The Organisation of Working Time Bill, 1996, implements EU Directive 93/104 concerning certain aspects of the organisation of working time. Together with other employment protection measures, this directive forms part of the social action programme or Social Charter, as it is commonly known. The directive, which applies to all member states, including the UK, provides Europe-wide protections for employees regarding rest, holidays and maximum working time. These new standards are already exceeded in most employment situations by good employers in Ireland.
The Bill represents a historic step forward in worker protection legislation and is one of the most important pieces of employment legislation to be drafted in modern times. In addition to providing a modern employment code for workers in this country, the Organisation of Working Time Bill replaces a body of cumbersome law dating back to the 1930s with a single flexible piece of legislation. This one measure replaces over 137 pages of detailed and prescriptive primary legislation about working time and conditions of employment, as well as hundreds of regulations, licences and orders. The Bill is a major simplification of Irish employment law.
Following enactment of this Bill, the concerns for workers' health and safety will be at the heart of the way in which work is organised. Workers across the economy will benefit from a legal right to minimum daily and weekly rest and adequate rest breaks during the working day. Those who stand to benefit significantly from this Bill are part-time, casual and atypical workers, some of whom have missed out on the standard of rights available to full-time employees.
The drafting of the Bill involved an extensive process of consultation in the form of meetings and representations from hundreds of interested individuals and representative groups. These consultations included extensive contacts with overseas industry in Ireland which continued right up to the final stage in the Dáil at which point amendments were made in a number of areas to clarify and refine provisions of the Bill.
Partnership is fundamental to Government policy in the management of our socio-economic development. We have seen from the ESRI report the kind of fruits that partnership has brought about so far and which it will continue to bring into the next century. This approach has been particularly successful over the past ten years and is set to continue with the new national agreement, Partnership 2000. This approach, involving the social partners and the Government, has been fundamental to the creation of conditions for maximising profitability and employment and sharing the benefits of our extraordinary growth.
A significant feature of the drafting of this Bill has been the ongoing contact with both sides of industry. The Organisation of Working Time Bill has the support of both IBEC and ICTU; this is important as they represent the parties who will be charged with upholding the terms of the legislation. This partnership approach will be developed further when a monitoring group is formed to oversee the implementation of the Bill.
The Government's approach to the transposition of the directive has been to provide acceptable minimum standards. I am satisfied that these standards will enhance competitiveness by giving rise to a top class working environment. The Bill is a balanced and integrated set of measures which will ensure that the health and safety of workers is protected and the real needs of employers respected.
Our most successful companies are those which already subscribe to the highest standards of health and safety protection for their workers and they will, generally speaking, be unaffected by this legislation. Health and safety protections do not undermine competitiveness but are seen by progressive companies as a key part of their business strategy. I present health and safety awards every year and it is our blue chip, flagship companies which are usually to the fore because they put health and safety first. Such companies have nothing to fear from this legislation. The skill, quality and commitment of our workforce is one of Ireland's key competitive resources. That skill, quality and commitment is not enhanced by unsafe working practices or by asking people to work excessive hours in order to earn a decent wage. The majority of employers already offer their workers conditions of employment which are better than the Bill's minimum terms.
It is a fact that long hours spent at work can damage a worker's health. Tired workers can put themselves, their colleagues and the general public at risk. The Government has a responsibility to minimise such risk. The main policy concern behind this legislation was to give those in employment the statutory right to rest in the interests of the health and safety of the employee. Stress, fatigue, and other health problems can be linked to excessive time spent at work and to long periods of working. In addition, the modern working environment places many new demands on workers, including adopting new forms of working, time constraints, production and deadline pressures, competition and performance pressures. A legislative structure that recognises the necessity to safeguard the health and wellbeing of the employee is essential in the context of these new pressures. The Organisation of Working Time Bill represents a statutory framework for the protection and safeguarding of the employee in a changing working environment.
The Bill repeals seven pieces of conditions of employment legislation applicable to various sectors and replaces them with generally applicable legislation. The Acts to be repealed are Conditions of Employment Acts, 1936 and 1944, which generally apply to industrial work; Shops (Conditions of Employment) Acts, 1938 and 1942; Night Work (Bakeries) Acts, 1936 and 1981; and the Holidays (Employees) Act, 1973. The Bill also repeals section 4 of the Worker Protection (Regular Part-Time Employees) Act, 1991. The Organisation of Working Time Bill consolidates existing labour law, modernises it and ensures that these rules apply across sectors of the economy which have previously been excluded, such as the public service and the service economy generally.
