Deep concern over labour market bill

 

  • Criminalisation of commercial agreements not the way forward
  • New amendments unnecessary as measures already in place 
  • Bill points to dysfunctional political structure

 

 

Ibec remains deeply concerned at recent amendments to the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017, commonly referred to as the “banded hours” legislation. Business leaders are particularly dismayed at the Report stage amendment to the Bill which proposes to make it a criminal offence for employers to incorrectly designate an individual as self-employed when they should be considered as operating on a contract of employment - an offence which carries a custodial sentence of up to 12 months on conviction.

 

 

Ibec is manifestly opposed to false self-employment as it creates an unfair competitive advantage over the majority of compliant businesses which observe existing tax and employment rights legislation. However, the introduction of this issue into a Bill designed to address variable hours contracts is yet another sign of the dysfunction of our current political structure.

 

 

The amendment is unnecessary as there are already measures in place to address such abuses by employers. Two separate independent studies conducted this year - one carried out jointly by the Department of Finance and Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the other published in August by the ESRI - have both identified that the number of self-employed workers operating within Ireland is well within EU norms. In other words, despite a persistent narrative to the contrary, self-employment is not increasing.

 

 

The effect of the amendment is tantamount to a blanket ban on the use of independent contractors. Even where such arrangements are entirely genuine and may be insisted upon by the individual contractors themselves, the possibility of a jail sentence means businesses are unlikely to take the risk of using them.

Ibec has engaged extensively with public representatives over the last year on the impact the Bill is likely to have. This engagement resulted in the removal at Report stage of a further requirement for employers to offer any additional hours of work arising within a business to existing part-time staff, regardless of skills, experience or existing arrangements in relation to the allocation of overtime. Ibec urges Government to conduct a full evidence-based regulatory impact assessment on these proposed new measures.

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