Protection of Employment (Uncertain Hours) Bill 2016: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I will sharing my time with Senator Ivana Bacik.

I am pleased to welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Paul Kehoe, as well as officials from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Employment and representatives of Mandate, the members of which would be directly affected by the policy the Bill intends to cover. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to table and debate this important Bill which the Labour Party is proposing in a context in which the standard employment relationship is declining and the level of atypical work is increasing. Non-standard terms and conditions can be imposed on the vulnerable, the low paid and those with little social protection.

When these conditions become a fixed feature of the employment landscape we must sit up, take notice and act. Women, young people and migrant workers are over-represented in non-standard employment sectors, including the retail, hospitality and community care sectors, that pay poorly and encourage practices that are at the outside or at the very least on the extreme edge of our employment protection laws. We all accept that employment policy must strike a fair balance between an enterprise's need for flexibility and the employee's need for a level of predictability in terms of his or her working life.

Section 18 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 deals with workers who have a contract requiring them to make themselves available for work. The section sets out a floor of minimum pay entitlements for a person whose actual hours do not match up to his or her hours on call but what the Act does not deal with is a contract with either very few or no guaranteed hours of work and no requirement, on paper at least, for employees to make themselves available outside of those guaranteed contractual hours. Many workers are now encountering new terms and conditions - the so-called "if-and-when" contract - under which employers are under no obligation to provide work of any description. This has become the arrangement of choice for some large retailers and many employers in the hospitality and community care sectors. For example, a typical contract might state: "The company is under no obligation to provide work to you at any time and you are under no obligation to accept any work offered by the company at any time." It seems to me that these "if-and-when" contracts are not covered by section 18 of the 1997 Act and as such it may be that these workers are completely outside our entire system of employment protection law. This is because, under this kind of arrangement, there is no obligation whatsoever on the employer to provide work and no obligation on the worker to do any work that is offered.

A court requires mutuality of obligations before it can establish whether or not a contract exists such that if there are not any enduring mutual obligations there may not be an enduring contract. If so, then people working under arrangements like these are being told that they are, in effect, casual day workers. These are perverse arrangements aimed at downgrading the status of employment. Imposing such terms and conditions on the vulnerable, the low-paid and those with little social protection is unacceptable to me and my party. I hope that the Government and Members of this House will agree. Workers in these situations are put at risk of job insecurity. From the perspective of the enterprise, there is limited integration into the business, low motivation, low productivity, low job satisfaction and for workers there is entrapment in a succession of short-term, low-quality jobs with little or no social protection and little or no legal protection. The social and economic consequences of failing to act to provide a growing army of precarious workers with greater protections, a basic level of certainty, predictability and income security are incalculable. In allowing the status quo to continue, nobody wins.

I will now speak in more detail to some important provisions of the Bill. Section 4 amends section 18 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. The purpose of that section was to provide a minimum entitlement to payment for employees who are contractually required to make themselves available for work, even when no work is provided. The section is stated to apply where a contract requires employees to make themselves available to work in a week, a particular number of hours or as and when the employer requires them to do so or both a certain number of hours and as and when the employer requires them to do so. However, section 18 further states that a requirement to be available is not held to arise by virtue only of the fact that the employer engaged the employee to do work of a casual nature previously, regardless of the number of previous occasions and of any other circumstances that would give rise to a reasonable expectation of further work. The amendment being made to section 18 by way of this Bill deletes this qualification so that the section in future applies to and, importantly, protects employees who were initially engaged to do work of a casual nature.

Section 5 amends the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003. That Act confers entitlements of fixed-term employees who have completed their third year of continuous employment with an employer. It can be difficult for an employee to prove continuous employment and so section 5 introduces two important new rules to assist them, dealing in the first instance with continuity of service and the use of PAYE information held by the Revenue Commissioners to determine the reality of the contracted working arrangement with the employer. This is an important new innovation.

Section 6 deals with continuity of employment for employees who may otherwise be deemed casual. Section 7 concerns provision for a corrected written statement of hours of work. An employee who has benefitted from these provisions will be entitled to request the employer in writing to correct the employment contract so that particulars of the weekly hours of work reflect the pattern of work actually done per week in the previous six months. An employer may refuse to do so if there was a particular pattern or system to the hours in the previous six months that was due to the seasonal nature of the work or to an emergency or other exceptional circumstances.

Section 8 includes an important anti-victimisation provision which states that an employer shall not penalise or threaten penalisation of an employee for invoking rights or procedures under this Bill. This particular section is very similar to a section I included in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015 around collective bargaining.

Sections 9 and 10 provide for complaints to adjudication officers of the Workplace Relations Commission. Section 11 invalidates any provision in an agreement, whether a contract of employment or not and whether made before or after the passing of this Bill, that purports to exclude or limit the application of, or is inconsistent with, any provision of this Bill. However - this is an important point to make - the Bill allows for a registered employment agreement, an employment regulation order or a sectoral employment order to provide that provisions of the Bill do not apply with regard to the employees to whom the agreement or order has effect or to a specified class of those employees. In other words, there are alternatives. We are always seeking to encourage trade unions and employers to engage under the provisions of the 2015 Act and to ensure that they use that Act to create better sectoral terms and conditions and better enterprise-level conditions by way of registered employment agreements and sectoral employment orders because there is no substitute in the workplace for collective bargaining and all it involves in terms of improving the living standards of employees and giving certainty to the enterprise for entrepreneurs and business owners.

I remind the Minister that the programme for Government commits to addressing the growing casualisation of the workforce. On this basis, I am hopeful that the Government can and will support this legislation. This legislation can and will prove to have a transformational effect on the lives of working people in this country, particularly those who are caught in perverse if-and-when contract arrangements that are, as I said earlier in my contribution, outside of or at the very edge of the current suite of employment legislation and regulations in place in this country. It is high time that we addressed this issue and that our employment laws and regulations finally catch up with these phenomena that would not have been anticipated, for example, when section 18 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 was being drafted by the then Minister of State, Ms Eithne FitzGerald. Nobody could have anticipated the way the world of work would evolve and how these phenomena would develop in subsequent years. It is important to point out that where these phenomena catch hold, people become disconnected and alienated from society. We do not ever want to see a large cohort of workers - people who work extremely hard to provide for their families - being disengaged from the enterprise in which they work and disconnected from society because dignity for them in the workplace is not respected and they do not feel that they have the respect to which their work entitles them.

