The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 (“the Bill”) which is now at committee stage is expected to be enacted later this year. The Bill if enacted will have wide ranging effects for employers, in particular regarding “low hour” or “zero-hour” contracts. Below, we discuss a number of the more topical aspects of the Bill which we expect to be of concern to employers:-

  1. Terms of employment

If enacted, it will be a requirement for employers to provide employees with a written statement within five days of commencement of employment confirming the following:-

  • The full names of the employer and employee;
  • The address of the employer;
  • The duration of the contract;
  • The method of calculating remuneration;
  • The hours the employee is to be expected to work per week.

From a practical point of view and in an effort to avoid the sanctions under the Bill, it is advisable that employers should include the foregoing information in any offer letter being issued to a new employee. A contract of employment can then be issued inside the 8-week period as provided for in the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994.

In the Bill’s current format, where an employer is convicted for failure to comply with the foregoing, they may be liable on summary conviction to a Class A  (ie up to €5,000) fine and or a term of imprisonment not exceeding 12 months.

  1. Banded hours of work

In circumstances where the average hours an employee is working per week is greater than the contracted hours then in such circumstances, the employee on request is entitled to move to a higher band of hours. The reference period to be taken into account is proposed to be 12 months and the bands are as follows:-

Band                                                 From                                   

A                                                          3 to 6 hours

B                                                          6 to11 hours

C                                                          11 to 16 hours

D                                                         16 to 21 hours

E                                                          21 to 26 hours

F                                                          26 to 31 hours

G                                                         31 to 36 hours

H                                                         36 hours plus.

 

The above is of concern to employers and is expected to have a detrimental effect on businesses. In reality, it is widely expected that this new provision will force employers to close during quieter periods so as to avoid employees gaining rights under this provision. The concern is that if employees gain the right to move up in the bands then the employer may not be in a financial position to meet the increased wages over the longer term. The Bill is silent on the reduction of hours when the hours are not available at a later date.

  1. Employers to offer hours to part-time staff

The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 imposes an obligation on employers to offer additional hours that may become available to existing part-time staff. The provision in its current format essentially prevents an employer from offering such additional work to full-time individuals. This measure clearly has an overly burdensome effect on how an employer can run their business. The provision is wide and fails to address issues such as skills and training and puts unreasonable expectation on employers to provide such additional hours to staff that simply may not be trained or qualified to carry out such work. Furthermore, it is likely that the provision will have a serious impact on custom and practice within organisations. For example, in situations where it is customary that overtime is regularly worked by full-time staff, it will not be within the gift of an employer to allow full-time staff to continue in this form. It will be set out in legislation that any such available hours will have to be provided to part-time workers where there are part-time workers employed.

  1. Prohibition on zero-hour contracts

The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 imposes a strict prohibition on zero-hour contracts. If passed zero-hour contracts will only be allowed in circumstances which are genuinely casual in nature and in emergency cover situations. Again, the restriction is overly restrictive and may well result in employers not being able to fill casual or part-time roles for fear of falling foul of the proposed legislation.

  1. Conclusion

It is clear from the foregoing that if passed the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 will have far-reaching implications for employers. Given the overly onerous provisions in the Bill, it is regrettable that there does not appear to have been prior consultation with employers. In the circumstances, you may consider it appropriate to raise the issue with your elected representatives.

Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, it has been provided for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Amorys Solicitors is a boutique commercial and private client law firm in Sandyford, Dublin 18, Ireland.
For further information and advice in relation to “The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017”, please contact Brian Kirwan, partner, Amorys Solicitors brian@amoryssolicitors.com, telephone 01 213 5940 or your usual contact at Amorys.

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