Tuesday, 4 November 2014
We can only provide a general provision, as we are doing, but we are different from the UK in that where people are required to be available they are guaranteed the 25% or 15 hours even if they do not work. We are looking again at the zero-hours contract. I will ensure that the officials in my Department who are initiating that study of zero-hours contracts will look at the sort of cases that Senator Healy Eames has raised and will factor those into that study.
By and large, however, we have put in new protections for the very type of worker that Senator Healy Eames is concerned about. We are looking at the issue of low pay, if such people are on low pay, and we are looking at zero-hours contracts. Across the spectrum of issues the Senator has raised, if we have not already implemented change we are actively looking at areas where we could improve the environment. At the same time we recognise that there is huge pressure - with 21,000 people emigrating from Ireland and 11% unemployment one must balance any measure taken on one side with the need to create employment on the other. One of the things that has been seen in the past few years is that this recovery started with largely part-time working and shorter duration contracts. In the last 12 months all of the employment growth is in full-time positions. As recovery has taken hold we have seen what were short-term opportunities becoming more established in duration and people getting into a better position to plan their future. Agency working is just one element but it is being regulated in a way that we believe is bringing greater fairness into the environment.