Organisation of Working Time Bill, 1996: Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

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.

I welcome the Minister of State. This debate will be perceived as an easy ride in comparison with the Second Stage and Committee Stage debates on this Bill in the other House, particularly in relation to certain key issues. The good news is that my party enthusiastically welcomes and supports the broad thrust of the Bill. We believe the Bill will, as the Minister of State said in her closing remarks, provide a necessary framework for the workplace as we enter the new millennium. The bad news is that I will concentrate on some key areas of the Bill which the Minister of State has already debated in some detail in the other House. Those areas are exclusion, competition, the real or imagined impact which the Bill will have on our industrial competitiveness, Sunday trading and the thorny question of the opt out.

Flexibility in regard to the opt out was argued for cogently in the other House by our spokes-person on Labour affairs, Deputy Tom Kitt, Deputy Harney and other Members of the Opposition. However, their cogent arguments fell on deaf ears. The Minister of State held her ground and we are now presented with the result of that debate.

In regard to competitiveness, the Minister of State has spoken exclusively about the health and safety aspects of the Bill. Nobody can argue with the proposals in the Bill which will improve health and safety at work. The Minister of State was right to refer in the other House to 19th century, Victorian thinking in this area which needed to be significantly updated. However, my concern centres around industrial competitiveness, our role in an expanded Europe and the possibility that inward investment might be threatened by our adherence to the strict interpretation of this EU directive. I use the adjective "strict" because the EU, when putting forward this directive before the Council of Ministers, indicated it will review the directive after seven years. Our Government, however, is opting for a much shorter phasing in period of two years and is not concentrating to any large extent on the possible adverse implications for industrial competitiveness of the inflexible 48 hour rule.

References were made to the famous IDA letter, which was subsequently withdrawn. When the letter from Kieran McGowan first appeared in the media, it seemed on first reading to be a breath of fresh air, in that somebody working at the cutting edge of industrial development and attempting to attract more jobs to this economy was outlining possible difficulties which might arise for him and his directors in their dealings with potential inward investors and their competitors, specifically the Northern Ireland and Scottish industrial development boards. The Scottish board has achieved a number of industrial coups over this country over the last decade.

The letter was subsequently withdrawn and a different interpretation was placed on it. However, the incident reminded me of the banner headlines which appear in the printed media, which are what people remember. If a story is refuted or an apology is sought, the clarification and apology are invariably buried at the bottom of page 6 of the newspaper and the public is left with the original banner headline. The perception still persists therefore that, in spite of the reforming nature of this legislation, Ireland could be at an industrial disadvantage because of the Government's lack of response to the question of flexibility on the 48 hour opt out rule.

Siemens, the German electronics giant, decided two or three years ago to seek an overseas location within the European Union. At the time it seemed surprising it was seeking a location outside Germany because the whole thrust of German economic policy is towards providing a more equitable balance between the former East and West Germany and one would have thought that Siemens would have invested in East Germany rather than a non-German location.

Ireland was batting along with the rest of the EU countries for what has since turned out to be a significant industrial development employing several thousand people but, unfortunately, we failed to attract Siemens. The British Government was delighted to announce at a press conference, attended by the chief executive of Siemens, that the plant was going to the depressed north eastern region around Sunderland and Newcastle. The chief executive was asked at the press conference what had influenced his company to locate in the United Kingdom. He referred to the Social Chapter and what he euphemistically called the flexible working conditions and environment for creating profits which existed in the United Kingdom to a greater extent than in the other competing countries.

The question of opting out of the Social Chapter has been at the centre of British political debate since the directive was first passed. It is too early to say for sure, but the indications are that the new British Government — which one presumes will be a Labour Government — will retain much of the Tory industrial policy in this regard, although some Labour spokespersons have been saying it will sign up to the Social Chapter. We will have to await the political developments in that country to see what it is going to do. However, there is no question that it is a very difficult area which is fraught with complexities. The Irish Government has decided to implement the 48 hour rule with no flexibility or opt out, except in certain specific areas with which the Minister of State has dealt.

It is important in this debate to register a certain reservation, which was put much more strongly by my colleagues in the other House. I can now indicate to the Minister of State that we will be tabling an amendment on flexibility, similar to that tabled by Deputy Tom Kitt in the other House on Report Stage. I and many of my colleagues feel very strongly about this matter because freedom of choice in a free and democratic society should be paramount. I differ from the Minister's ideology in one key area: I have always believed the Labour Party policy and ideology were based on the notion of the granny State from the cradle to the grave and there was no great encouragement or enthusiasm for individual choice, entrepreneurial type innovations or for those who wish to break the mould. However, the Minister may think what a load of old rubbish, the Senator is wrong, the new Labour Party which is a social democratic party is for freedom of choice also. While that may be the message the effect of this legislation, and a view shared by many of my colleagues in both Houses, is that inflexibility on the 48 hour working time restricts freedom of choice.

I understand the Minister said that only 6 per cent of the working population would opt for increased working hours in a week but surely those people are as entitled to that view as anybody else in this working environment. What is more important is that increasingly inward investment is influenced by internal working practices agreed between the workforce and management. It seems, from what the Minister said on the wide consultation procedure in which she and her Department indulged — although it is welcome — has been strongly influenced by the trade unions' views on this issue.

