Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the Government will outlaw zero-hour contracts (“ZHCs”) in almost all cases in new legislation which will be prioritised during this Dáil term.

In a speech to employers’ group IBEC, Mr Varadkar said the Government is committed to helping create good employment, with well-paying jobs, good conditions, and pension entitlements.

He said his Government would try in the budget to reward work and benefit those on middle incomes who pay the highest rates of tax.

A zero-hours contract of employment is a type of employment contract where the employee is available for work but does not have specified hours of work. If an employee has a zero-hours contract this means there is a formal arrangement whereby the employee is required to be available for a certain number of hours per week, or when required, or a combination of both. Employees on zero-hours contracts are protected by the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 but this does not apply to casual employment.

The Act requires that an employee under a zero-hours contract who works less than 25% of their hours in any week should be compensated. The level of compensation depends on whether the employee was issued any work or none at all. If the employee was issued no work, then the compensation should be either for 25% of the possible available hours or for 15 hours, whichever is less. If the employee was issued some work, they should be compensated to bring them up to 25% of the possible available hours.

Earlier this year, Homebase, the DIY chain, scrapped the contracts while McDonald’s and JD Wetherspoon offered their staff the chance to move on to fixed-hours contracts.

A British government review recently stopped short of calling for a ban on ZHCs, but did propose a series of reforms to improve the so-called “gig economy”.

Printable Version: InBrief – Proposed Ban on Zero-hour Contracts