Should zero-hour contracts be abolished?

Ian Mangan

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor, along with fellow minister Pat Breen, proposed legislation earlier this week which would see Zero Hour contracts banned under most circumstances if the law is passed. As expected the news of the draft legislation being approved by the government was met with overwhelming support from workers around the country burdened with a contract that does not guarantee stable hours week to week. These kinds of contracts tend to be used mainly in retail settings but also are seen in the restaurant, bar and hotel industry.

Without a doubt it’s extremely difficult for anybody to have to live with the stress of fluctuating hours which pretty much means fluctuating wages each week. It makes it hard for anyone who works a zero-hour contract which is their main and sometimes only source of income to plan out and manage their expenses. Senator Ged Nash, a former junior business minister said, “The bottom line is that there are still too many people in this country going to bed on a Sunday night and not knowing how much they will earn that week because of uncertainty over their hours.” This is a very true statement, but he also mentioned that he welcomes this decision cautiously.

On its front the legislation sounds fantastic and it’s hard to see who is to lose out except for all the big businesses who have been taking advantage of the style of contracts for far too long over the years. But let’s look at this from another perspective. A lot of employers use these contracts and yes it boils down to expenses and how to minimise them week to week, but what about employers who run seasonal businesses? One commenter on an article by the, Mary O’Connor, explained that she runs a seasonal tourism business in a country where zero-hour contracts are banned and just how negatively it has affected her company. Due to the inability to hire zero-hour contract workers O’Connor struggles to keep with demand in seasonal months like the Christmas time and of course in summer and as a result must turn away business.

The problem with these contracts is security or lack of it which is fair. It is hard to expect people to function under these conditions. But does an all-out ban mean nothing but positives for employees around the country? It begs the question will employers now offer stable contracts or just let more staff go and take on more permanent part time staff in the future. There’s also the fact that a lot of students rely on this type of work in which they manage the flexible hours around their college timetables while still being able to provide for themselves throughout the year. It’s probably fair to say that there are benefits to this type of legislation, but caution is certainly to be taken in the coming months.

Ian Mangan

Image Credit : Employment Rights Ireland