In his contribution Deputy Tom Kitt referred to meetings he and the Deputy Leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy O'Rourke — the former Minister with responsibility in this area — had with Mr. Peter Cassells and Ms Patricia O'Donovan and to the fact that they failed to agree on flexibility. In recent years an increasing amount of job creation in this tiger economy is being provided by non-union multinationals. It is like the love about which we should not speak, it is not something that emerges into public debate. Whenever one hears about the significant job creation in-flows from American and other companies it is trumpeted across the media and, unless one looks at the small print, one does not find out that in practically all cases they are non-union. They operate their own bargaining position and worker-employer relationships within the environment of the industry. The views of the trade union movement on this issue as it affects our continuing competitiveness in the European context is largely irrelevant. As trade union membership is on the decline why should this albeit extremely powerful lobby group have such a dominant view which seems to have been accepted by the Government? It is based very much on the experience of a new company, Masonite, in County Leitrim. It is a welcome development and will employ 350 people. I asked if they would be unionised and they said, no, and nobody will say a word to them.

Sunday trading is a complex area. I will not go into it in detail now. The arguments have been well made but there should be a national referendum. The people should be asked if they wish to have Sunday trading as is currently practised by multinationals, not by the small corner shop and not by the small newsagents. It is not beyond the ken of this Government to frame legislation — even in the absence of a referendum — to allow the small shops to operate throughout rural Ireland and at the same time severely curtail and restrict the large multinationals. They open on Sunday from 12 noon until 6 p.m. Why cannot legislation be framed to enable shops to open only for one hour, say from 12 noon until 1 p.m. or again from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. or 10 p.m? That is when people are most likely to go to their local shop on a Sunday if they are stuck for something.

I compliment and put on the record a tribute to my colleague, Deputy Tom Kitt, for initiating specific legislation in this area which the Government has graciously accepted. I hope we can return to this on Committee Stage and again we will put forward some proposals on Report Stage. I am grateful to the Cathaoirleach for indulging me a little longer than I had hoped. I welcome the broad thrust of this legislation and wish it well.

I welcome the Bill and in view of the fact that an election may be imminent, I am glad we will have an opportunity to pass it. When initiated, many Senators and other individuals, especially the self-employed in service industries, spoke about their fear of Sunday trading.

I will now deal with some of the issues. The Minister made a number of important amendments to the Bill on Committee Stage. For many years legislation has been introduced which often imposed prohibitions on employers. All Governments have been associated with this as a result of European directives and so on. When one considers that legislation being enacted now will be law into the next Millennium and beyond, and considering it has been a long time since there were any real changes in this area, the Bill is very welcome.

The self-employed, especially those in the service industry, and those who can determine their own hours were concerned about the changes proposed in this Bill. When we last had the opportunity to discuss employment with this Minister of State and the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, we spoke about the huge increase in job creation in the service industry. The people working in that area were deeply worried about the legislation and its effect on their businesses and on the work and service they provide. The Minister has dealt with this matter successfully and ensured that these people can work unhindered and can decide their own hours.

I wonder how politicians would fare if this legislation applied to them. Since Sunday I have worked in the region of 48 hours, and I have no doubt many of us would not be able to work within the rules and regulations being proposed here. We must seriously consider the health and safety element of employment and it is important there are rules and regulations to ensure people have time to enjoy a very important aspect of life — recreation. We all know workaholics and at the end of the day we ask how they do it but people do not always consider the health aspect.

I would have preferred the implementation of the incorporation of flexibility time, such as lunch and coffee breaks, in the extended number of hours worked per day to take place over a five year rather than a three year period. However, if serious problems emerge within a couple of years of the legislation taking effect, perhaps the Government might review how it affects companies. While we wish to protect workers we do not want to see problems emerge from a too rapid implementation of the legislation before companies have time to adopt and train other staff they may have to employ.

The sooner the Government legislates to ban Sunday trading, other than for the four weeks leading up to Christmas, the better. There is no need for multinationals to open their businesses on Sundays. When I was growing up these shops were not open. Individuals or families went to local events such as parish fund-raisers and football, hurling or soccer matches. Many local business people must now open on Sundays to compete when they would rather be at home with their families. However, families now spend their Sundays browsing around shops. They may not spend money, because ultimately the amount spent in the economy over a given year does not increase in response to businesses opening on Sundays. There is no need for a referendum on this issue. The Government should allow Sunday opening for the four weeks leading up to Christmas and no more.

I compliment the Minister of State on the changes made to the Bill as originally drafted. It is important to respect the fears expressed by employers. The legislation should be reviewed after 18 months to see how it is working and to ascertain the effect it has on smaller companies whose staffs are unionised. Many companies investing in Ireland today do so on the basis that their workforces will not be unionised. When canvassing last night in preparation for a possible forthcoming event, I met some of the workers of a company that has been taken over by a larger company. The told me that the new company is seeking more working hours regardless of extra pay considerations. They were not unionised and I understood the importance of this legislation in terms of protecting them. I was told that the new company, which had taken over other companies in other countries and increased turnover by many millions of pounds, had indicated that pay increases could be considered when production was increased. This legislation will at least ensure the workers involved will have an adequate amount of time off work, which is important for their health and safety.