It should not be beyond us to provide a basic level of predictability in the workforce. I believe all Senators accept that the status quo should not prevail and it is high time that changes were made in legislation to take account of the problems experienced on if-and-when contracts.

I welcome the Minister of State and his officials to the House. I also welcome this opportunity to discuss this important Bill on Second Stage and commend my colleague, Senator Ged Nash, on proposing it. It gives me great pleasure to second the Bill on behalf of the group of Labour Party Senators. I welcome the representatives of the Mandate trade union in the Gallery. In a previous life as a barrister in employment law, I used to give briefings and training to Mandate shop stewards on employment law provisions and I always had great respect for the way in which Mandate worked to represent low-paid and vulnerable workers in the retail sector. I am pleased, therefore, that representatives of the trade union have come to the House to support the legislation.

As Senator Nash stated, the Bill stems from a long-standing Labour Party commitment to the protection of workers, particularly vulnerable workers. It forms part of a commitment the party made in a document published earlier this year, Standing Up for Working People, and demonstrates the seriousness of our intent to proceed with reform. It is another step in a package of measures we hope will be introduced in the lifetime of the Seanad. A second Labour Party Bill, the Competition (Amendment) Bill, completed Report Stage in the House last Thursday with cross-party support. That Bill proposes to give freelance workers the right to be represented by a trade union in collective bargaining negotiations. I am grateful to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Mary Mitchell O'Connor, for accepting the Bill, which will now proceed to the Dáil. The proposed legislation will change the interpretation previously made by the Competition Authority, whereby freelance journalists in a newsroom, for example, were prohibited under the Competition Act from negotiating with their employer on minimum rates of pay. This interpretation had a detrimental and chilling effect on many groups of freelance workers, notably voice-over actors and session musicians. We are pleased the Bill, as amended by the Government through amendments supported by the Labour Party, will change the current interpretation and ensure collective rights for freelance workers.

The passage of the Competition (Amendment) Bill was strongly welcomed by all Senators and the relevant trade unions, specifically SIPTU, the National Union of Journalists and Equity. Just as that Bill constitutes an important component in a necessary package of measures to protect the rights of vulnerable workers, so too will the Protection of Employment (Uncertain Hours) Bill address a particular category of workers. As Senator Nash explained, the Bill deals with people who are on the extreme edge of our employment laws, many of whom work in retail, catering and tourism. These workers are employed on so-called "if-and-when" contracts under which employers are under no obligation to provide them with any work from week to week or sometimes even from day to day and they must be available for work without having an expectation of working particular hours. Workers employed on these contracts have tended to fall outside many of the legislative protections provided to workers generally.

As Senator Nash outlined, section 18 of the Organisation of Working Time Act introduced by the former Minister of State, Ms Eithne FitzGerald, deals with protections for employees working on zero-hours contracts and requires that an employee on a zero-hours contract who works less than 25% of his or her hours in any week be compensated. If the employee is not offered any work, the compensation should be either for 25% of the possible available hours or for 15 hours, whichever is less. This provision provides important protections for employees on so-called zero-hours contracts.

However, the proviso to section 18, as currently constructed, specifically excludes workers who are engaged to work of a casual nature. This proviso is the problem the Bill seeks to address because the current legislation does not provide a definition of the term "casual". We can assume, however, that where the worker is described as "casual", it is likely to mean working under the type of contract I have described, which apparently does not oblige the employer to provide the employee with any work. As Senator Nash stated, in such cases, there may even be a question as to whether a contract of employment could be said to exist. Workers who are in this position lack any kind of job security, protection or pay certainty and are extremely vulnerable. The explanatory memorandum outlines the types of impacts this kind of employment have on individuals. It is appropriate to describe this employment as a perverse arrangement which downgrades any sense of dignity at work.

In modern times, we use the word "precariat" to describe workers who are engaged in atypical work where terms of employment have been so severely casualised as to render the employees extremely vulnerable. While this is a modern phenomenon, it should be recalled that this type of arrangement harks back to an earlier time when employees were employed in a highly casualised manner. At the turn of the 20th century, for example, vast numbers of people in Dublin worked as casual labourers, messengers and domestic workers who were employed on a daily basis at the whim of an employer in what would be currently regarded as a semi-feudal relationship. It was largely in response to this deeply precarious state of affairs that we saw the growth of the trade union movement in Ireland.

While employment conditions today are fortunately much different from those that prevailed in the early 20th century, none the less, it is a cause of great concern to see the rise of precarious employment again in the 21st century. Women are particularly affected by this phenomenon and over-represented in non-standard and low paid employment sectors.

As Ms Esther Lynch of ICTU noted in a paper she gave in 2014 at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, the modern growth of zero-hours and if-and-when contracts has fundamentally undermined the principle of decent work and dignity in the workplace. Not only is this development damaging for employees in terms of job security and ability to plan for the future of their families, but it is also damaging for employers as it becomes difficult for employers who are known for using these types of contracts to attract and retain high quality staff, which affects productivity levels in the workplace.

Zero-hours and if-and-when contracts have a clear detrimental effect on society in general. Research carried out by the Mandate trade union found many of those on the poverty line are in precarious jobs with zero-hours contracts. While the prevalence of zero-hours contracts in Ireland is not clear, research in Britain shows that more than 1 million employees are on zero-hours contracts, mainly concentrated in specific low-paid sectors. We can assume large numbers of employees in these sectors in Ireland are also on such contracts. Trade unions such as SIPTU and Mandate have engaged in collective bargaining to try to protect the workers affected. Legislation such as this can also offer important protections to workers who are outside current legislation.

Section 4 proposes to amend section 18 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 to delete the proviso to which I referred, thereby ensuring that casual workers are brought within its protections. It is also important to note the wording in section 6, which will provide for continuity of employment for casual workers. Section 7 will create an entitlement to a corrected written statement of hours of work for employees.

We accept the Minister may table amendments to the Bill at later Stages and we look forward to engaging constructively with her and her officials. We very much hope and expect that the Bill will receive cross-party support from the Government and Senators from all parties and none, given the importance of its objectives. I commend Senator Nash again on the initiative he has shown in introducing the Bill on behalf of the Labour Party.

