Published: 29/01/2019

Thanks to a sustained mobilization by Irish unions including our affiliate SIPTU, new legislation restricts employers from offering contacts with no specified minimum hours and strengthens protection for workers on variable hours, bringing greater protection, security and regularity on working time and pay.

The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 , which takes effect on March 1, requires employers to furnish, within 5 days after employment commences, information on normal daily and weekly hours, the duration of employment and pay rates.

‘Zero hours’ contracts, which require the worker to be available for a specified number of hours while providing no guarantees of work, and the variant ‘if and when’ arrangements which allow employers to assign work on a random basis, are severely restricted. Specified pay rates apply if the worker is not called to work in a given week. Sanctions including fines and imprisonment for up to 12 months apply to employers in case of violation, and the law protects employees who exercise their rights under the Act.

The legislation also provides greater regularity of working time by establishing a system of ‘banded hours’. Workers who regularly exceed their specified contractual hours can request to be put on a ‘band’ based on hours worked over a 12-month period. “Once an employee joins a band”, explains SIPTU, “he/she is entitled to work the average hours in that band for at least the next twelve months.” Employers can only reject the request on specified grounds.

Monitoring to ensure compliance is now crucial, says SIPTU, and “Organising more vulnerable employees in trade unions will give them the confidence needed to make use of the new rights and protections in the Act.”