Labour Bill aims to help workers with ‘uncertain hours’

Senator Ged Nash says legislation could aid those in hospitality, retail and care sectors

Labour Senator Ged Nash: “Some of these uncertain-hours practices have escaped Ireland’s suite of employment rights protections, such as the Organisation of Working Time Act.” Photograph: Dave Meehan

Labour Senator Ged Nash: “Some of these uncertain-hours practices have escaped Ireland’s suite of employment rights protections, such as the Organisation of Working Time Act.” Photograph: Dave Meehan

 

The Labour Party is to publish new legislation aimed at providing greater protection to workers with “uncertain hours” of work.

Labour Senator and former business and employment minister Ged Nash said the Bill would give greater certainty and employment security for thousands of atypical workers in sectors such as hospitality, retail and the care sectors.

He said a report drawn up by the University of Limerick last year pointed to an evolution in employment relationships, with atypical and casual working arrangements – known as “if and when contracts” – concentrated in areas such as hospitality, retail and social care.

“These arrangements are occurring at the edge or even outside of our existing laws,” he said. “Women are particularly affected by this phenomenon. Some of these uncertain-hours practices have escaped Ireland’s suite of employment rights protections, such as the Organisation of Working Time Act. I believe workers are being exploited because of the deficits which currently exist.”

He said that under such “if and when” arrangements ,companies were under no obligation to provide work to workers and workers were under no obligation to accept it .

However, Mr Nash said, if no mutual obligation existed, “then there is no enduring contract”.

“People in these situations are, in effect, being told that they are casual day labourers, with few rights and no certainty over their hours and pay or security and continuity in terms of planning their lives.”

Legislation

Where an employer registered an employee under the PAYE system, then the employee would be regarded as continuing in employment until the date specified in a notice to Revenue of cessation of employment ;

Measures to include casual work in the calculation of continuous employment;

An entitlement to request the employer to correct the employment terms so that the stated particulars of weekly hours of work reflected the pattern of work actually done a week in the previous six months;

A Workplace Relations Commission complaints procedure to ensure fair and equitable application of cases under the legislation;

An anti-victimisation measure protecting workers who invoke their rights under the legislation;

An exemption from the legislation in cases where employers and trade unions have negotiated sectoral employment orders or registered employment agreements, or where an employment regulation order has been signed as the result of a Joint Labour Committee initiative.