I welcome the Bill in so far as it raises an important issue, namely, the unscrupulous exploitation by some employers of workers who are clearly employees rather than independent contractors. In some instances, a variety of methods are used to bully employees into such scenarios and this is a matter of grave concern. People are very concerned about the use of if-and-when contracts which give rise to unpredictability of hours, difficulties in managing work and family life, unstable income, difficulties accessing credit, which is a major problem for those applying for loans or mortgages as they cannot show consistent income, contracts that do not reflect the real numbers of hours worked, insufficient notice being given when being called to work, and a belief that employees will be penalised for not accepting work offered. This is a real threat to a person who cannot be assured of hours on an ongoing basis. Difficulties also arise in accessing social welfare benefits.

Notwithstanding these issues, the Bill presents problems as it is a blunt instrument for dealing with the complexities inherent in this issue. Having said that, I will not oppose the legislation because we all agree with the principle of ensuring workers are protected. We must, in law, protect workers from the unscrupulous practices of certain employers. Under existing legislation, the security and protection available to workers can be undermined through being forced into contracts which ostensibly make workers self-employed but in reality mean they are employees without the protections afforded by legislation.

The programme for Government contains a commitment to tackle the problems caused by the increased casualisation of work and to strengthen regulation of precarious work. To this end the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is committed to bringing forward for consideration by Government an appropriate policy response to the report by the University of Limerick, UL, on zero and low-hour contracts. This policy response will take account of the large number of submissions received in response to the public consultation on the study. Those responses reflect a broad range of views, some of which are diametrically opposed. A considerable amount of work has been carried out by the Department in assessing those submissions and in developing proposals that aim to provide balanced and workable solutions to the recommendations in the study.

The Minister's proposals will address the issues of insecure low-hours work in a more comprehensive and balanced manner than the approach taken in the Bill. The Minister's proposals will address the concerns expressed in the UL study and in the public consultation about the need to improve the predictability of working hours for workers on insecure low-hour contracts. The issue of contracts indicating low-hour requirements and not reflecting those much higher hours worked over significant periods will be dealt with. The proposals will also seek to ensure that workers are better informed at an early stage in their employment about the nature of their employment arrangements and their core terms and conditions. Currently a contract does not have to issue for up to two months after a person starts working, but the Minister will greatly shorten this to a day or a week. Furthermore, the Minister's proposals will include provisions aimed particularly at the low-paid more vulnerable workers with regard to the minimum compensation for being called in to work and then being sent home again. The Minister does not propose to effectively eliminate casual working as it does suit employees and employers in certain circumstances. The Labour Party Bill, however, would effectively end arrangements in all circumstances, with negative impacts on employment levels and service delivery in sectors such as hospitality, education, health care, elder care and social care, which rely on the flexibility provided by genuine if-and-when contracts and casual employment to meet peaks in demand, customer needs and regulatory requirements.

The Bill is a limited response to the UL study. It does not address a number of recommendations in the report, in particular the recommendation to amend the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994, to require employers to provide the written statement of the terms of employment at commencement of employment so that employees are better informed of their terms and conditions of employment at the outset and the UL recommendation to provide for a minimum period of working hours where an employee is required to report for work. The Bill attempts to address an issue raised in the UL report about the employment status of individuals on if-and-when contracts. The UL report, however, was inconclusive on this issue and acknowledged that it was a complex matter that required further consideration. It did not make any recommendations for legislative changes in this regard. The report also found that there was a lack of clarity around the employment status of those who work only on an if-and-when basis because of the lack of mutuality of obligation, that is, if the employer is not obliged to offer any work and the employee is not obliged to accept any work offered. This lack of mutuality of obligation raises questions as to whether individuals on if-and-when contracts would be deemed to be employees for the purpose of employment rights. This has potentially adverse implications for those individuals in their entitlement to protection under various items of employment rights legislation. A number of important points need to be made on this issue. The UL report acknowledges that the employment status of individuals on if-and-when contracts has not been tested to any great extent in Ireland. However it is well established in the jurisprudence of the constitutional courts and of the Labour Court and employment rights bodies, that they would look behind the written terms of a contract to establish the true nature of the arrangement. In the case of Ticketline trading as Ticketmaster v. Sarah Mullen, the court accepted, on the evidence, that while the written contact of employment was of the if-and-when type with no mutuality of obligation, the contract was operated on the basis that the employee was required to be available for work at all times and was thus entitled to the protections of section 18 of the Organisation of Working Time Act.

UL acknowledges that the issue of employment status for those on if-and-when hours only is a complex matter that requires further examination. The employment status issue did not feature prominently among the submissions made in response to the public consultation. Similarly, it is not raised as an issue in the ongoing dialogue process with ICTU and IBEC with regard to the proposals to be brought forward by the Minister.

The Bill contains a number of provisions which, taken together, would make it virtually impossible for genuine casual employment arrangements or genuine if-and-when contracts to operate in the labour market. This would, in our view, be an inappropriate and disproportionate response to the questions raised by the UL report about the use of if-and-when arrangements. The UL study acknowledged that the flexibility offered by genuine if-and-when contracts can be mutually beneficial for employers and employees. In certain sectors these contracts can provide the flexibility needed to run businesses such as in the hospitality and hotel sector where the employer can call in additional staff to service weddings and functions etc., and in the health sector these arrangements can help employers satisfy peak demand and to fill staffing gaps on a short-term basis. The Bill also has universal application and does not focus on low-paid workers. This is problematic for the highly-skilled and highly-paid individuals who would like to benefit from these arrangements. I welcome the issue being raised and I do not propose that Fine Gael will oppose the Bill.

Senator Davitt has eight minutes.

I thank the Acting Chairman. I am going to share my time with my Leader, Senator Ardagh.

