New Employment Law Provisions in 2019: Zero Hours Contracts, Banded Hours Contracts, Criminal Penalties for Employers

zero hours contracts

The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 2017, when passed into law in Ireland-expected to commence in March 2019-will bring about some significant changes for Irish employers and employees. In fact, it makes certain breaches of the act a criminal offence: if the employer incorrectly designates an employee as ‘self-employed’, for example

Purpose of the bill

The main thrust of this new law is to deal with ‘precarious work’, zero hours contracts, and uncertain working conditions for employees in industries which would have relied on a great deal of flexibility in the employment contract; service industries such as retail, hospitality, and tourism for example.

Most employers in these industries have made ample use of flexible working arrangements to meet the needs of their business, especially long working hours and seasonable peaks and troughs in trade and the demand for staff.

Main elements

The significant elements of this bill are

  1. The employer must give a written statement of 5 core terms of employment within 5 days of starting employment.

    These 5 terms are
    a) the full name of employer and employee
    b) the address of the employer
    c) the expected duration of the employment contract
    d) the method of calculating or rate of pay
    e) the expected normal working day and week

    Failure to provide this statement can lead to the criminal prosecution of the employer.

  2. Banded hours provisions

    The employee has a statutory entitlement to a banded hours contract where their contractual working hours over the previous 12 months do not reflect their actual working hours. If the employee requests such a contract he must be given the banded hours contract unless

    i) the employee’s claim is not supported by evidence
    ii) there have been significant adverse changes to the employer’s business in the previous 12 months
    iii) the hours worked in the previous 12 months were brought about by a temporary situation which no longer exists

    There are 8 different bands as follows:
    Band              From                     To
    A                     3 hours                 6 hours
    B                     6 hours                 11 hours
    C                     11 hours              16 hours
    D                     16 hours              21 hours
    E                      21 hours              26 hours
    F                      26 hours              31 hours
    G                     31 hours              36 hours
    H                     36 hours and over           

    Once an employee is placed on a particular band she is entitled to work an average of those hours for the following 12 months.

  3. Designation of employees

    An employer can be held criminally liable if she incorrectly designates and employee as ‘self employed’. Imprisonment of up to 12 months and fines of up to €5,000 are the maximum penalties.
    The employer has a defence, however, if he can show that he exercised due diligence and took all reasonable precautions when arriving at the designation.
  4. Prohibition of zero hours contracts

    Zero hours contracts will be prohibited unless used in specific exceptional circumstances of genuine casual employment and where they are essential for the needs of the business in the short term or in emergency situations.

  5. Continuity of employment

    Employees who are given a series of fixed term contracts will be deemed as being on layoff and will accumulate ‘continuous service’ for the purpose of protections from various employment law statutes.

  6. New minimum payment

    There will be a new minimum payment entitlement for employees who are not called into work on any given week. The employee will be entitled 25% of their weekly contracted hours.

  7. Strong penalties for employers

    The bill provides strong sanctions against employers for penalising employees who seek to enforce their rights under this bill and also strong penalties for not implementing the provisions of this bill.

You can learn more about the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 here.