Before going on to outline some of the features of the legislation, I wish to speak briefly about the flexibilities which are a core part of the legislation. As I have said, the Organisation of Working Time Bill implements the EC directive on working time. In drafting the Bill we have taken advantage of the flexibilities permitted by the directive, with the exception of the open-ended individual opt out from the 48 hour week which I will deal with at a later stage.
There has been much discussion about the effect which the Bill will have on employers and employees. I wish to assure the House that there is huge flexibility in the Bill to accommodate different shift patterns and different overtime arrangements. The directive has been implemented in the most flexible manner, taking advantage of long averaging periods and maximum use of permitted exemptions. In general the Bill's standard provisions on rest breaks and shift patterns can be varied once there is appropriate compensatory rest offered, and agreed working arrangements which are working well can be accommodated within this flexible framework.
In addition to implementing the directive, we have taken the opportunity to include new features in the Bill, and in this respect we have gone beyond the minimum requirements of the directive. We are addressing a number of new problems which have emerged in recent times and making improvements to some existing statutory rights. First, we are introducing in primary legislation a special value for work carried out on Sunday. Second, we are outlawing the concept of zero hour contracts. Third, we are extending holiday entitlements to employees previously excluded from entitlements. Fourth, we are introducing a simplified procedure for claiming entitlements under the Act in the event of a dispute.
We are also introducing a new procedure to give employees a say in how work and rest time may be organised in their own workplace. Another important feature is that it will apply generally to all employees in the public and private sectors alike. Historically, conditions of employment legislation and the remedies available under such legislation were not available to public sector employees. It is important to point out, as there as been some ill-informed comment on the matter, that we are legislating equally for the public and private sectors.
The Bill will repeal the Holidays (Employees) Act, 1973. It will extend the current legal right to paid holidays from three to four weeks, phased in over three years to 1999. Last year workers were entitled to 15 days holiday, but this year they will be entitled to 16 days holiday, to 18 days in 1998 and a minimum of 20 days holiday in 1999. We are also using the opportunity to improve the holiday entitlements of part-time workers and those on very short contracts. The right to holidays is being extended to all employees regardless of hours worked. People will earn holidays against time worked. In addition, for the first time the law will specify that employers must have regard to balancing family needs against work requirements in the timing of annual leave. This is the first time the requirement to have regard to family responsibilities has been included in employment law.
With growing participation by part-time employees in the workforce, we want basic rights, such as holiday pay, extended to all employees. Some 13.8 per cent of workers are part-time employees, an increase from 8.5 per cent in the last eight years. I have been an atypical worker for most of my working life and such workers are equally entitled to protection under employment protection law. As we move from traditional secure employment in nine to five jobs to more varied types of contracts where employers seek that type of flexibility, we have an obligation to ensure that the right of such workers who offer that flexibility are respected.
This balanced approach is designed to ensure that standard workers and non-standard workers have the same legal entitlements. For example, a person who works for one employer on a Monday, another employer on a Tuesday and a third employer on a Wednesday — what Charles Handy terms "portfolio" workers — will earn holiday rights against time worked without having to meet the eight hour threshold under the existing law.
In a further recognition of the way in which the workplace has changed since the holidays legislation was enacted in 1973, the qualifying period for a public holiday will be reduced to 40 hours in the five weeks immediately preceding the public holiday. This provision will bring public holiday entitlements to a range of part-time and atypical workers who would not have benefited before this because of their working arrangements.
The Bill provides that every employee is entitled to one day off per week, which must be Sunday unless Sunday working is specified in the employee's contract of employment. This means that voluntary Sunday working will be protected by the Bill. If Sunday is not included as a working day in a person's contract, they cannot be obliged to work on a Sunday. I regard Sunday as a special day and this is why I have introduced for the first time in law an entitlement to a premium for Sunday working. Over the past number of years the number of people working on Sunday has been rising steadily. While seven day working is a feature of many industries and services, the increase appears to be due to extended operating time for industry and an increase in Sunday opening hours for shops.
