I thank Deputy Barry for raising this important issue. I am committed to considering an appropriate policy response to the report of the University of Limerick study of zero-hour contracts and low-hour contracts. As Deputies will be aware, the University of Limerick was appointed in February 2015 to study the prevalence of zero-hour contracts and low-hour contracts and their impact on employees. The study, published in November 2015, found that zero-hour contracts, as defined within current Irish employment rights legislation, are not extensively used in Ireland. It found low working hours can arise in different forms in employment contracts. There are regular part-time contracts with fixed hours or a contract with if-and-when hours only or a hybrid of the two. Under if-and-when contracts, workers are not contractually required to make themselves available for work.
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 UL study was an independent study and the conclusions drawn and recommendations made are those of UL. Therefore, it is essential for the Government and my Department to seek the views of stakeholders. To this end, my Department has sought submissions from interested parties by way of a public consultation. A large number of submissions were received in response to the consultation.
The responses contain a variety of views both for and against the findings and recommendations as made by UL. These responses require, and are currently being given, careful consideration by my Department. The study and the responses to it will be considered by Government with a view to agreeing the actions that should be taken.