The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty has confirmed the new Employment Bill, which has been in the pipeline now for a number of years, will come into force on the 4th March. The Bill is being introduced to ‘improve the security of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and those working variable hours’, common in (but not exclusive to) service industries such as hospitality, tourism and retail. These industries often rely on flexibility in the employment contract and therefore the introduction of this new Bill will require them to take note.
The new Act makes certain breaches a criminal offence; where the employer does not comply with the new obligations in the Bill to provide the required information within one month, can lead to criminal prosecution. Fines on conviction could be up to €5,000 or imprisonment of up to twelve months or both. Directors, managers, secretaries or other officers of a company can be individually liable, i.e. be prosecuted individually for offences.
The Act also introduces an anti-penalisation provision whereby an employer may not penalize an employee for exercising their rights under the 1994 Terms of Employment Act. An employee who is penalized can be awarded compensation of such amounts as the WRC considers just but will not exceed four weeks remuneration.
The new Act will bring significant changes for Irish employers and employees and according to Minister Regina Doherty; the Act is a “once-in-a-generation reform of our labour market.”