Most employees who work on a Sunday already have a premium built into their rate of pay to cover Sunday working. However, there are groups of workers who are still offered a flat rate for Sunday working. It is generally accepted that Sunday working should command a premium; in the various employment regulation orders the premium varies across sectors, but the principle is generally established. The Bill proposes to set this principle down in law and give every employee who has to work on a Sunday an entitlement to an additional payment. This covers people who are rostered for Sunday duty and those who only work on Sundays. This measure has at the same time the effect of recognising the special nature of Sunday as a traditional day of rest by ensuring that employees, if they have to give up their Sundays, are rewarded accordingly while permitting Sunday work which has become commonplace in a large range of employment sectors.
In recent years there has been a dramatic increase in the number of people at work and a greater participation rate in the labour market of women than ever before. Part of this increase is made up of part-time employment and other atypical work. The needs of business are changing and greater flexibility is required, with extended opening hours and increased operating times for industry. New working patterns have revolutionised our traditional view of regular working hours and the full — time job. I am aware that there is a demand from some workers for part-time and atypical work to match their own personal circumstances and this appears to be the case for many women who take up such employment.
I am concerned that the trend towards greater flexibility in the workplace has led to the development of some disturbing practices. Of particular concern is the development of the practice known as the zero hour contract. This practice, where the employee must make himself or herself available throughout the week for work that may not materialise, is perhaps the most demeaning. It is similar to the old hiring fair. In this type of employment relationship the employee has zero rights and zero protections. It is unreasonable that an employee should be subject to costs, such as childminding and travel, in respect of work which may not materialise. To illustrate this point, it is not uncommon for some employees to be on call for work which may arise at a moment's notice or to remain on standby without any guarantee of any work or income.
Changing patterns in the organisation of work have placed new pressures on employees. It is by no means unreasonable to expect that greater demands for flexibility on the part of the employer must be accompanied by certain protections for the employee. In the Bill we propose a twofold measure to effectively ban zero hour contracts and require employers to give advance notice of working hours to their employees. Under these new measures employees will not only be entitled to advance information on their rostered hours but they will also be entitled to be paid for a minimum proportion of the number of hours for which they are required to be available. From now on, if an employee is on standby for the entire week and has not received notice of the times of work and is not given any work, he or she will be entitled to pay for a proportion of the time that he or she is required to be available. The Bill will outlaw zero hour contracts.
It is a primary objective of the proposed new legislation that it should be enforced in a manner which is familiar to both workers and employers, that enforcement should be informal and cost effective and that it should provide speedy determinations. In most cases we are converting previously negotiated employment standards to new legal rights. Arising from this background our approach to the enforcement of these new statutory rights has changed. Working time issues, such as disputes over rest times, have traditionally been dealt with by the Labour Court and a reservoir of expertise has been built up in dealing with these issues.
Therefore, we propose to give an expanded new role to the Labour Court, which will act as the arbitration body for the purposes of this new law. The Labour Court and the rights commissioner service of the Labour Relations Commission will provide a cost effective speedy service in which I am confident that any problems or disputes arising in this legislation can be quickly resolved. For example, under the old Holidays Act, people had to go to the District Court to establish holiday rights. Under the Bill, people can use the Labour Court as a quick, flexible and informal mechanism. It is better that employment law is dealt with by the Labour Court rather than the civil and criminal courts.
Under the enforcement provisions an employee or a trade union with the employee's permission will be permitted to take his or her case to a rights commissioner and, on appeal, to the Labour Court without resorting to formal legal proceedings, as was the case previously in the holidays area. If somebody has a series of appeals before the Employment Appeals Tribunal, he or she will not go to the Labour Court with a holiday claim if they were unfairly dismissed or there is a minimum notice claim. The person can go to the Employment Appeals Tribunal as a one-stop-shop. This will make matters simple and customer friendly.
I have spoken earlier about the repeal of existing prescriptive legislation in this area and also about the way in which the world of work has changed. An important objective of the legislation is that all employees benefit equally from the health and safety protections in the context of their different employment circumstances. While it is likely that the majority of employees will be unaffected by the Bill, having greater protections already, there is plenty of scope to vary the standard provisions if required.
