Government Bill falls far short in protections for low paid precarious workers

February 14, 2018

The government’s Bill for employees with insecure contracts does not go far enough to protect precarious workers and will allow their exploitation to continue, the Social Democrats co-leader Roisin Shortall TD said today.

Deputy Shortall said the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 contained significant loopholes that could be exploited by employers to undermine job security for workers.

Speaking ahead of a Dáil debate tonight on the Bill, Deputy Shortall said:

“This Bill represents a huge missed opportunity by the government to get to grips with the serious issues faced by the growing number of employees in part-time and insecure jobs including zero-hour contracts. The government appears to be deaf to the legitimate and pressing concerns raised by workers, trade unions and academic experts whose advice has been sought.

“Precarious working conditions lead to precarious lives and that places enormous stresses and strains on people who are happy to get up early in the morning if only they knew they had a day’s work ahead of them.

“When you don’t know your hours of work and your take home pay fluctuates, how can you plan for next month never mind next year? How can this government in all conscience stand idly by while precarious workers continue to struggle to pay bills, access healthcare and plan for their futures?”

Deputy Shortall identified six specific shortcomings with the Bill which the Social Democrats will table amendments on. These are:

1. The Bill does not protect workers on ‘if and when’ contracts, which are much more prevalent than ‘zero-hours’ contracts.

2. A government-sponsored University of Limerick report recommended that workers called in at short notice be given a payment premium of 50%. The Bill does not reflect this recommendation.

3. The University of Limerick Report recommended that workers called in to work and subsequently sent home should be paid three hours at their normal rate by way of compensation. The Bill says this payment should be three hours at the minimum wage or employment regulation order rate.

4. The banded hour contracts proposed in the Bill are too wide to offer employees sufficient income security. Trade union research shows that under the Bill a person could still face an income cut of 54% per week by having their working hours reduced from 24 to 11.

5. The Bill’s protections for people who make complaints are not strong enough to ensure that they are not unfairly penalised.

6. The Bill says that workers should have their employment terms and conditions provided to them by day five in any new job. We believe employees should know where they stand on their first day in any job.

ENDS

14 February 2018