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Zero-hour contracts to be banned in most cases under new law

The new Bill to be published this week aims to tackle the casualisation of work.

Image: Shutterstock/wavebreakmedia

ZERO HOUR CONTRACTS will be outlawed in the majority of cases under a new Bill to be published in the next few days.

The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, received approval from Cabinet to publish the Employment (miscellaneous provisions) Bill yesterday.

There are a number of significant employment law changes in the legislation to tackle the casualisation of work, including that employers will have to give their workers basic terms of contract within five days of being hired.

In addition, workers will be entitled to a minimum payment if they are called into work, but are then sent home if they are not needed.


Tens of thousands of workers currently do not know from week to week what hours they will be working and as a result have income uncertainty.

The programme for government commits to strengthen the regulation of precarious work, with the Taoiseach telling the Dáil yesterday that the key objective of the legislation is to improve security and predictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and those with variable hours.

However, part-time work is not always necessarily a bad thing, Leo Varadkar told the chamber yesterday, stating:

“Some people want to work part-time and have their own reasons for doing so.”

He said some commentary and analysis regarding changes to work patterns in recent times is “not fully borne out by the facts”.

A good thing

“In the last number of quarters, the number of employees in part-time employment has fallen whereas the number of employees in full-time employment is increasing. That is not surprising. Initially, when a country comes out of a recession, when it comes out of a severe unemployment crisis, new part-time jobs are created and over time those part-time jobs become full time, and that is why the number of part-time jobs is now falling and the number of full-time jobs is now increasing again,” he explained, adding:

We need to bear in mind that part-time work is not necessarily always a bad thing. Some people want to work part time and have their own reasons for doing so.

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In terms of temporary employment, the most recent statistics show that the percentage of employees in temporary employment stood at 7.2% in 2008. That rose to 8.7% in 2011 and has fallen back to 7.1% in 2016, explained Varadkar.

While the number of temporary employees overall may have increased because there are more people working, the percentage of the workforce in temporary employment is lower than it was eight years ago. That is an important fact for people to be aware of.
Being in part-time employment or being self-employed is not a bad thing. In my view, it can be good for many people.

He said there are different ways to deal with the changes in the world of work.

“Thirty or 40 years ago, people might have hoped to get a job with a company, to be made permanent, to stay working with that company for their entire lives and to have a pension paid for by that company. Work has changed fundamentally in the past 30 or 40 years.

“I believe most people now in their 20s or 30s will work for a number of different employers. They may be self-employed for a period of time – often by choice, sometimes perhaps not. They will probably work in more than one or two countries. What we need to do is approach that in a modern way,” he said.

Varadkar said outright bans on new forms of employment is not the right way to go, adding that society needs to adapt its labour laws accordingly, and provide better social protection ensuring to ensure everyone is covered by the social insurance system.

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