There is substantial opportunity in the Bill for the social partners and employee representatives at local level to negotiate working time arrangements which accommodate the interests of both employer and employee. It would be impossible and arguably wrong for Government to attempt to regulate in a prescriptive manner all employment types and arrangements. At present there are approximately 12 cases per week coming before my Department where an employer wants to change shift arrangements. Under the legislation of the 1930s the Minister or the Department, on my behalf, has to approve variations on shift arrangements. This red tape is unsuited to the modern flexible work place. The Bill will empower employers and employees to devise their own working time arrangements: if the circumstances in an employment are such that compliance with the principal statutory rest periods at the time required in the Bill are not possible, alternative rest and working times may be agreed at local or sectoral level and the terms of such agreements will be binding under the legislation. Through this measure we are responding to and encouraging the move towards genuine partnership at local level. A local agreement which does not fit precisely within the standard terms of the legislation can be accepted and registered with the Labour Court.
For employers, the Bill gives scope to organise working hours to accommodate production demands. For employees, the Bill sets out new standards and norms of protection for the first time. Competitive pressures and the adoption of new systems of work have given rise to new work patterns. The organisation of work is facing rapid change at every level. We recognise this and are responding to these changes in this Bill, which sets out a modern framework of employment law into the next century.
This legislation will apply to all employees with certain exceptions, namely, doctors in training and work at sea, sea fishing and the transport sector. The transport sector will be exempted by regulation to provide for a more comprehensive description of the types of transport employees which are to be excluded. The exemptions provided in this legislation do not mean that the working time in these sectors will remain unregulated. On the contrary, separate sector specific directives are being discussed in Brussels for these areas and will become law in due course. We do not wish to double regulate these sectors. The directives which are being drawn up for these sectors take account of the special features and characteristics of working time in these areas. I understand that the Commission will be publishing a White Paper on the remaining sectors to be regulated in the near future. I am aware that a number of Senators have concerns, particularly in relation to doctors in training. I share those concerns and we will be working in Brussels to ensure this matter is progressed as rapidly as possible.
In addition to these exempted categories, we also propose to exempt the Defence Forces and the Garda. I am satisfied that in normal circumstances the Defence Forces and the Garda have sufficient protection built into their rostering and holiday arrangements. However, due to the nature of the service provided by these two categories and in accordance with the exemption permitted in the framework directive, it would be impractical to apply the terms of the directive to their work. We do not want a situation where somebody completes their working hours while in hot pursuit of an escaping criminal. In accordance with the directive the Bill also gives an enabling power to exempt employees in the civil protection services where the nature of the work could conflict with the directive.
I am also incorporating additional flexibilities for certain sectors recognised as having such a need. These sectors include industries subject to seasonality or a foreseeable surge of productivity and include agriculture, public utilities, the media, security industry and industries which cannot be interrupted on technical grounds. These sectors listed in the Bill can avail of a six month averaging period for the 48 hour week and may also be the subject of regulations which will give additional flexibility regarding the timing of rest. In addition, employees who, as a matter of fact, determine their own working hours will be exempt from the working time provisions of the legislation.
There were a number of important changes to the Bill during its passage through the Dáil. Arising from the ongoing consultative process and in response to strong representations from certain sectors which would have had difficulty with the immediate application of the 48 hour rule, the Bill was significantly amended on Committee Stage to include a phase-in period to ensure that employers and employees have sufficient time to adjust to the new working hours limit. This is intended to deal with the practical difficulties which would arise if the 48 hour rule were to have immediate effect. The phase-in period of two years provided for the Fifth Schedule of the Bill allows 60 hours per week to be worked in the first year of operation and 55 hours in the second year. I am satisfied that this will deal with most of the practical issues raised during consultations with industry representatives. Further amendments were introduced in relation to record keeping and employees who determine their own working time.
In response to representations on behalf of shop workers, with whom I had lengthy discussions, the Bill was modified to provide for the preservation of existing rest break entitlements. In addition, following discussions with unions, employers, the social partners and others, I have clarified and improved the sections on the provision of information, zero hour contracts, holidays and Sunday working. Regarding minimum notice, if somebody takes their weekly rest break on a Saturday and Sunday, notice for their working hours on Monday morning and for the following week have to be given by Thursday evening of the previous week.
