There is a particular narrative that has created the backdrop for these proposals. It presents employment as a regulatory wasteland with insufficient legislation to control the employment relationship. In fact, the opposite is true and every aspect of employment is now covered by extensive legislation mandating how businesses engage with people, covering everything from advertising a role, to the recruitment process, the issuing of contracts of employment, how people are managed in the workplace and the taking of rest breaks and various forms of statutory leave, to the rules governing termination of employment for misconduct, or by reason of redundancy, or indeed retirement.
Ibec and its members recognise that much of this regulation is appropriate, proportionate and necessary. However, some of the more recent legislative initiatives display a worrying trend. The Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 is currently being finalised and purports to address some of the issues arising from the use of variable hours contracts. The Bill proposes to ban the use of zero hours contracts notwithstanding the fact that the “Study on the Prevalence of Zero Hours Contracts among Irish Employers and their Impact on Employees” found that the number of zero hours arrangements in Ireland was negligible – they are hardly ever used. The Bill also introduces a new criminal offence of failure to provide certain information in a written statement to an employee within five days of commencement of employment. While the desire to enforce the new provisions of the Bill when enacted is understandable and in some parts necessary, imposing a possible custodial sentence for a relatively minor transgression such as this is entirely disproportionate and symptomatic of the environment in which employment law policy is being made right now.
This persistent narrative which pits employees and employers against each other is not conducive to good industrial relations in Ireland. We need responsible evidence-based employment law policies to inform the regulation of our workplaces. Ibec continues to make representations to legislators on behalf of our members to ensure that a more balanced and reasonable approach is taken to law-making in the employment context. Our concern about the current legislative environment for employers is such that we will be discussing it at our annual employment law conference on the 9th of May. Any Ibec members who have concerns about any legislative initiative which may affect their business is welcome to contact Ibec’s employment law services unit at 01 605 1500
Tuesday, 27 March 2018