Minister Launches KBS Study on Zero Hours Contracts

Dr Juliet McMahon, Dr Tom Turner, Dr Caroline Murphy, Dr Michelle O’Sullivan, Minister Ged Nash, Dr Lorraine Ryan and Dr Jonatha

On 3rd November, 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 the Impact on Employees’ by the Kemmy Business School.

Minister Nash commented “the independent study by UL has found that zero hour contracts are not extensively used in Ireland. However, it is worrying that the UL study suggests increasing use of ‘if and when’ contracts that, when used inappropriately drive precarious working conditions”.

The report is the first study undertaken on zero hours contracts in Ireland and contained a number of significant findings. It found that zero hours contracts are just one type of contract with non-guaranteed working hours and zero hours contracts are not prevalent. A second type of contract with non-guaranteed hours is known as an If and When contract and these are prevalent. The fundamental difference between the two types of contract is that individuals with a zero hours contract are contractually required to make themselves available for work with an employer, while individuals with an If and When contract are not contractually required to make themselves available for work with an employer.  The report outlines the views of employer organisations which argue that If and When contracts suit employees because they provide flexible working hours. In contrast, trade unions and non-governmental organisations argue that If and When contracts have significant negative implications for employees particularly in regard to the unpredictability of the number and scheduling of working hours. The report finds that people on If and When contracts are particularly vulnerable because they may not be defined as employees in employment law and therefore may not have many employment rights.

The report makes a number of recommendations to Minister Nash, many of which centre on the introduction of new employment legislation. Minister Nash noted that he will engage in a short consultation process with employers, trade unions and other interested parties on the report’s findings and recommendations and, “in conjunction with the comprehensive study by UL”, he will bring recommendations to Government early in 2016.

The authors of the report are Dr Michelle O’Sullivan, Dr Tom Turner, Dr Juliet McMahon, Dr Lorraine Ryan, Dr Jonathan Lavelle, Dr Caroline Murphy, Mr Mike O’Brien and Professor Patrick Gunnigle.

Further information is available at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.