Having secured the support of the social partners, both IBEC and ICTU, the Organisation of Working Time Bill represents a balanced package of measures to protect employees in relation to their rest and working hours without interfering with existing legally acceptable agreements or the conduct of business.
There has been much discussion about the 48 hour week and, as I said earlier, the Government has decided to phase in this provision over two years to ensure that both employers and employees have sufficient time to adjust to the new limit. The new arrangements permit 60 hours to be worked in the first year after commencement of the Act, reducing to 55 hours in the second year and 48 hours in the third and subsequent years. This transition period is designed to meet the specific needs of such sectors as coops, construction and building and the security industry. It allows time to make adjustments to rostering, recruitment and training and to take advantage of cyclical factors in the building and construction sector.
This Bill is concerned with protecting the health and safety of workers. It is damaging to worker's health and safety if they are systematically asked throughout the year to work excessive hours. In the same way that we do not allow an opt out regarding wearing a hard hat on a building site, it is important that the protections included in the Bill for valid reasons are accepted. I regard them as important core issues.
Section 1 of the Bill provides for the short title and commencement of the Bill. Section 2 concerns interpretation and defines the terms used in the Bill. Section 3 exempts members of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, persons engaged in work at sea, doctors in training, family members who are employees and persons who can themselves determine the duration of their working time. This section also empowers the Minister to exempt from any provision of the Bill by regulation employees involved in transport activities or in the civil protection services where application of the Bill would undermine the efficiency of the service concerned. When we talk about transport activities we are referring to workers involved in transporting. It does not include, for example, clerical staff in CIE; but it would include lorry drivers, for example, employed by a manufacturing company.
Paragraph (c) of the section was amended on Committee Stage in the Dáil to clarify that people who determine the duration of their own working time are exempt from the Bill.
Section 4 exempts people from the daily and weekly rest provisions, set out in Part II, an employee each time he or she changes shift and an employee whose employment involves periods of work spread out over the day. This section also empowers the Minister to make regulations regarding split shift workers. The section allows the Minister, on condition that compensatory rest is provided, to exempt by regulations specified sectors set out in article 17 (2) of the directive from provisions of the Bill regarding daily and weekly rest, rest intervals at work, night working and information on working hours. The Minister must consult with the employers and employees likely to be affected by the proposals before making such regulations.
This section also provides that a collective agreement approved by the Labour Court, registered employment agreement or an employment regulation order may exempt affected employers and employees from compliance with the sections of the Bill set out in Part II which deal with daily and weekly rest and rest intervals, provided that the employees benefit from compensatory rest. In other words, if there is a variation, workers must get compensatory rest.
Section 5 exempts employers from compliance with the working time provisions of the Bill without prejudice to the employees' entitlement to compensatory rest in exceptional or emergency circumstances.
Section 6 provides that if an employee is not entitled to the minimum rest provisions set out in the Bill by reason of ministerial regulation, an approved collective agreement, including a registered employment agreement or an employment regulation order, the employer must ensure that the employee has available to him or her equivalent compensatory rest. The principle running throughout these sections is that if there is a variation from the standard rest provisions, there must be equivalent compensatory rest.
If for objective reasons it is not possible for an employer to ensure that the employee avails of the minimum rest to which he or she is entitled then the employee is entitled to appropriate compensation, which may not be of monetary or material benefit but take the form of provision of a benefit which improves the physical conditions under which the employee works or the amenities or services available to the employee while at work.
Section 7 is a standard provision concerning making regulations. Section 8 empowers the Minister to appoint inspectors. Section 9 repeals certain enactments. Section 10 is a standard section dealing with expenses. Section 11 provides for an entitlement by an employee to a minimum rest period of 11 consecutive hours in each 24 hour period. The weekly rest break is 24 hours plus 11 hours, giving a total minimum weekly break of 35 hours.
Section 12 provides for an entitlement by employees to a rest break while at work of 15 minutes in a period of four and a half hours' work and 30 minutes in a period of six hours' work. Breaks at the end of the working day do not satisfy these requirements. This section was amended on Committee Stage in the Dáil to provide that the minimum rest period of 30 minutes may be extended to one hour for certain categories of employee by regulation made by the Minister. This was done to preserve the existing rights of shop workers to a one hour lunch break.