Yes. Fianna Fáil supports the banning of zero-hour contracts. This policy has been part of our manifesto, as a priority, when we negotiated our recent confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael. We agree with the general principles of the Bill but we feel that there are gaps and some weaknesses as it is currently worded. We believe the Bill can be improved when it is on Committee Stage. Following clarification from the Oireachtas services, we have decided to not move our amendment, which had been placed on the Order Paper for today. This is due to the Standing Orders whereby any Private Members' Bill that passes its Second Reading shall be referred to the relevant select committee to undertake detailed legislative scrutiny of provisions contained. While protecting workers from zero-hour contracts is paramount, it is also our interest to minimise the burden on small businesses so that jobs are protected, which is fundamental. The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is currently engaged in a dialogue process with ICTU and IBEC to secure broad agreement on legislative proposals to deal with the issues of low-hour contracts and vulnerable workers, and the recommendations should be included in any future Bill. We will support this Bill going to the next Stage and we will call for the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to honour her commitment in the confidence and supply arrangement and to accelerate the work of the Department with regard to these proposals in order that the committee can scrutinise the finalised provisions while taking on board the main principles of both the Protection of Employment (Uncertain Hours) Bill 2016 and the Banded Hours Contract Bill 2016. While we support the Bill in general with respect to improving job security of workers on low-hour contracts, considerable amendments need to be made to make it fit for purpose. It is fundamental that we protect the employer as well as the employee. That will have to be tightened up in this Bill before it goes forward.

I thank Senator Nash for bringing this Bill forward to the Seanad today. As outlined by my colleague, Senator Davitt, Fianna Fáil supports this Bill. The banning of zero-hour contracts was contained in our election manifesto and it was also part of Fianna Fail's confidence and supply agreement with the Fine Gael Government. Ultimately Fianna Fáil supports the banning of any employment legislation or contracts that are abusive to workers. As Senator Bacik has said, most of the workers who are involved in zero-hour contracts or if-and-when contracts in Ireland are women.

They are generally offered unstable work, part-time jobs and if-and-when or zero-hours contracts. It seems to be a certain demographic that, unfortunately, is mostly working under these contracts and that seems unfair. We all need to move towards the idea of a living wage so that people have some sort of ability to plan for their futures and are not taken advantage of. Obviously, we have to be cognisant of small businesses. I have a small business and the needs of small businesses must be considered so that the burden on them is balanced somewhat. Some burden will have to be inflicted on businesses big and small and the goal of banning zero-hours contracts must be met, but there has to be some sort of balance in the equation while taking into the consideration that people need a living wage which lets them plan for the future. It is about a mindset for employers. There will have to be a social shift. It is a massive responsibility taking on a staff member even as a one-man band and a great deal more responsibility is going to have to be imposed where people employ staff members. It is a big duty and, as such, more has to be given back to small businesses where they take on employees on more secure contracts because that is ultimately a risk. The employer will pay heftier PRSI and take on other responsibilities. We need to look at it a little bit more in that regard.

I welcome the fact the Bill is going to the committee and that the social partners will be brought in. There will be a great deal more legislative scrutiny. I am happy the Bill is going forward. It is a move in the right direction and I am delighted it has been brought to the House today.

It is important to welcome this Private Members' debate and to commend the Labour Party Members. I welcome them to Government again as they sit on the front benches for the debate. They are very welcome.

We provide solutions. Just because we are in opposition does not mean we do not provide solutions.

I commend Senator Nash, the former Minister of State, genuinely for his work in the Department. He was a very good Minister of State and I commend him for that. I acknowledge that the last Government increased the minimum wage and restored it, unlike its predecessor. We did so twice in fact. The living wage is something we all want to embrace and to see if we can bring it to fruition. I notice that Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin is here. He made remarks on the US election last week. I hope he can use his influence across the Atlantic with the new Administration regarding the protection of workers and their rights in the USA.

Coming back to home, the Bill has some issues which need to be teased out. The last thing we need to do is get into a quagmire around the casualisation of work. Many of us benefited from that casual relationship when we were in college or moving towards different careers. Equally, however, it is a source of concern in terms of the way in which the casualisation of the labour force is increasing in certain industries. It is important to note that the last Government reduced the VAT rate for the hotel sector. Senator Gavan raised a number of times on the Order of Business the terms and conditions of those who work in hotels and the catering industry. It is important in the context of this debate that we challenge those in the hotels federation and the industry generally along with others to get the balance right. The last thing we want to do is send up a flare which tells employers they cannot employ people. It is equally important to protect those on low pay or in casual labour situations and those who are most vulnerable in the workforce.

Senator Bacik used the phrase "whim of an employer" and that is something we need to look at in order to eliminate it from the lexicon. It is not good enough. Equally, the debate today is about ensuring that we can protect workers and give them certainty and a sense of belonging and a future in terms of their lives and livelihood. Senator Reilly referenced the issue of hours being uncertain or inflexible. I had a conversation with a friend who works full-time in an industry I will not name in order to protect him. He got a phone call from his employer on a Sunday night at 10 p.m. asking him to come in on Monday morning. He gets a phone call on a Wednesday asking him to come in at short notice. He feels vulnerable because if he says "no", there is the potential that he will be out of a job. It is important that we understand that it is about managing life in terms of work and employment and getting the balance right for the person who is employed. Equally, it is about allowing people to have a steady income and steady hours while at the same time being flexible.

Many of us are concerned about the zero-hours contract. In some cases, there are contracts which last for a certain period. When, for example, six months expires, one is put on a new contract or is gone altogether. I am concerned about that. Some of the industries I deal with engage in that kind of practice. It may suit some people. Senator Ardagh referred to demographics in her address. However, there are others whom it does not suit. Some of the big firms that employ people in a variety of sectors should look at how they can allow for people to have continuity and security of tenure. It is a worry that some people have expressed to me not only in clinics but when I have met them out canvassing. I have friends who see their whole work life changing overnight. We see the merger of Dell and EMC in Cork where I hope there will be no job losses or, as could happen, changes in the tenure of employment.

The important point made by Senator Reilly is that the programme for Government contains a commitment to address the issue, which is complex and not black and white. At the risk of upsetting my friends from Sinn Féin as I did this morning, it is not as simple as they say. We must get the balance right. The principle informing the Bill is a good one. The fundamentals are right. The protection of workers is important. I say that as someone who, like the Acting Chairman, was in the classroom. I spent a number of years on a temporary whole-time contract not knowing whether I was back after the summer holidays. Thankfully, there was no issue in the years when I was teaching, but when the end of the year came, I often wondered if I would have the same hours the next year. That is a source of worry we still have in some parts of the education sector, albeit we have changed the contracts and terms there. I welcome the move, hopefully, to pay restoration in 2017 and of people not being in different tiers. It is demoralising for members of staff in all sectors.

