Zero Hours Contracts

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 14 December 2015
Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite
Issues covered:

A study into the use of 'zero hours contracts' by Irish employers has recently been published by the University of Limerick. The study was carried out by Dr Michelle O’Sullivan and a team from UL’s Kemmy Business School and follows a commitment to undertake such an examination in the Government’s Statement of Priorities in July 2014.

The study, which focuses on the retail, hospitality, education and health industries, has found that 'zero hours contracts' are regularly used in Ireland. However, the emergence of 'if and when' contracts was also identified by the University of Limerick. While both types of contract involve non-guaranteed hours of work, the main difference is that workers on 'zero hours contracts' are obliged to make themselves available for work when requested, while those on 'if and when' contracts are not contractually required to make themselves available for work.
Key points of concern from the study which may be of relevance to your business are:

Hours of Work:

It is recommended that the contract should reflect actual hours worked based on the average hours worked in the previous six months. This may be problematic based on seasonal work environments. It is recommended that hours of work are periodically reviewed and that contracts are updated to reflect this.


It is recommended that workers on 'zero hours contracts' are given a minimum of 72 hours’ notice to work. It is suggested that employers provide a minimum of 72 hours notice when cancelling work with compensation based on a percentage of the employee's hourly rate awarded in the case of a cancellation to work which falls short of the suggested 72 hour notice period.

Minimum Shifts:

  • A minimum shift duration of 3 hours is recommended.

Additional Recommendations:

  • One of the recommendations made in the study suggests that employees should be provided with a contract on their first day of work rather than up to two months after the employment has commenced.
  • The contract should provide a statement of working hours which is a true reflection of those required by the employer.
  • Employer organisations and trade unions which include a sectoral collective agreement can opt out of some of the suggested legislative provisions above.

The HR Suite expects that the far-reaching recommendations made in the study will generate national debate surrounding 'zero hours contracts' prior to the 4th January 2016 when submissions by interested parties are due at the Department for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. 

The HR Suite is advising that employers send individual tailored submissions. You can give the HR Suite a call to discuss your submission and you will be sent consultation guidelines to assist in this regard.

This article is correct at 04/01/2016

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite

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