Section 13 provides for an entitlement by everyone to a weekly rest period of 24 hours which must be in addition to the daily rest period of 11 hours. This may be granted over a 14 day period. In the event of technical or other objectively justified circumstances the employer may decide that the weekly rest is not preceded by the daily rest entitlement of 11 hours. Unless otherwise specified in an employee's contract of employment, the weekly rest period shall include a Sunday. If the employee must work on a Sunday he or she will be entitled to another day off during the week.
Section 14 provides that an employee required to work on Sunday shall be entitled to a premium payment for this work which may consist of a payment or bonus time off in lieu or a combination of both. If the employee does not already receive a Sunday premium he or she shall be entitled to the appropriate premium payable to a comparable employee in a collective agreement in force in a similar industry or sector in accordance with the arrangements set out in this section. A Dáil Committee Stage amendment now requires an employee, when making a complaint, to bring to the notice of the Rights Commissioner or Labour Court a relevant collective agreement. The Sunday premium is set by reference to the going rate in the industry which will be determined by the Labour Court by looking at collective agreements already in force for comparable workers.
Section 15 provides that an employer shall not permit an employee to work for more than 48 hours averaged over a four month period. A six month averaging period is permissible in the sectors set out in Article 17(2) of the directive, such as agriculture, tourism, electricity production, etc. This section also allows for the averaging period to be extended to a maximum of 12 months by collective agreement. The averaging period shall not include absences from work due to statutory annual leave, sick leave or maternity or adoptive leave. As I said, this will be phased in over a period of two years. This mechanism will permit working of 60 hours per week in the first year and 55 hours per week in the second year after commencement. Allowing averaging over 12 months by collective agreement will take account of all kinds of seasonal work and employers and employees should find it practical to implement.
Section 16 defines night time, night work, night worker and special category night worker. In accordance with the directive, the section provides that, where a night worker is not a special category night worker, the employer must ensure that the employee does not work greater than an average of eight hours per night or 48 hours per week averaged over a two month period. It provides that employers and employees may enter into a collective agreement which must be approved by the Labour Court, which may extend the period over which the night working is averaged. Where a night worker is categorised as a special category night worker, following a risk assessment of the hazardous nature of the work, an absolute limit of eight hours per night per 24 hour period applies.
Section 17 provides that an employee shall be entitled to be notified in advance of the hours which the employer will require the employee to work. Where unforeseeable circumstances justify a change in the notified times, an employer may alter the starting or finishing times. This section was strengthened on Committee Stage in the Dá il to clarify that notice must be given on Thursday evening of the following Monday morning's work.
Section 18 provides that an employee may not be subjected to zero hour contracts without compensation. In broad terms the section provides that, in the event of an employer failing to require an employee to work at least 25 per cent of the time, the employee is required to be on standby under the contract of employment. The employee will be entitled to payment for 25 per cent of the contract hours or 15 hours per week, whichever is less. An amendment was passed at Committee Stage in the Dáil to ensure there would be no entitlement to the minimum payment if there was only an expectation that employment would be given. However, if people are required by their contracts to be available they receive the minimum payment.
Section 19 sets out the three mechanisms for earning an entitlement to annual leave. They are similar to those applying to employees, including part-time employees, in existing legislation on holidays while allowing for the increase in holiday entitlement from three weeks to four weeks, or from 6 per cent to 8 per cent of time worked for part-time employees. The new four week entitlement shall not come into effect until April 1999. Up to then the First Schedule sets out the transitional arrangements giving entitlement on a phased basis. For the leave year beginning April 1997, there will be 16 days leave; for the leave year beginning April 1998, 18 days and for the leave year beginning April 1999, 20 days.
Section 20 sets out the criteria which shall apply to the times at which annual leave may be granted and to the arrangement whereby an employee may be paid for this leave. A change from the existing arrangements is that an employer must take into account the need for the employee to reconcile work and any family responsibilities.
