Consultation report issued on the use of zero hours and low hours contracts

On 3 November 2015, the Minister for Business and Employment, Ged Nash TD, published a new report, “A Study on the Prevalence of Zero Hours Contracts among Irish Employers and their Impact on Employees” by the University of Limerick.

View a copy of the report

One of the key findings of the report was evidence of so-called “if and when” contracts. While both “if and when” and zero hours contracts involve non-guaranteed hours of work, the main difference is that workers on zero hours contracts are obliged to make themselves available for work while those on “if and when” contracts are not contractually required to make themselves available for work.

The study found that for employers, the main advantages of “if and when” contracts are flexibility and reduced cost. However, trade unions and NGOs argue there are significant negative impacts for workers on “if and when” hours including:

  • Unpredictability of hours
  • Difficulties in managing work and family life
  • Unstable income and difficulties accessing financial credit
  • Contracts that do not reflect the reality of number of hours worked
  • Insufficient notice when called to work
  • A belief that employees will be penalised for not accepting work offered
  • Difficulties in accessing social welfare benefits.

As a result, a number of recommendations have been issued in the report, including:

  • That contracts of employment should provide a statement of working hours which are a true reflection of those required
  • There should be a minimum of 3 continuous working hours where an employee is required to report for work; if there is not, the worker should be paid for the 3 hours
  • An employer should give at least 72 hours’ notice of any request to undertake work, unless there are exceptional and unforeseen circumstances. If a worker undertakes extra hours without the minimum notice, they should be compensated at 150% of the rate they would be paid
  • Employers should give a minimum of 72 hours’ notice of cancellation of hours. If workers do not get the minimum notice, they should be paid at their normal rate for the hours which were scheduled

The SFA understands that many employers rely upon flexible working arrangements, including “if and when required” contracts, as a means of managing short term absences or surges in demand for services which may be difficult to predict. A change in the law may impact upon employers’ ability to manage staffing levels for absences and varying demand.''

A short consultation process with employers, trade unions and other interested parties on the findings and recommendations of this report will now commence. As the outcome of the consultation process may form the basis of recommendations for a change in the law for flexible working arrangements (described by Minister Nash as “precarious work”).

The SFA would like to invite any member organisation which may be impacted by this report to contact Jonathan Callan, SFA Executive,, with their views of the above. Any observations on the findings or recommendations in the report should be communicated by close of business on Tuesday, 8 December 2015 so that we can include in our consultation findings.

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In this issue
SFA E-Zine – The Tuesday Edition
Are you having a staff party this Christmas? Some practical advice for employers.
Consultation report issued on the use of zero hours and low hours contracts
Starting a new business? Recoup six years of income tax
SFA Annual Lunch 2015 Highlights
Red Tape Survey 2015
SFA Webinar - Resourcing & Leave Entitlements during the Christmas period
SFA Annual General Meeting
SFA Members Christmas Drinks
Press coverage