This is a comprehensive Bill. I was a member of the Council of Europe when the EU Social Chapter was discussed. The UK has not subscribed to it, although at the time its members on the council were not opposed to this legislation. If and when there is a change in Government in the UK, it may accept this and other measures.

The Minister of State has addressed the issue of the determination of own working time. This was very important because it was a matter of great concern. I attended a celebratory function of our club team when it won the county championship last November. A number of young men and women who work for themselves told me that the 48 hour rule would put them out of business. I am delighted that this matter has been resolved.

The Government should make a decision on the issue of Sunday trading. Many Members of both Houses do not want to see it continuing in the way it has developed beyond taking place in the four weeks leading up to Christmas.

The implementation of the legislation should be reviewed within 18 months. There is no guarantee regarding the working of the regulations until they have been in place for some time. This element of flexibility will be of use to employers, whose co-operation is essential to the success of the legislation, which is concerned with the safety and improvement of work practices in industry today.

The Minister of State said this Bill was a detailed and complex measure. That may be so but I preferred her description of the Bill as a balanced and sensible measure on working time and a comprehensive response to recent developments in the workplace. I am glad she has tackled problems such as zero working hours, part-time workers and Sunday trading. There is little to complain about in the Bill apart from one aspect I have discussed with her already, that is the exclusion of doctors in training — I have also discussed it with the Minister for Health.

This Bill is about health and safety. The Minister of State said "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." In the case to which I am referring, the general public are patients. This is a risk like any other, and the Minister of State said "The Government has a responsibility to minimise such risk." Frankly, the Government is not trying to minimise this risk sufficiently. Doctors in training should be covered by this Bill.

This is very serious. In Ireland, doctors in training or non-consultant hospital doctors make up a substantial percentage of the medical labour force. They currently number 2,500 or 40 per cent of all doctors. It is suggested that these doctors work long hours for only a few years, and this does them very little harm, whatever about their patients. Many of these doctors are in training for 12 years, and are working in excess of a maximum of 65 hours per week, often without payment for the extra hours.

The Minister of State referred to the parents of workers and the effects of long working hours on family life. Imagine the effect of working over 65 hours per week on the lives of young people of 25 to 35 years of age if they are trying to raise families. We are said to be promoting family life but how can these people have proper families when they are working in these conditions and are not being given any protection by this Bill? We should have made more of an effort to balance their family needs and to understand that this is important for them.

At present, a non-consultant hospital doctor's work consists of a basic 39 hours per week, which is remunerated at a flat rate. There are different rates for additional overtime hours up to an agreed and approved maximum of 26 hours' overtime. There have been improvements in this area recently. At one stage, when such doctors worked more than a certain amount of overtime, they received half pay. Nobody else in the country was in this astonishing position. The Minister for Health is trying to bring in a provision where people can opt to have time taken off the amount of hours they have to work instead of working overtime. This is not a matter of quality health service but of health economics, and it is extremely bad that junior doctors are not being included in this Bill.

There is another problem in that, no matter what figure we set as the total number of weekly hours to be worked by non-consultant hospital doctors, they often exceed the maximum limits. The concept of 65 being the maximum hours worked loses its meaning after a while. Some junior doctors are afraid to complain when they work over a certain number of hours, although that number may be specified in their contracts. These additional hours are being worked by doctors who are supposed to be in training, they are not trained people. These excessive hours have nothing to do with training. They are being worked to deliver a health care service but what sort of health care service is it?

European Union Directive 93/104/EC exempts doctors in training from its protective provisions on a maximum work week. When the directive was under political discussion Ireland and the United Kingdom conspired together to exclude doctors in training. Existing work practice agreements concerning the maximum working hours of non-consultant hospital doctors in Ireland are not being implemented properly at present. The issue of unrostered hours, their identification and how the problem can be addressed, have proven over the years to be an almost insurmountable obstacle to achieving a practical and effective solution to the number of hours worked by non-consultant hospital doctors in Ireland. Unrostered hours can best be defined as hours worked in excess of approved and agreed rosters. We cannot know what they are. However, they are not to be confused with overtime hours as they usually are in excess of a recommended roster. These excessive hours are also usually worked by surgeons, anaesthetists, casualty officers and paediatric trainees, all those who work at the coalface and who are expected to deal with the most important emergency cases in the hospitals. These people are frequently over tired. I echo the Minister of State when she says that unsafe working hours put the worker and their colleagues at risk. In this case, they are also putting patients at risk.

We claim to want to ensure a high quality health care system. The decision to exclude doctors in training from the protective provisions of the directive has the potential to delay the development of the health system. It is unreasonable and unrealistic to demand non-consultant hospital doctors to give 100 per cent quality performance while working exhaustive hours under pressure. It also sets a very dangerous precedent to exclude non-consultant hospital doctors from health and safety initiatives, given that such exclusion affects the health and safety of such doctors. It sets a very bad example for them to tell people to do one thing while they are doing another. Many international studies show that most mistakes involving the medical profession happen when doctors are over-tired. In some cases which have involved medical litigation, it has been shown that the doctor had little or no sleep in the previous 72 hours. That is three days, one day longer than the entire working week recommended by the Minister of State in some cases.