Section 21 sets out the criteria which shall apply to public holiday entitlements. The qualifying period for part-time workers is that at least 40 hours' work during the five weeks before the public holiday will be required for entitlement to a public holiday. This section was amended on Committee Stage in the Dáil to ensure that an individual employee will be entitled to a public holiday even though that employee is never rostered to work a public holiday. Someone not rostered to work on a Monday will still get bank holiday entitlements.
Section 22 provides that the mechanism for calculating the rate of pay for a public holiday shall be set out by regulation. This section also provides that time off granted to an employee for holidays or public holidays shall be regarded as time worked for pay purposes. Section 23 provides that an employee or his or her personal representative in the event of his or her death shall be entitled to the payment of any holidays or public holidays compensation owing at the time of cessor of employment.
Section 24 provides that the Labour Court shall approve of collective agreements which are concluded to vary the basic terms of the Bill concerning working time. Before it can approve of a collective agreement, the Labour Court must be satisfied that such agreement accords with the directive, has been concluded in the manner usually employed in determining the pay or other conditions of the employees concerned and that the body negotiating the agreement is representative of the employees concerned. The Labour Court shall determine its own procedures and shall keep a register of the approved collective agreements which shall be available for public inspection.
Section 25 specifies that an employer must keep records for at least three years to show that he or she is complying with the legislation. This section was amended on Committee Stage in the Dáil to allow the Minister to exempt employers from keeping records in certain circumstances.
Section 26 provides that an employee who refuses to co-operate with an employer in breaching the Act shall not be penalised by the employer. It was amended on Committee Stage in the Dáil to prevent double compensation which could arise if awards were made pursuant to unfair dismissal in addition to claims under this Bill.
Section 27 provides that an employee or an employee's trade union may make a complaint to a Rights Commissioner who shall investigate the complaint and make a decision. The complaint must be presented before six months following the occurrence of the breach unless exceptional circumstances prevent this. Provision is also made for ministerial regulation. Section 28 provides that people may appeal a decision of a Rights Commissioner to the Labour Court but must do so within six weeks of hearing the Rights Commissioner's decision. Where a decision has not been appealed by the employer and has not been implemented within six weeks, the Labour Court, without an investigation, may make a determination which is the same as the Rights Commissioner's decision. There is the usual appeal to the High Court on a point of law.
Section 29 provides that the Labour Court's determination can be enforced by the employee, the trade union or the Minister in the Circuit Court without hearing the employer or any evidence in relation to the complaint. The court may order the employer to pay interest on an award.
Section 30 deals with evidence in relation to prosecution of a person for failure to attend before the Labour Court or refusal to give evidence or failure or refusal to produce documents. Section 31 allows the Minister to go to the Rights Commissioner on behalf of an employee where it would be unreasonable for the employee to pursue a complaint. This shall be treated in the same way as a complaint from the employee.
Section 32 obliges employers who employ outworkers to keep a register, the details of which will be set out by regulation. Section 33 prohibits double employment where the aggregate total of hours worked exceeds the provisions of the Act. Section 34 provides that an offence may be prosecuted by the Minister. Section 35 sets out the procedures for the preparation by the Labour Relations Commission of a code of practice for the purposes of any section of the Bill. This ties in with negotiated agreements between both sides which are registered as a registered collective agreement.
Section 36 is required to clarify the powers of inspectors under the Bill. Section 37 is a standard provision. Section 38 closes a loophole and extends the period in which the Health and Safety Authority can take a prosecution in circumstances where proceedings are delayed by an inquest. Section 39 provides for a solution to the difficulties encountered with the enforcement of decisions of a Rights Commissioner, the Employment Appeals Tribunal or the Labour Court under a range of legislation where details relating to an employer are incorrectly set out in a decision.
Section 40 is a new section added at Committee Stage in the Dáil to ensure, in the case of complaints, that holiday entitlements may be claimed at the same time as entitlements under other enactments. Section 41 increases fines under health and safety legislation from a maximum of £1,000 to £1,500 in District Court prosecutions.
The Bill is a detailed and complex measure. It represents a balanced and sensible approach on working time and a comprehensive response to recent developments in the workplace. It sets out a framework of employment law which is suitable for Ireland as a vibrant economy heading towards the 21st century and which builds its prosperity on respect for the basic rights of workers and decent minimum standards. I commend the Bill to the House.