It is important to accept that the principles of the Bill are what we are looking at today. We can go down the avenue of teasing out the different parts but what we must try to do is get that balance right. I was struck by Senator Ardagh's remarks on demographics. We cannot overlook or sidestep what she is saying because it is an important issue. There is a section of people in society who are affected by the lack of equity and fairness in their working hours. We should never allow a situation to happen, however, where employers will not employ. We must get that right as well. We must allow people who are on minimal wages to access social welfare and to have child care issues addressed. That is because it is about ensuring that people can be employed. I always go back to Maslow's hierarchy of needs and self-actualisation. We should never prevent people from attaining their highest potential. I hope the workplace is not somewhere we will see that happen.

The Minister is committed to addressing the issues around casual work. It is important that we build on what the Bill provides and what the Department is doing. I am not against the important idea of having a wider conversation, albeit I do not want to delay matters.

That means that we must park our vested interests and all come together for the common good. I agree with the principle of the Bill. While we can fight to the end over the rubrics and the roadmap, we should support the spirit of the Bill. I commend Senator Gerald Nash and the Labour Party for introducing the legislation.

I welcome our colleagues from Mandate. I have had the pleasure of working alongside them. Mandate represents the very best of the trade union movement. It is a fighting and campaigning union and we are proud to have its representatives here.

Sinn Féin welcomes the Bill. I am pleased that we are again being presented with an opportunity to address the issue of precarious work which has practically become the norm for hundreds of thousands of people. We believe that, at its core, the Bill is attempting to identify and resolve the issue of precarious work. It goes some of the way towards resolving it and, for that reason, we will be supporting it.

Sinn Féin has long recognised the urgent need to address the exploitation of workers on low-hour, zero-hour and if-and-when contracts. These contracts are wrong and there needs to be legislation enacted to deal with such exploitation. Only last week a Senator suggested at the jobs committee that there was an awful lot less of this kind of thing occurring than some people claimed. Actually, the opposite is the case. The entire hotel and catering sector now operates on this basis. For 137,000 workers in the accommodation and food services sector, the average wage is just €325, which is less than half the average wage in the United States. Precarious contracts are now commonplace in the retail sector. They have even got a hold in manufacturing plants. I know this because, during my time as a union official earlier this year, I came across these contracts increasingly, to the point where it became a daily occurrence.

I echo what Senator Catherine Ardagh and my colleagues in the Labour Party have said. Women are particularly affected. For the most part, I was working earlier this year with women in the contract catering industry. Each week they had to wait to find out how many hours of work they would be given. They had no rights. This is appalling. I give full credit to my colleagues in the Labour Party for introducing the Bill.

One does not have to take my word for what I am saying. The University of Limerick report on the prevalence of zero-hour contracts states, "If and When hours and low working hours are prevalent in the accommodation/food and retail sectors and in certain occupations in education and health: community care work, so-called 'bank' nursing, general practice nursing, university/institute of technology lecturing, adult education tutoring, school substitution, caretaking, and secretarial and cleaning work".

As Senators know, Sinn Féin previously brought forward its own Bill in the Dáil to deal with this issue, the Banded Hours Contract Bill. If passed, it would allow workers to have the ability to plan their daily and weekly lives with some structure. They would have some idea of how much money would be coming through the door every week and they would be able to plan for rent and food bills and everything else people need in order to live a modest life. The reality is that some workers are on 15-hour contracts, but they are actually working 30 hours a week. When they try to apply for a mortgage, they are denied because according to their contract of employment they are guaranteed only 15 hours work. How exactly are parents supposed to plan for child care when they are not guaranteed a certain number of hours each week? The core question is how workers are supposed to cope with reality when their contracts are not based on their actual working hours. The Banded Hours Contract Bill and the Bill before the House are trying to empower workers with the dignity they deserve. The Banded Hours Contract Bill would allow workers to apply for a contract that was reflective of their actual working week. The Bill before us, in section 3, would achieve the same. Of course, we support this proposal.

Section 4 proposes to amend section 18 in order to ensure the minimum entitlement to payment for employees is extended to cover employees initially engaged to undertake work of a casual nature. Again, we support this principle.

Sections 5 and 6 deal with continuity of employment. Both sections strike a good balance between the rights of employees and employers and give additional protection to people employed on a casual basis.

Section 7 creates an entitlement to a corrected written statement of hours of work and specifies a minimum period of six months.

Section 8 is an anti-victimisation provision. It is needed to give the Bill some teeth.

Sections 9 and 10 deal with complaints and adjudication, respectively.

While we reserve the right to table amendments as the Bill makes its way through the Chamber, we see no case whatsoever for delaying its passage. The UL report has been sitting on a Minister's desk for a year. It is actually a disgrace that not one of its recommendations has been implemented to date. We were not put in this Chamber to procrastinate but to legislate. It is welcome that both Fine Gael and, belatedly, Fianna Fáil are not going to oppose the Bill on this Stage, which means that we can move it forward. The workers who have to live on if-and-when or zero-hour contracts need us to act now. Sinn Féin is ready to act. Those affected are ordinary people living under extraordinary pressure. I am glad that those who were opposed to the Bill have changed their minds.

I welcome the contrast between what happened in the Dáil, where Fianna Fáil delayed the Banded Hours Contract Bill, and the welcome progress made today. I appeal to both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil not to undermine the core elements of the Bill on Committee Stage. It is too important. There are hundreds of thousands of workers affected who, as I stated, should not have to wait any longer. In fairness to Senator Gerald Nash, a very good report was produced by the University of Limerick. The recommendations have been made and we should all be able to buy into them and support the Bill, not just today but on the crucial Stages to come. I welcome it. I welcome the positive comments of the Leader of the House and hope we can build on the consensus and ensure we can do more good work to protect workers.

I commend the Senators who have introduced the Bill. It is an excellent and really constructive proposal. I welcome the representatives of Mandate and acknowledge the strong and important work they have done, work that has very much been led by workers. I have had the opportunity to meet representatives of the National Women's Council and work with some of the strong women working in the unions and who are leading the charge. Sectors such as retail and hospitality have been particularly affected by the spread of the contract in question.

Senators have commended the report produced by the University of Limerick. The university's research was excellent. The authors consulted widely and went into the issues deeply. Some have stated the report does not make specific recommendations on if-and-when contracts. That is because the terms of the research were such that the focus was on zero-hour and low-hour contracts. As advocates, we were talking about the concerns we already had about zero-hour contracts, yet the research found even worse circumstances that were becoming even more prevalent. I refer not only to those left on standby waiting to know if, when and where they will be working but also to those entirely subject to if-and-when contracts and those who are not even afforded the basic and already inadequate protections for those on 15-hour minimum contracts. This is a very important issue.