I will not quote cases that arose here, but legislation was introduced in New York when a lawyer whose daughter died in a hospital casualty room from an asthmatic attack found out that the casualty officer on duty had had no sleep in the previous 24 hours. In England, a young anaesthetist who was not a British national was involved in a manslaughter charge and it emerged the doctor had had four hours sleep in the preceding 72 hours. I do not know how we can ally ourselves in the Council of Europe with a country where there are such working conditions.

Section 11 of this Bill states that there has to be 11 hours consecutive rest in every 24, but not many junior hospital doctors are getting that. Section 16 states that there should be an eight hour limit on night work for every 24 hours. These provisions are excellent, but a doctor will begin work at 6 p.m. and work until 9 a.m. the next day. Are our limits safe?

Following lobbying from the Permanent Work Group of European Junior Hospital Doctors, or PWG, the European Parliament's Committee on Social Affairs recommended to the Parliament that the clause excluding doctors in training from the scope of the directive be deleted. The European Parliament voted by an overwhelming majority to urge the Commission to delete the exclusion clause which would have extended coverage to junior doctors. Despite this, the Council of Ministers adopted the directive with the exclusion clause intact, but, because of the strong recommendation of the Parliament, they included a sentence in the Preamble of the directive saying:

where as given, the specific nature of the work concerned, it may be necessary to adopt separate measures with regard to the organisation of working time in certain sectors or activities which are excluded from the scope of the Directive.

This was to allow member states the right to extend the provisions of the directive to the excluded sectors outlined in the directive text. Governments in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Germany have introduced legislation to limit working hours for doctors in training along the lines of directive 93/104/EC. I do not understand why we cannot do the same and why we are following United Kingdom's lead, which, as Senator Farrelly said, has opted out of the Social Chapter of the Maastricht Treaty. I feel strongly about this and ask the Minister of State to see what can be done so that we follow other European countries rather than the neighbouring island and Northern Ireland. This not only affects workers in hospitals but also has a serious effect on patients.

I welcome the Bill which implements EU Directive 93/104. I also welcome the fact that, with other EU states, we have chosen to include part of the directive in our national law. I share Senator Henry's concerns about junior hospital doctors, in particular — I will come back to that. A great deal of debate took place in the Dáil on how this legislation will affect our competitiveness, particularly in terms of attracting foreign investment. I firmly believe in the importance of this type of social legislation to ensure the health and safety of our workers. This Bill will not have an adverse effect on attracting good employers. We do not want to attract employers who will exploit our workforce.

According to the ESRI report published today, the reason there is likely to be a steady increase in employment into the next millennium is that we are producing a well educated workforce whose productivity is increasing. Such factors, along with the management of the economy which is a broader issue, have ensured foreign investment in jobs and they override any suggestion that employers will feel constrained by our health and safety legislation. I strongly believe we are correct not only to protect our workforce but to put this directive into law.

Today over 800 jobs were announced in my region under the banner of Shannon development and a few hundred more jobs were announced in the mid-west region. This is an indication of the buoyancy and health of our economy in terms of attracting investment from within this country and from abroad. We need to balance existing jobs among the available workforce. It is wrong to encourage some sectors of the workforce to work long and unhealthy hours while others have no jobs. It is also wrong not to make provision for people to have a life outside work. People have family and social commitments and it is very important they have the opportunity to balance their working life with their family life.

I welcome the fact provision has been made for family commitments in terms of how holiday time is organised. I also welcome the inclusion of atypical workers as there is an increasing number of such workers in the economy. These people do not work the regular hours of nine to five; they work flexi-time or job share. We need more debate on balancing people's family and child care commitments with work commitments. Issues such as parental leave are important not only for mothers but also for fathers. The sooner we include the concept of parenting in people's working lives the better.

There is a great deal of practical detail in the Bill. It is good that the 48 hour working period was teased out and the way in which it is incorporated in the legislation is practical in that the limit is over a reference period of four months and longer for seasonal workers. The practical issues which arose have been taken on board. The Bill also states there should be an eight hour limit on night work for 24 hours. The legislation has taken into account the fact that people have different requirements according to the type of work they do. The fact that a person may organise their own working time means they are not strictly covered by this legislation which is flexible and covers many of the concerns raised in the House and elsewhere.

I welcome the protection of Sunday workers and the fact zero hour contracts are covered and that people have a right to be informed of the likely hours they will be required to work at the beginning of the week. It was appalling that people had to sit at the telephone not knowing if they would be called to work. That was unacceptable exploitation of people in low paid employment who did not have other options and, therefore, were exploited by employers. I welcome the fact that issue has been dealt with in the legislation.

