is temporary or fixed-term)
  4. The rate or method of calculating pay
  5. What the employer reasonably expects the normal length of the employee’s working day and week will be.

Other required terms of employment should be provided within the current two month period. Employers who have not provided this statement after one month will be open to prosecution.

  • Prohibiting zero hour contracts

The Bill prohibits zero hour contracts except in cases of genuine casual work or emergency cover or short-term relief work for that employer.

  • New minimum payment for employees called in to work but sent home again without work

The Bill provides for a new minimum payment for low-paid workers who may be called in to work but sent home again without the promised work or significant less work and where they have not been paid.

  • Banded Hours provisions

The Bill introduces a new right for an employee, whose contract of employment does not reflect the reality of the hours worked on a consistent basis over a reference period of 18 months, to be placed in a band of hours that better reflects the actual hours worked over that reference period.

  • Strong anti-penalisation provisions

The Bill provides strong anti-penalisation provisions for employees who invoke their rights under this legislation. The Minister noted that “the penalisation provisions are core to the Bill and the new banded hours provisions in particular. Under the Bill’s banded hours provisions, if an employer reduces an employee’s working hours or threatens to do so, for the sole reason that the employee sought to exercise their rights, the employee can pursue a penalisation case through the Workplace Relations Commission.”

Conclusion The Bill is the result of extensive consultations, including a public consultation following the University of Limerick (UL) study on zero hour contracts and low hour contracts and detailed discussions with Ibec and ICTU over a number of months.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Bill as drafted will be passed, or whether or not further amendments will be made.