When Senator Gerald Nash was in his ministerial role, he engaged in follow-up consultation, to which we were all very happy to contribute, on the recommendations made. Therefore, there has already been a strong process. Not only has the University of Limerick made strong recommendations but there has also been public consultation on them. I join those who are saying we have the ideas and proposals. A suite of measures have been put forward by Senators, including Sinn Féin Senators, on banded-hours contracts. There is a strong set of proposals which we should all try to expedite.

These contracts are an interesting study of how, while good practice can often move painfully slowly, bad practice can spread like wildfire. When we talk about these contracts, it is important to recognise that, as legislators, we are not talking about upsetting the rules and practices of ages but about a new and negative practice that moved very speedily across a number of sectors in the past five to ten years. It has moved with particular rapidity across sectors in which women tend to predominate. We have seen that a majority of those on low-hour, short-term precarious-hour contracts, particularly part-time precarious-hour contracts, are women. The Low Pay Commission has acknowledged this. The programme for Government contains a commitment to which I shall draw attention. It is important not only to address casualisation in this area but also the problem of in-work poverty. These contracts are a massive contributor to the reality of in-work poverty which has a strong gender component.

This legislation offers very important measures. First, it reflects the reality of the working environment. It allows for contracts that reflect the reality. It allows for transparency regarding the reality of how businesses are planning their work and demands transparency in that regard.

It addresses the key issue of predictability. I agree with Senator Gavan on child care. People who do not know from one week to the next when or where they will be working are in a bind. Many women, with reduced-hour availability because of poor child care, find themselves having to pay in advance for numerous hours of child care without knowing if they will need them or use them. They have to plan predictable lives for their children without having a predictable or manageable working life. To get the balance right a priority must be to allow citizens working in Ireland to get the balance right in their lives. We need to give them the skills, the security and legislation they need to allow them to plan and build predictable lives for themselves and their families. There is a huge emotional as well as financial cost to this kind of contract and there is huge insecurity. It cuts people off from education or training because if they say "No" when they get the call they may not get the hours they need again. It hinders people from developing themselves and affects their access to credit and mortgages.

The hotel and catering industry was mentioned as a place where casual flexibility may be needed but Senator Nash was clear that where there are sectoral agreements in hospitality and health, which are essential, those agreements can be designed to facilitate appropriate and predictable seasonal work. I do not believe this legislation is contradictory to that in any way and the predictability needed by workers in that sector can be managed through the JLC process.

The Mandate trade union has carried out research which highlighted the concern that unpredictable hours can be used, and are so used by a majority of firms, as an instrument of power in contract negotiations. Some worrying power dynamics creep into many sectors when if-and-when contracts become the norm and there are questions to answer for companies, a majority of whose contracts are of the if-and-when variety. These contracts set up a competitive dynamic in which people have to seek the agreement of somebody who determines schedules and this is very unhealthy.

Three years ago the ESRI did some research on the quality of work in Ireland which highlighted a sense of control over people's working lives. That research may be useful as our debate progresses. There are also concerns on hostile scheduling, in which people are scheduled to work in ways that affect the predictability of their lives, something which particularly affects those who take a stance on certain issues. I may table an amendment on this issue and I look forward to the debate.

It seems this House should go into a formal group hug, although I am completely opposed to that, Grinch that I can sometimes be. We should never forget how long the struggle by trade unions and workers has taken to get this legislation.

I thank colleagues in the Labour Party for attempting to re-establish the principles of Connolly. It is a great pity that the cause of labour comes a bit too late. They sat in government for five years and should have used their influence at the Cabinet table with colleagues in Fine Gael to get this Bill for workers through much more swiftly. Why was it not done? It was not done because Fine Gael is ideologically opposed to it and trade unionists should not forget that Fine Gael is ideologically opposed to most things that represent ordinary workers in this country.

Workers own this country - not businesses, not multinational corporations nor TTIP or CETA but the people - and they deserve decent pay. Fine Gael acted with arrogance in the last Government but its strength has been diminished and it now has to answer to its masters, Fianna Fáil. The Labour Party compromised itself and was unable to act against the might of Fine Gael. It watched gutsy Dunnes Stores workers take to the picket line in 2015 demanding an end to zero-hour and if-and-when contracts.

We took up this fight. I and my colleagues stood with the Dunnes Stores workers who were vilified and threatened with humiliation. As they did on the issue of Nelson Mandela, Dunnes Stores workers stood firm and they have educated this country, not just on apartheid but on zero-hour contracts and the need for respect for workers in this country. They all sat there in July and voted down the Banded Hours Contract Bill put forward by our workers' rights spokesperson, Deputy David Cullinane. At least they are trying to make amends today.

Fianna Fáil kicked the Sinn Féin legislation down the road for 12 months but it has become a master at that. I do not think Fianna Fáil has the cause of workers in its heart but just goes after what is popular.

I worked in Dunnes Stores.

It concentrates on what will increase its support in the polls.

The Senator's party are just talkers.

It appears that the House will support this Labour Party Bill but we are thinking of the workers sitting at home wondering whether they will make the cut in tomorrow's job market, whether they will be hired if they get a shovel or how they will deal with their child care requirements. I do not understand why there was a problem getting this through but we are where we are. The Bill was postponed in the Dáil but people need this type of legislation. The concerns of small businesses over affordability are valid but the massive multiples and multinationals have to be prevented from exploiting citizens exposed to poverty. We will have to consider a support scheme for small businesses and to develop safeguards to create affordability. I am delighted to support the Bill and it is good to hear that the whole House will vote in favour of it. It will prevent the likes of Dunnes Stores workers having to take to the picket lines once again. It will improve people's lives and finish zero-hour contracts once and for all.

Those who are from Connolly do not have to claim Connolly.

I hear the same rubbish from the Senator's colleagues and those on the left in the Lower House.

That is a bit insulting.

The Senator spoke a lot about the last Government but she said nothing about all the jobs that were created by the last Government.

They were zero-hour contract jobs.

The Minister of State, without interruption.

What the Minister said was insulting and he is glossing over the issue.