Like Senator Henry I am familiar with junior hospital doctors but, unlike other Members, I am not familiar with other groups of workers exempted. My husband was a junior hospital doctor when I had my first child and we spent most of the time in Canada. I do not know if it has changed its legislation. At that time it was difficult to bring up a young child when the other partner had to work all night and the following day, was exhausted at the end of the work period and was rarely off such a roster. I do not know how much this has changed but the sooner this sector is included in the legislation the better for the doctors and the patients for whom they care.

The Minister of State said specific regulations were being drawn up in relation to these activities but I gather it is being done in the EU rather than here. I agree with Senator Henry that the sooner this sector is included the better. Junior doctors have a responsible job and it is essential they are in top form when carrying out their duties. I hope specific regulations including this sector will be introduced as soon as possible.

Apart from that, the Bill covers the majority of workers. The flexibility of the legislation will be workable. I am sure other Members received representations from various people; I received one from a local branch of a trade union. It was supportive of the Bill. It stated it was satisfied there would be maximum scope for flexibility by way of local collective agreements which take account of the needs of the individual enterprise without exposing workers to pressure from employers to work excessive hours. That is what the Bill is about. It is all very well to say people should be allowed to work as many hours as they wish and that an individual freedom is being called into question, but that is not the reality of people's working lives. Often people work long hours not because they want to but because they are pressurised by their employers to do so. They need the job and they feel they must accede to such a request. Workers need this protection and I am glad this legislation is being introduced.

The use of the Labour Court in the legislation is good because it is the specific court for this area and it works well. The concept of using ordinary courts is impractical and would probably add extra costs. The Labour Court has the mechanisms and experience to deal with issues which might arise under the Bill. That is a welcome aspect of the legislation. The Bill also ties in well with other legislation, such as the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Bill, which we debated a few months ago. It is important all workers are protected, especially in the present industrial climate, where job security is not as commonplace as in the past and where people often need protection to ensure they are not exploited. That the legislation covers private and public employment is important because it covers all workers. I welcome the Bill.

I welcome the broad thrust of this Bill but I have a horror of EU regulations and directives because as far as I can see they have not been for the good of this country. I blame them for leaving Ireland denuded of its population and for leaving Europe, once the hub of employment, with 20 million people unemployed. However, this country has a slight edge on Europe in attracting employment and industry but Scotland and Wales, by not obeying these directives, are now attracting employment which would have come here and there is a danger we will lose more industries to England, Scotland and Wales. We were doing well in the sixties and early seventies. I often think that, had we not passed all those Bills and introduced all those rules, this would be a brilliant country today. However, we have been going backwards since the mid seventies and it is only over the past few years we are starting to go forward again. This trend is in danger of being spoilt again.

This must be the most over-regulated country of 3.5 million people. Our biggest growth industry over the past 20 years must be appointing inspectors. Every Bill appoints more inspectors but no Minister ever tells us what it costs. Has any cost been put on this measure? I am sure there has not.

We will use existing inspectors.

Why do we not cost these measures? What will it cost to administer this measure? No worker or employer asked for it. It has been imposed on us by the EU. I have contact with the workforce and have never heard a worker ask for it.

Ministers from the Senator's party negotiated it.

I know that.

Deputies Cowen and O'Rourke.

I am not in favour of EU directives because they cost a lot of money. Who will pay? The over-burdened PAYE worker will, who else? We talk about reducing tax yet we introduce Bills whose regulations create additional costs and expenses.

I agree with Senator Henry's point about junior hospital doctors. This group of workers should be covered by this legislation. I have been a member of a health board for 22 years and know the hours these doctors work are ridiculous. We talk about health and safety but they are just the play words of the EU. The main reason for the directive is not health and safety, although it was a good phrase to use to sell the idea. Nonetheless, junior hospital doctors should be subject to this regulation.

There are currently not very many low paid workers but child minders are very poorly paid and I do not see anything in this Bill which will improve their lot. Child minders are the slaves in Ireland today. They mind children all day and, as soon as the parents are on holidays, the minder is redundant but they are not entitled to holiday money or anything else. They receive nothing for three to four months of the year, yet they are expected to be on standby to mind the children as soon as the parents return to work. It is time we thought of these people who are doing a very good job.

I am pleased about the provision covering Sunday work, which I detest. This practice is starting again with the big supermarkets opening on Sunday for no reason other than pure greed. No one will make any more money once everyone opens on Sunday. There will be a battle between the big supermarkets and the casualties will be the small corner shops which provide a great service. Many of them have disappeared from rural Ireland and they will soon disappear from the cities. In Ireland today, every village has derelict, shuttered buildings where once good family businesses were run. How will this Bill affect family businesses? Can the man, wife and family run their business and work as many hours as they wish? Will they be subject to the same regulations as an employee?

Many small contractors employed one or two people to do handiwork but we introduced so many regulations those workers could not afford to stay in employment, so they went on the dole and into the black economy. In other words, we forced people into it. Over the past 20 years we have turned this proud and hard working country into one dependent on social welfare and the State for everything. We should be more careful.

One thing on which I agree with the Germans is Sunday work. In Germany, one can hardly buy a paper on a Sunday because everything is closed. I remember as a gasúr in Sligo when the shops were open until 11 p.m. The unions fought until they got the shops to close at 9 p.m., then 6 p.m. and they eventually achieved a five day working week. We all agreed with it. Why then are we, 30 years later, going back to the same old system which our fathers and mothers fought? We are introducing a seven day working week. That is worse than in the past because then we at least had Sunday free.

