Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018
The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 was signed into law by the president on the 20 December 2018. The new rules are to come into effect in early March 2019. The law primarily tackles issues around the rise of part time working in Ireland and the protection of workers with contracts that do not specify hours of work, often known as ‘zero-hour’ contracts.
The Act runs to 20 pages and is comprised of 6 parts. Part 1 is a general introduction. Part 2 amends the Unfair Dismissals Act 1997. Part 3 amends the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994. Part 4 amends the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. Part 5 amends the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, and Part 6 the Workplace Relations Act 2015.
Part 2 gives the power to an adjudication officer of the Workplace Relations Commission to compel a witness to come forward and give evidence or to present any document within their control for use in evidence. The witness will be subject to the same immunities and privileges as if he or she were a witness in proceedings before the High Court.
Part 3 compels an employer to provide 5 pieces of information to an employee within 5 days of the commencement of employment. Those are: 1) the full name of the employer and employee, 2) the address of the employer, 3) the date the contract is to expire, 4) the rate or method of calculation of remuneration, and 5) the number of hours the employer reasonably expects the employee to work per day and per week.
Whereas the first 4 pieces of information had to be presented under the old regime within 2 months anyway, number 5 in that list is new. Additionally, the failure to provide this information is now a criminal offence and directors, managers, company secretaries or anyone who has held themselves out to be such could be liable to be proceeded against for the offence.
Part 3 also introduces a system to protect employees from penalisation for invoking this new right.
Part 4 puts and end to zero-hour contracts and introduces the new concept of banded hours:
|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|
The banded hours system is designed to provide stable income to employees. The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission pointed in its February 2018 report to the rise of part time working in Ireland over the last 10 years and the negative effect current labour laws and practices had on a number of groups, including migrants, women, young people, older people, lone parents, people with caring responsibilities, and people with disabilities. The report found that the lack of specified hours and secure hours of work: –
- Lead to insecurity of income,
- Restricts the ability to organise family life, including child card, and
- Inhibits the ability to secure loans and mortgages.
Implementation of this new system is likely to be a big challenge for small businesses. IBEC, the business and employer association for organisations based in Ireland, has expressed concern that the provisions “will significantly damage the Irish business model and erode our competitiveness” and that “the administration and compliance requirements brought about by these proposals will overwhelm small and medium-sized businesses.”
An employee must request his or her employer to put him or her onto a band of weekly working hours, and so the change over to this new system will in this manner be gradual, but with only one month to go until the new law comes into effect employers need to prepare now for the changes ahead.
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