The Senator was provocative herself.

The Minister of State has not got a clue what he is talking about.

Is this a Labour Bill or a Sinn Féin Bill?

The Minister of State without interruption.

I wanted to interrupt the Senators but I have manners, so I did not. I hope they would have manners.

He did not have manners. This is rubbish. I am deeply hurt.

The Senator should not have come into politics if she is going to be easily hurt by a comment like that.

The Senator was provocative in what she said and I let her away with it.

I thank the House for the opportunity to outline the Government's position on the Protection of Employment (Uncertain Hours) Bill 2016. The Government accepts it is well intentioned and its stated objective is to provide greater protection for employees by more effectively regulating zero hours and related employment practices. The Government does not oppose the principle of the Bill, but it cannot support the specific provisions put forward in it for several reasons.

I acknowledge the particular interest Senator Gerald Nash has in this area and his role during the term of the previous Government in commissioning the University of Limerick, UL, study into the prevalence of zero-hour and low-hour contracts in the economy, along with their impact on employees. When he was a Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Senator Gerald Nash was very much respected in the Department for the significant amount of work he put into this specific area. This Bill is clearly in response to the UL study. Unfortunately, it is a limited response which does not address several key recommendations for legislative changes made in the UL report. The Bill also contains proposals for legislative changes in respect of which the UL study made no specific recommendations for legislative change. Most importantly, the Bill appears to contain no provisions to address the impacts or unintended consequences of the proposed changes.

It is worth recalling the main findings of the UL study. It found that zero-hour contracts, as defined within current employment rights legislation, are not extensively used. It found low working hours can arise in different forms in employment contracts. The UL report made a range of recommendations relating to contracts, hours of work and notice, minimum hours, how contracted hours should be determined, collective agreements, data gathering and wider contextual issues.

The programme for Government contains a commitment to tackle the problems caused by the increased casualisation of work and to strengthen regulation of precarious work. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, who is abroad this week on a trade mission, is committed, along with the Minister of State with responsibility for employment and small business, to bringing forward proposals for legislation to protect workers on low-hour contracts as a follow-up to the UL study. The Ministers' proposals will take account of the large number of submissions received in response to the public consultation on the study. Those responses reflect a broad range of views, many of which are diametrically opposed views. A considerable amount of work has been carried out by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation in assessing those submissions, as well as developing proposals which aim to provide balanced and workable solutions to the recommendations made in the UL study. The Ministers' proposals will address the issues of insecure, low hours work in a more comprehensive but also more balanced manner than the approach taken in this Bill. The Ministers' proposals will address the concerns expressed in the UL study and in the public consultation about the need to improve the predictability of working hours for workers on insecure, low-hour contracts.

The issue of contracts indicating low-hour requirements and not reflecting workers working much higher hours over significant periods will be addressed. The proposals will also seek to ensure workers are better informed about the nature of their employment arrangements, as well as their core terms and conditions at an early stage in their employment. The Ministers' proposals will include provisions aimed particularly at low paid, more vulnerable workers in terms of the minimum compensation for being called in to work and sent home again. The Ministers' proposals will recognise that casual working, as well as if-and-when arrangements, can suit both employees and employers in certain circumstances. The proposals will not, therefore, have the effect of eliminating casual working in all circumstances. This is in contrast to the proposals contained in this Bill.

The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is currently engaged in an intensive dialogue process with both the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, and the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, IBEC, where all parties wish to secure broad agreement before finalising the proposals. This ongoing dialogue process has allowed for the impacts and unintended consequences of the Ministers' proposals to be identified, assessed and adjusted to ensure the negative impacts of the legislative changes are minimised or avoided. In this respect, the Ministers have been made aware in the development of their proposals, and based on submissions on behalf of employers, that there are many situations where casual or on-call or if-and-when needed arrangements apply, such as in the health care sector, in respect of section 39 service providers, and the education sector.

The Ministers also recognise these arrangements may suit employees and employers in certain circumstances, a point which the UL study acknowledged. However, the Labour Party Bill would in effect end these arrangements in all circumstances with potentially negative impacts on employment levels and service delivery in sectors such education, health care, elder care and social care. These are sectors which rely on the flexibility provided by such arrangements to meet peaks in demand, customer needs and regulatory requirements.

The Bill contains several provisions, which taken together, would make it virtually impossible for genuine casual employment arrangements to operate in the labour market. This would be an inappropriate and disproportionate response to the questions raised by the UL report about the use of if-and-when arrangements. The UL study acknowledged the flexibility offered by genuine if-and-when contracts can be mutually beneficial for employers and employees. For employers in certain sectors, they provide the flexibility needed to run their business. For example, in the hospitality and hotel sector, it can allow an employer call in additional staff to service weddings and other functions as required. In the health sector, these arrangements can help employers satisfy a peak in demand and to fill staffing gaps on a short-term basis.

From a worker's perspective, these arrangements can meet the needs of those who want or need more flexible working arrangements. For example, it can suit students, older workers, individuals who need to balance work with caring responsibilities or highly skilled and highly paid individuals who choose to avail of such arrangements for lifestyle reasons and to supplement a more stable income.

On a more general note, the Government remains committed to delivering a social economy model to deliver a strong economy and a fair society. The maintenance and improvement, where possible, of strong protections for workers has been, and will continue to be, a key element of the Government's policy as we look to build on the progress made in recent years in our economic recovery.

In this respect, several major reforms have been made in recent years in the area of employment rights and industrial relations, including the most significant reform in the history of the State of the workplace relations machinery for the vindication of individual employee rights; the levelling of the playing field for agency workers by affording them equal treatment in respect of their basic working and employment conditions; the enactment of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Acts 2012 and 2015 which have re-established the joint labour committee and registered employment agreement wage-setting mechanisms which were found to be unconstitutional; reform of the law on employees' right to collective bargaining; and the establishment of the Low Pay Commission.

These reforms are in addition to the existing specific protections in our employment law for those who work on a part-time or temporary basis. For example, a part-time employee cannot be treated less favourably than a comparable full-time employee.

Employee protection legislation applies to a part-time employee in the same way as it applies to a full-time employee. Fixed-term workers may not be treated less favourably than comparable permanent workers. All temporary agency workers have a right to equal treatment with regular workers from their first day at work. There are people who say that the previous Government did nothing for the working man or woman. I refer those people to the increase in the minimum wage provided for under the last Government despite being in the midst of the worst ever recession in the history of this State. The then Government, comprised of Fine Gael and the Labour Party, in providing for this increase recognised the needs of the working man and the working woman.

