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Irish staffing legal update May 2019

To help keep you up to date with legal developments, we have highlighted some of the coming changes in employment law in the Irish staffing industry.

Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2019

A new Act has come into effect regulating hours of casual employment. As of March 2019, workers are now entitled to a written statement of their terms of employment within the first five days of employment, and this must include the expected duration or end date for specified purpose contracts, as well as the number of hours the employee is expected to work per day or per week.

Under the miscellaneous provision, zero-hour contracts are now banned in most cases, with exceptions for work in emergency situations or for short-term relief work for absences. While there is no accurate way of directly measuring the incidence of zero-hour contracts in Ireland, as no single definition exists, data produced by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) indicates that 5.3% of employees in Ireland have constantly variable working hours and 2% of employees regularly work 1-8 hours per week. There can be many negative implications for individuals working on zero-hour contracts, with the main impact being unpredictable working hours and an unstable income.

Banded hours have also been introduced as part of this Act whereby employees are entitled to be placed on a band of hours that reflects their average hours for the previous 12 months. The request must be triggered by the employee, and the employer then has 4 weeks to consider the request and ensure that, if placed on a band, the employee is allocated an average of the determined band of hours. The employer may refuse the request on the following grounds:

  • No evidence to support the claim
  • Significant adverse changes have impacted the business
  • Exceptional circumstances
  • The hours worked are due to a temporary situation

You can find out more about banded hours here

Gender pay gap reporting

Another piece of legislation that is in the pipeline is the Gender Pay Gap Information Bill; while it is still in its infancy, this is definitely one to watch. Similar legislation has been in force in the UK since April 2017, and while there have been some flaws in the system it has been an important step forward in securing fairer pay. The Bill will require employers to publish information regarding employee pay in order to highlight any disparities between male and female pay. More specifically it will require information on:

  • differences in bonus pay, part-time pay, and the pay of those on temporary contracts
  • differences in pay by reference to job classification
  • the reasons for the gender pay gap in their company and the measures being taken to address that gap

Initially the regulations will apply to companies with 250+ employees, then those with 150+ and finally to those with 50+ employees. The Bill has been published, however it will more than likely be the end of 2019 before it becomes an Act and 2020 before companies will be asked to report on it. 

The Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) highlights how the bill hopes to increase transparency by identifying the factors that contribute to the gender pay gap and as a result incentivise employers in Ireland to take measures to reduce that gap. 

Family leave

A new Family Leave Bill has been proposed which will consolidate the Maternity Protection Acts, Adoptive Leave Acts, Parental Leave Acts, and Carer’s Leave Acts with a few amendments. Under this bill, notice periods for leave will be streamlined to four weeks under each act. This means the notice period for the Parental Leave Acts and Carer’s Leave Acts will be reduced from six to four weeks which will have adverse implications for employers.

The Parental Leave Bill has also been published which will entitle parents to an extended unpaid parental leave, increasing from 18 to 26 weeks. It will also change the qualifying age of a child from 8 to 12 years of age. This means that parents of children who have not yet reached 12 years of age and who have already taken their 18 weeks’ parental leave will be entitled to take additional leave.

IBEC highlights how this could potentially prove to be costly for many organisations by way of absent expertise, lost productivity, recruitment and training costs as well as the administration of the new and existing schemes for parental leave.

Rights for gig economy workers

In the past, gig economy workers were treated as independent contractors with no employment rights, however, the EU has recently approved a new law which sets out the minimum rights for these workers and calls for increased transparency. The new rules will apply to those who work a minimum of three hours a week and 12 hours per four weeks on average. These rules will also apply to casual or short-term workers, those who work on-demand, trainees and apprentices.

The law will require employers to:

  • provide workers with information regarding working conditions on their first day 
  • allow employees to have other jobs
  • provide free mandatory training
  • compensate employees if the assignment is cancelled on short notice 
  • allow employees to refuse an assignment outside of their predetermined hours without consequences

Member states will now have three years to enforce these rules.

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