Tuesday, 4 December 2018
Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: Committee Stage
I apologise for looking like I did not know what the Senators were talking about, but I did not know until the end.
The banded hours will change the situation and, therefore, we do not have the data. I am not sure where the anecdotal evidence came from to say that everybody is on 15 hours a week because not everybody is. It is our intention that the banded hours will resolve the issue because once the legislation is enacted, anybody who is on what we classify as a low-paid, precarious contract can ask to be put on the band of hours that is reflective of the look-back period, which is specified as 12 months in the legislation. One will, therefore, be put on a contract that reflects the actual work that was done in the previous 12 months. This will mean that contracts will reflect the actual working week as opposed to what the employer merely noted, which could be anything but which could chop and change whenever it suited the employer. Before the legislation, one might get two hours one week, 27 hours another week and three the following week, but there will now be consistency and when someone asks to be placed on a band of hours that reflects the look-back period of the previous 12 months, he or she will also have the certainty that when put on that band of hours, he or she will be kept within that band of hours for at least the following 12-month period, which will level out the anomalies that existed in the past number of years. It will, at the least, give people certainty, which is what we are trying to do with the section.
On the language school in jeopardy, it is not the first and I doubt it will be the last unless we do something. The legislation will give all of those people, who in the main are bogusly self-employed, the security of the employment legislation we are debating. Senator Craughwell may not be aware there is a scheme within our Department that looks after people from a statutory redundancy perspective where companies cannot afford to, as is the case for this company although no application has yet been made to the Department. I invite people and the company to come forward, however.
We have too often found ourselves in a situation where, as the Senator aptly described, someone has taken thousands of euro from unsuspecting students, who do not get a refund and are left high and dry, but suddenly does not have any money to pay anybody anything, which is not a fair practice of any kind of employment law or, as Senator Nash said, company legislation. We need some further consideration of those issues. I agree that the quality and qualifications legislation is probably not the best place to do it but we need to have a conversation about that in the next couple of weeks to look after the staff and students, if we can, and ensure we put something in place in order that nobody can ever exploit this loophole of malpractice again.