Guidelines issued from UL ‘zero hours’ report

Nick Rabbitts

Reporter:

Nick Rabbitts

Micheal O'Flynn and Dr Michelle O'Sullivan at the conference held in the University of Limerick last year on precarious employment
A GOVERNMENT commissioned report on zero hours contracts carried out by the University of Limerick was published yesterday.

A GOVERNMENT commissioned report on zero hours contracts carried out by the University of Limerick was published yesterday.

Kemmy Business School lecturer Dr Michelle O’Sullivan and a team of lecturers were tasked by Business and Employment Minister Ged Nash to carry out the independent study.

It comes after Dr O’Sullivan contributed to a conference last year, which highlighted the use of such contracts in a variety of professions. The report found that while zero hour contracts are not widely used, there is evidence of ‘if and when’ types of contracts.

While workers on zero hours contracts – who have no guarantee of work – must be available at very short notice, staff on ‘if and when’ contracts are not obliged to be. But the same problems exist.

These ‘if and when’ contracts exist largely in the accommodation, food and retail sector, plus nursing, lecturing and education.

The report recommends staff must receive a written contract on the first day of their new job. At present, an employer has two months to do this.

This contract, they say, should provide a statement of working hours, which are a true reflection of those required, while staff should reasonably expect to receive pay for three hours of work if they are required to be available.

Workers should, the report recommends, also be given at least three days’ notice of any request to undertake work, unless there are unforeseen circumstances.

They should be given at least three days’ notice of the cancellation of their hours – and if this does not happen, they should be paid at the normal rate of hours which were scheduled.

Micheál O’Flynn, the West Limerick academic who organised last year’s conference, welcomed the report.

But, he added: “The real question is whether the government will act on the recommendations. It says zero hour contracts are not extensively used. It is unacceptable employers are allowed use them at all.”