Zero contracts to be banned in Ireland – concerns expressed on proposed Bill

Jan 3, 2018

As the voice of the largest business network in the country, Chambers Ireland  responded to
the publication of the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017.

Chief Executive Ian Talbot recently commented as follows :-

“The Bill published by the Department of Employment and Social Protection today will have a
significant impact on a large number of employers, in particular SMEs working in seasonal sectors.
The issue of zero contract hours is not sufficiently widespread across the State to warrant imposing
burdensome restrictions on all businesses. Chambers Ireland has previously highlighted the fact that
the University of Limerick’s study on the Prevalence of Zero Hour Contracts and Low Hour Contracts
in the Irish Economy did not find these contracts to be widespread in Ireland. As such, this Bill which
aims to prevent the use of such contracts is disproportionate and unnecessary. The Bill includes
onerous requirements on business, many of which by their nature require a degree of flexibility on
the part of both employers and employees.

Of particular concern in the Bill is the Banded Hours Provision, which is likely to have serious
implications for all businesses operating in seasonally affected industries. Employees may work in a
higher band for part of the year, but the business may not be in a position to maintain the same
levels of employment in the ‘off-season’, as much as they would like to.

Similarly, the requirement in the Bill that employees be entitled to payment for hours for which they
are not required to work will result in a significant increase in costs for some businesses. At this
point in time competitiveness should be our Government’s focus, not increasing the cost of doing

The vast majority of employers in Ireland are SMEs who work closely with and value their
employees. Employers acknowledge that all employees require clarity and understand the necessity
for these conditions. Where such flexible employment arrangements exist it is usually at the will of
both the employee and the employer. The recent unemployment figures published by the CSO of
6.1%, highlights that we are well on our way to full employment and that employers are now in a
position where they are competing for staff. If unfavourable employment terms that do not suit
prospective employees are on offer, the employer will find themselves uncompetitive in the current
employment environment.

However, at a time when businesses, in particular SMEs, are facing increasing uncertainty because of
the likely consequences of Brexit and are struggling to remain competitive, the provisions around
banded hours and minimum payments will simply add to their administrative and cost burdens. We
value our job-creating entrepreneurs, not introduce broad-reaching employment legislation which
aims to tackle an issue affecting very few people, but that will have negative implications for the
competitiveness of Ireland’s SMEs.

This legislation is disproportionate, will have significant consequences for small and seasonal
businesses in particular, and as the UL study on the issue of zero hours contract has shown, is

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