In addition to the reform of our employment rights and industrial relations regime, our continued economic recovery and, in particular the progress made in reducing unemployment, is also important in providing better opportunities for all. In this respect, I welcome the latest employment figures which show that unemployment at below 8% is continuing to fall. The live register has dropped below 300,000 and the number of people employed exceeds 2 million. In the year to October 2016, the number of casual and part-time workers decreased by 5,748 or 8.8%. These figures are encouraging. That is not to suggest, however, that there are not many challenges to be addressed in terms of improving protections, particularly for low paid, vulnerable workers. Neither is it to suggest that the improving position in employment and job creation will of itself improve the position of vulnerable workers. On the contrary, many of those who might be considered to be vulnerable, low-paid workers would include individuals who may have several years and more of service to an employer but they may be working on a contract indicating low-hour requirements and not reflecting much higher hours worked over significant periods or they may have concerns about the predictability of their hours and, therefore, their income and about being called into work for unreasonably short periods of continuous work. These are some of the key issues which the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Minister of State with responsibility for employment and business are seeking to address. In doing so, their proposals will be a more balanced and comprehensive response to the UL study, more focussed on vulnerable, low-paid workers and nuanced so as to avoid or minimise unintended consequences and their impacts. The proposals will also have the benefit of having been subject to an intensive dialogue process with ICTU and IBEC, with a view to getting broad agreement.

In contrast to the Ministers’ proposals, the Protection of Employment (Uncertain Hours) Bill 2016, while well-intentioned, does not contain any provisions that would address the impacts or unintended consequences of the proposed legislative changes. It is a limited response to the University of Limerick, UL, study and it does not address a number of important issues raised by it. For all of the foregoing reasons, the Government cannot support the Bill. However, the Government will not oppose it so that it may proceed to pre-legislative scrutiny. In the meantime, both Ministers are working to bring forward legislative proposals in this area as expeditiously as possible.

I thank the Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, for his kind remarks about the track record of the previous Government and the work that I did with officials in the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to try to transform the industrial relations landscape in this country. We made some important improvements to the suite of employment law protections in this State at the most difficult of times. I am always intrigued by the charge from members of Sinn Féin and other parties that the Labour Party did not do enough to protect the interests of working people in this country over the last few years while all of the evidence suggests otherwise. I prefer to listen to the remarks of the International Labour Organization and the European Trade Union Confederation because they know what they are talking about. The Labour Party in Government, supported by Fine Gael, in what was the most difficult of circumstances for our country in the context of the deepest recession ever experienced by this State and a troika programme and when other countries across the globe were hollowing out employment protections, introduced robust new collective bargaining laws, reintroduced registered employment agreements, employment regulation orders and joint labour committee systems and established the Low Pay Commission and twice increased the national minimum wage. The Greek Government is looking to the reforms introduced by the Labour Party with a view to replicating them in Greece. It was me and not members of Sinn Féin that they invited over recently to discuss with them how they could do that.

The Labour Party believes not in exploiting people's problems but in providing solutions to them.

If Senator Devine would like to engage with me on the Mandate trade union and the Dunnes dispute, I am happy to do so. I worked closely with the Mandate trade union, which had a path beaten to my door to try to ensure that the collective bargaining legislation, which it is now availing of to prosecute its case, was introduced in a timely fashion, and it was. I have a very strong relationship with that trade union dating back a long number of years before Senator Devine entered public life or expressed an interest in the conditions of working people in this country.

Senator Nash knows nothing about me.

It is a shame that Sinn Féin continues to be exceptionally sectarian when it comes to the interests of working people in this country. I will make an exception in that regard for Senator Gavan, who I prefer to listen to in terms of his detailed knowledge and experience-----

I have experience. Senator Nash knows nothing about anybody else.

-----of industrial relations both as a practitioner and professional and in his role as a Senator.

I must ask Senator Nash to confine his comments to the Bill.

I was not prepared to allow that empty, vacuous charge go unchallenged.


Last week, Members of this House united to support a Bill from my colleague Senator Bacik which seeks to restore collective bargaining rights for people who have been denied them since 2004. These are vulnerable workers in our economy who are left to the vagaries of the free market to make ends meet. We showed our better selves last week in terms of our being able to combine our intellectual resources and political resources in this House to try to make the lives of working people better. We did that and I understand a degree of consensus has emerged around the legislation we are discussing this evening. I am grateful for the support of Fine Gael Senators, some Sinn Féin Senators, Independent Senators and Fianna Fáil Senators. I think they all understand that there are alternatives to the situation in which we find ourselves. Is it too much to ask that people should have a degree of predictability and security in the workplace in this day and age? I do not believe that it is.

Shamefully, there are still too many people in this country who are going to bed on a Sunday night not knowing what hours they will be working the following week or the likely level of their income. Therefore, they cannot, as colleagues have stated, pay the rent, organise mortgage repayments, child care costs or their lives in a way that they should be able to do. There is a bigger issue arising. If we deny that these issues need to be addressed in our society and we allow the status quo to pertain, such that people in these scenarios feel increasingly disconnected from society, we will not have the social cohesion or social mobility to which we should be aspiring in this country. In doing so, and I do not wish to exaggerate the point, we are driving people into the arms of the Donald Trumps of this world. People believe that if they do not have a stake in the enterprise for which they work they do not have a stake in society and thus they become more distant from the centre and more distant from their communities. We should all be concerned, regardless of our political viewpoints, if this becomes a feature of this society. We need to understand the messages that people in this country are sending to us. They want fairness in the workplace and they need fairness in our society.

People expect to be treated decently. This Bill is a contribution along those lines to address some of those key principles because people need to be valued in the workplace. I welcome the support from colleagues across this Chamber for this important legislation. We, in the Labour Party, are happy to work constructively with officials in the Department, the Minister and the Minister of State to ensure that the type of protections we all want to see for working people in this country in a very dynamic situation are introduced because the status quo is not acceptable.

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 22 November 2016.

When is it proposed to sit again?

At 10.30 a.m. tomorrow.

The Seanad adjourned at 6.35 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Thursday, 17 November 2016.