Law banning zero hour contracts to come into force in March

Law banning zero hour contracts to come into force in March

A new law banning controversial zero hour contracts "in most circumstances" will come into force in March of next year.

The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill was today passed by both houses of the Oireachtas and will now be presented to the President for his signature.

Commencing in the first week of March 2019, the legislation aims to address the challenges caused by the increased casualisation of work and to strengthen the regulation of precarious employment.

Under the legislation, zero hour contracts will be outlawed except in situations of genuine casual employment and where they are essential to allow employers to provide cover in emergency situations or to cover short-term absence.

The legislation will also compel employers to pay a new minimum payment to employees called into work but sent home again without work.

The Bill introduces new rules on banded hours for employees who routinely work longer hours than reflected in their contract.

Under the new law, these employees will be entitled to be placed in a band of hours that better reflects the hours they have worked in a 12-month period.

The Bill also provides strong anti-penalisation provisions for employees who invoke their rights under the legislation.

Employers will also be obliged under the new laws to give employees basic terms of employment within five days

Employment minister, Regina Doherty, described the Bill as one of the most important pieces of employment legislation in a generation: "This is one of the most significant changes to working conditions in a generation and, crucially, will improve the security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and those working variable hours.

In a changing world, this reform ensures that the legal protections for all workers will match the conditions experienced by a modern workforce and make a real difference in the lives of thousands of workers.

Welcoming the legislation, Mandata general secretary, John Douglas, said that Dunnes Stores workers and union activists who lobbied on the issue of zero hour contracts for the last four years deserve the majority of the credit for the legislation passing.

Dunnes Stores workers went on strike in April 2015 in order to raise awareness of the issue of low-hour contracts.

“Our members in Dunnes took the brave decision to go on strike for secure hour contracts four years ago. They brought the issue of insecure work to national attention, and they paid a price for doing so.

"It has taken four years for politicians to catch up, but now that they have passed this crucial Bill, vulnerable workers will have the opportunity to obtain a contract of employment which reflects the hours they actually do.

Now, as a result of this legislation, thousands of workers will be able to apply to their employer after 12 months seeking a new contract with secure hours.

"This removes the uncertainty about whether you will be able to pay your bills this month, and will enable workers to better plan their lives," he said.

The Mandate general secretary said the legislation will also help ease the housing crisis: “Having ultra-flexible contracts with no certainty of hours or income denies many workers the opportunity of obtaining a mortgage. "When a worker goes into a bank, they can only obtain a mortgage based on the guaranteed hours in their contract.

"That means an average Dunnes worker would only be able to obtain a mortgage for approximately €30,000, which is impossible to purchase a house in Ireland and means the worker is stuck in the private rental sector where rents have increased by more than 80% in recent years."

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