Thursday, 21 June 2012
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation
The Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 implemented EU Council Directive 97/81/EC into Irish law. The purpose of the Directive was to implement the Framework Agreement on part-time work concluded by the European cross-industry organisations UNICE, CEEP and the ETUC. The purpose of the Framework Agreement, which was annexed to the Directive, was to eliminate discrimination against part-time employees and to improve the quality of part-time work. It also aimed to facilitate the development of part-time work on a voluntary basis and to contribute to the flexible organisation of working time in a manner which takes into account the needs of employers and employees.
Clause 5.3 of the Framework Agreement (which is not a mandatory provision) provides that, as far as possible, employers should give consideration to: " (a) requests by workers to transfer from full-time to part-time work that becomes available in the establishment; (b) requests by workers to transfer from part-time to full-time work or to increase their working time should the opportunity arise; (c) the provision of timely information on the availability of part-time and full-time positions in the establishment in order to facilitate transfers from full-time to part-time or vice versa; (d) measures to facilitate access to part-time work at all levels of the enterprise, including skilled and managerial positions, and where appropriate, to facilitate access by part-time workers to vocational training to enhance career opportunities and occupational mobility; (e) the provision of appropriate information to existing bodies representing workers about part-time working in the enterprise."
Section 13(5) of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 contained provisions in relation the preparation and publishing of a Code of Practice by the Labour Relations Commission in relation to the steps that could be taken by employers for the purposes of Clause 5.3 of the Framework Agreement. The Labour Relations Commission prepared this Code of Practice, based on the provisions in Section 13 of the 2001 Act, following consultation with the social partners. It was deemed to be a Code of Practice and implemented, in 2006, by the Industrial Relations Act 1990 (Code of Practice on Access to Part-Time Working) (Declaration) Order 2006 (S.I. No. 8 of 2006). Under Section 42(4) of the Industrial Relations Act 1990, the Code is admissible in evidence in any proceedings before a Court, the Labour Court, the Labour Relations Commission, the Employment Appeals Tribunal or the Equality Tribunal.
I am satisfied that Clause 5.3 of Council Directive 97/81/EC has been correctly transposed by way of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001. I note that this is confirmed by a 2003 report on the implementation of the Directive undertaken by the European Commission. As mentioned above, Clause 5.3 of the Directive is not a mandatory provision. It requires that, as far as possible, an employer should give consideration to a request by workers to transfer from full-time work to part-time in certain circumstances and vice-versa.
The Code of Practice contains provisions both in relation to transferring from full-time work to part-time work and from part-time work to full-time work. For example, in paragraph 4 of the Code, under the "General Principles" heading, one of the basic principles referred to is that, as far as possible, employers should give consideration to requests by employees to transfer from part-time to full-time work or to increase their working time should the opportunity arise. In addition, the heading in paragraph 8 of the Code also includes a reference to the transfer from part-time to full-time work. Ireland has, accordingly, met its responsibilities in relation to transposition of this clause of the Framework Agreement by way of a Code of Practice implemented under Section 13 of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001.