What about families going for a Sunday drive? Are we giving any thought to family life? Only essential services should be provided on Sundays. We have managed for years without opening large supermarkets on Sundays. We should not allow Sunday opening. It is unfair. God made the world in six days and called the seventh day holy but now working seven days is no longer enough; we have to work at night. Greed is the root cause.

Many people have to hold down two jobs to pay the mortgage and have a decent standard of living. These are expensive times. Are we going to deny those people the right to work? Are we going to impose a maximum number of hours they can work? What about the individual who works a five day week and works in a pub on Saturday night? Are we going to deny that person the right to earn a few pounds at the weekend? Where will this end?

Some people have a number of part-time jobs. Who will provide holiday pay for them? How will the amount of holiday pay be assessed? This legislation will create many problems. Governments will have to be careful with EU regulations. We are driving another nail into the coffin of family businesses. If we allow Sunday work to continue we will destroy family life. This Bill militates against family life, which has been almost destroyed anyway. Sunday work should be abolished. At least there should be an overtime rate for Sunday work which would help to curtail it. I welcome the broad thrust of the Bill but how much will it cost? I believe it will be very costly.

I disagree with this type of legislation. Whether we will test that disagreement through the division lobbies is another matter. We are reaching a point where the State believes it must regulate for everything and in areas where it is not appropriate to do so. How does the Fine Gael Party that I knew and respected go along with this legislation? No one should be compelled to work more than 48 hours per week. It should be a matter of choice. If people are prepared to openly and willingly enter agreements to work all the hours God gives them within the ambit of health and safety, that should be allowed. There is a tenuous connection between health and safety and working hours. The exemptions confirm that view.

Let us assume that it is appropriate for people to work no more than 48 hours per week. How should this be regulated? It should not be regulated by the State but by voluntary agreements between trade unions and employers.

The other argument made in support of the Bill is that there is a requirement to implement the directive. If one considers how lackadaisical we have been over the implementation of a succession of European directives one would say that this directive, issued as recently as 1993, is being implemented very quickly.

This morning we heard about the Celtic tiger and the welcome news from the ESRI that economic growth will continue at a high level for the next ten years. The Minister has grabbed the Celtic tiger by the tail in this legislation. We are entering a highly competitive world. There is a global economy. Yesterday I listened to an IDA executive speak about how a small town like Kilcullen could attract overseas investment. The point was made that it was possible, and likely, that executives would board aeroplanes in New York and by-pass Ireland on their way to countries such as Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia. We are confronted by an international, competitive market in which only the fittest survive. We have shown the capacity and energy to survive in that market. It is wrong to restrict that energy and survival.

Self-employed people can make their own regulations regarding working hours. Many of them work long hours. In farming if the corn is ripe it will not wait for a 48-hour week. I know of an occasion when corn was cut for 36 hours non-stop. Two drivers were involved but the only stoppage was to refuel the combine harvester. There are similar industries in which, when the pressure is on, the harvest must be reaped. One has to make the best use of the hours available. I object to this Bill because it reduces our competitiveness and choice. These matters should be a question of choice. That is what liberalism is about.

What of the pressure an employer might impose upon employees who are unwilling to work longer than the number of hours allowed by the legislation? That is a matter for unions and employers and it can operate easily if left to them.

Prison officers, Garda and the Army are excluded from the provisions of this Bill. PDFORRA has expressed concern about the section of the Bill which relates to its members. The security industry has justifiable reservations about the Bill which should be taken into account. The Irish Security Industry Association made a submission to the Minister on how the regulations would impinge upon its members. This is a responsible, national body with quality assurance and membership conditions. It made a reasonable proposal asking the Minister to introduce an opt-out clause to the directive which could be achieved by making it conditional on a collective agreement. The industry added that this approach would demonstrate to the EU that the Government was taking the necessary measures, as required by the directive, to ensure that no employer would require a worker to breach the 48-hour limit without the worker's agreement.

In addition, the association urged the Minister to exempt the industry from the provisions of the Bill in view of the special circumstances in the EU directive. The industry provides a civil protection service and under section 3(3)(b) of the Bill qualifies for the exemption by the Minister from any specified provision of the Bill. That is the case made by the association and I will be interested to hear the Minister of State's views on it. The association agreed to establish an independent ombudsman and said it would support the introduction of a State registration scheme. It is acting responsibly. There are specific difficulties in the industry. One can envisage cases where security personnel would be on duty for more than 48 hours, but they would be capable, within health and safety parameters, of working those hours without causing difficulties for themselves.

One of the attributes that has made this economy vibrant and attractive to investment is our ability to work hard. We have proven that over many years. If somebody wishes to take home only 50 pence in the pound after working overtime, they should be allowed to do that. If somebody wishes to cripple themselves with a mortgage on a £160,000 house in Dublin and believes they must work twice as hard to pay off the mortgage, that is their choice. With regard to our activities in the Seanad, how would we get through the Committee Stage of Bills if the staff of the Clerk's Office were asked to restrict their activities to a 48 hour week? Sometimes they appear to work 16 hours per day for several days in succession.

The hours are averaged.

Yes, the staff has the summer to average their hours, but that is not a satisfactory arrangement either.

Another relevant matter is the issue of form filling. Increasingly we ask business to do what should be the function of Government. We impose obligations on business to employ people to fill in forms which must be remitted to Government. That is not appropriate if we are to have competitive industry. Senator Quinn pointed out that the end result of these regulations might be that the employer will decide not to employ a person. They could have a negative effect.

I also object to the powers given to the inspector under section 8.

They have been enshrined in legislation since the 1930s.

The power to enter and "to require the employer of an employee or the representative of such employer to produce to him or her any records which such employer is required to keep and inspect..." and so forth are wide ranging powers to confer on an inspector. Even if such powers have existed since the 1930s it does not make them any more desirable. We are asking people to become agents of the State and to do the paperwork of the State. We then send in inspectors to check the paperwork. That removes the element of choice which is central to an open market economy. The State should permit the exercise of choice.

There are industries in which it is necessary for people to work long and unsocial hours. Senator Farrell's comments about self-employed people were correct. The owner of the corner shop which sells newspapers, sweets and groceries, works hard for many years to build up his or her business. Such people will be allowed to continue their work and their businesses are indicative of what can be achieved through sheer hard work.

There is an element of the attitude that the State knows best in this legislation. The implication is that the State should know how to regulate people's behaviour. In my view, that is not the concern of the State. Nobody should be required to work more than 48 hours per week if they do not wish to do so. However, that should be brought about by agreement between the individual and the employer or between the individual's union and the employer.

With regard to enforcement, I believe this legislation, when passed, will be left in a dusty cupboard and will not be enforced. Indeed, I am not suggesting it should be vigorously enforced because I share Senator Farrelly's sentiments about flexibility in its implementation. My fundamental belief is that this Bill is not the way to regulate this area.

A number of key points were made. Senator Henry made an eloquent plea on behalf of non-consultant hospital doctors. I share her concern for the patients and for the working conditions of doctors. We have applied pressure in Brussels to secure progress on the common directive. However, under section 3(4) I can include non-consultant hospital doctors by regulation.

The Minister for Health recently concluded an agreement which reduced their working time to 65 hours. Neither Senator Henry nor I consider that satisfactory, but it is an improvement on the previous position. We hope to make progress on this matter both domestically and by putting pressure on Brussels. The rules in the directive were negotiated by the former Minister for Labour, Deputy Cowen, and later by Deputy O'Rourke. If there was an unholy conspiracy between Ireland and Britain, they were the unholy conspirators.

A number of Senators referred to the issue of Sunday trading. I agree that Sunday should be special. Senator Farrelly spoke eloquently about how people went out to enjoy themselves with their families each Sunday. They attended and supported local community functions. Certainly, swanning around a supermarket is a sterile way to spend one's Sunday and I would not regard it as a break from my week's work. However, I consulted with all parties involved in this issue, including the "Keep Sunday Special" organisation, MANDATE, the bishops, the Consumers' Association and RGDATA. I have also taken legal advice. That advice is that one cannot have one set of rules for small shops and different rules for large shops.

Senators seemed to seek such a distinction in their contributions. Everybody has been the recipient of unexpected visitors on a Sunday and has had to rush to the corner shop to buy milk or rashers or apples to make an apple tart. That facility would not be available if shops were forced to cease trading on Sundays. Traditional shopping after Mass or Service on a Sunday would also not be available. This is particularly important in rural Ireland where people travel to the village from outlying regions to worship on a Sunday and to purchase a few bits and pieces. They might only travel to the village twice a week, once to collect their pensions and on Sundays to worship. Nobody would agree with the closure of corner shops on Sundays. It would cause a social revolution in rural Ireland for which Senator Mooney, a champion of rural Ireland, would never forgive me.

We cannot have different rules for large and small shops unless we hold a constitutional referendum on the matter. MANDATE accepts that and is now seeking a referendum. Obviously that is a big step that would require extensive examination. However, the Bill makes it more expensive for people to trade on Sundays by ensuring that employers pay a Sunday premium, even if the people working in the shop are students who work only on Sundays. These workers must be paid more than the standard hourly rate. That provision will be an inhibition to the spread of this practice. If it does not pay people to open shops on Sundays and if stores find they are only cannibalising their own business by doing so, they will soon close. Some of the flag ship businesses, such as Dunnes Stores, who started this trend have discovered they are cannibalising their own business and they have limited the number of stores that are open on a Sunday.

Senator Farrell took a strong ideological view against EU regulations and directives. This Bill is a major deregulation measure. It deregulates the prescriptive system which dates from the 1930s through which I am obliged to endorse 12 to 14 requests to approve of shift hours. It deregulates the requirement that piecework placards must be put on the wall in both Irish and English and the legal prohibition from having pictures which show one is working on collars or cuffs or buttons or buttonholes. It replaces that type of prescriptive legislation with a flexible instrument. It is a major instrument of deregulation.

We play our part in Europe. The good economic news today is not exclusively due to EU transfers but they have played a significant part in our current economic strength. We cannot take the European shilling, euro or ecu, then say we will not play our part as good Europeans and engage in social dumping and undercutting due to unacceptably inferior social standards. I am proud we signed the Social Chapter.

Senator Mooney spoke about the UK opt-out to the Social Chapter being a competitive advantage and he cited the case of Siemens. That was one swallow but there are far more locating in this country. Since last November when this Bill was published, almost 12,000 additional jobs have been announced. This does not mean we have used any competitive advantage. Business knew these rules existed. We have had discussions with multinationals who had two minor areas of concern which have been addressed. They were concerned about excessive record keeping and senior executives who determine their own working hours, are not subject to direction by the company and are exempt from the maximum ceiling.

These companies have flagship standards of worker protection. They are successful precisely because they recognise that human resource management is the key to their future competitive strength. They treat their workers well and without this they would not be successful. They know that tired workers are likely to write inaccurate computer programs or misplace microchips and are therefore not of any benefit to the company. These companies' major concern from a competitive point of view was about the bad mouthing of this legislation by certain people — the hype that it was going to be competitive doom and gloom, which it will not be.

First, fewer than 6 per cent of all workers work more than 48 hours a week. We are applying this measure in a flexible manner. Lunch hours and tea breaks do not count as working time. If someone works a standard week, gets an hour lunch break and a 15 minute tea break in the morning and afternoon, this is 48 net hours translating into 53 gross hours a week.

Senator Dardis misunderstood when he gave the example of harvesting. There is very generous averaging — four months automatically, six months in the listed sectors which include those primarily seasonal in character and 12 months where the employer concludes a collective agreement with the workforce. There is no problem with working all the hours God made to get in a harvest, provided there is compensatory time off at the dead time of the year. If there is a rush of business to meet a seasonal order, there are no problems because that seasonality is built into the year.

A 48 hour week allows people to work eight hours a day, six days a week the whole year round, which is a great deal of working hours. It is not an oppressive rule. People should not be forced to work excessive hours which put their health, family life or fellow workers or customers' lives at risk. We have to say enough is enough. Many of the apocalyptic statements made during the debate on this Bill as regards the 48 hour rule were made in the 19th century when children were stopped going down the mines and up chimneys and working hours were reduced from a six and a half and seven day week.

Senator Dardis spoke about the importance of allowing people to voluntarily opt out. We do not normally allow people to voluntarily opt out of basic safety precautions, such as having properly bedded scaffolding. Eleven people died in workplace accidents in the first quarter of this year. As Minister with responsibility for labour affairs, I have to ensure we observe proper health and safety practices. I know that exhaustion leads to carelessness which causes loss of life.

Senator Farrell and Senator Dardis raised the issue of inspectors. The inspectors already implementing other labour legislation will be utilised here. There is no extra charge to the Exchequer. Inspectors must have powers to check matters are in order. If someone is involved in major breaches in legislation — which I hope will not be the case — and people are expected to work a seven day week, inspectors must have powers to check the records. These are standard powers which have always applied under labour law.

Senator Farrell raised the issue of child minders and holiday money. Child minders will earn holiday money and will be entitled to earn against time worked. The Senator also asked how holiday money will be calculated where there are multiple employers. Each employer will owe 8 per cent holiday money against time worked. This will be phased in from 6 per cent to 8 per cent in 1999, as outlined in the Schedule to the Bill.

Much nonsense has been spoken about competitiveness. Often our greatest disadvantage competitively is that we hype up matters. We met the American Irish Chamber of Commerce who mentioned their concerns. They said there was an aura of over-regulation around this legislation but they could not be specific. I pointed out it was deregulation. We badmouth ourselves by saying this legislation is uncompetitive. It will not create any competitive disadvantage. Our competition is based, as Senator O'Sullivan said, on the fact that we treat our workers well. This is underlined in the ERSI report, in which I must declare an interest. The quality of our workforce is our key competitive advantage. People do not work well when they are not treated well and are exhausted.

In Britain there is no statutory right to holidays. It will have to phase in a statutory right to 20 days holidays; there are companies there which will have to increase their holidays from two to three weeks. Perhaps they are moaning and groaning about competition. The UK is covered by the EU directive and it will have to ensure these ground rules are obeyed. It is interesting that the UK is the only country which is proposing to use the individual opt out, but this may change tomorrow. We do not see this as a competitive advantage.

Our prosperity is founded on the tradition of social partnership. Senator Mooney asked if I had listened to the trade unions who are in a dominant position. He knows what side of the political fence I come from — I have a trade union background. However, as Minister with responsibility for labour affairs, I have to take a balanced view of issues and steer a course down the middle. IBEC did not get all it looked for, but neither did Congress. We reached a consensus and IBEC and ICTU have signed up to what is in the Bill and agree it represents a balance. Some issues have been in IBEC's favour and others in Congress's.

This legislation is a balanced package of measures with which both sides are happy to comply. It does not represent a dominance of one view over another. It is good legislation and I welcome the positive comments made in the House. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put and agreed to.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.