What are zero-hours contracts?
A zero-hours contract is where you are available for work but your hours of work are not specified under your employment contract.
A zero-hours contract requires you to be available for a certain number of hours a week, or when required, or both. You are not guaranteed a set number of hours.
Employees on zero-hours contracts are protected by the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. However, this does not apply to casual work.
The laws on zero-hours contracts are set out in the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018. This Act strengthens your employment rights in several areas, including banning zero-hours contracts in most cases.
Ban on zero-hours contracts
Zero-hours contracts are banned in most cases but there are some exceptions.
Zero-hours contracts are allowed in the following circumstances:
- Work of a casual nature
- Work done in emergency situations
- Short-term relief to cover routine absences
A member of staff in a care facility must accompany a resident to hospital at short notice. An appropriate substitute worker can be called in to cover under a zero-hours contract.
Schools keep a panel of teachers to provide substitute cover for the unexpected absence of a regular member of the teaching staff.
Where your current employment contract does not accurately reflect the average hours per week that you actually work over a 12-month period, you are entitled to a banded contract.
A banded contract gives you the right to work an average of the hours in your specified band for 12 months. There are 8 bands covering a certain number of hours per week (for example, 6-11 or 11-16 hours per week).
You can find more information in our document on the working week on how to request a banded hours contract and how to complain if you feel your request was unreasonably refused.
Right to a minimum payment
You must get a minimum payment if you are called in to work but sent home without work. You must get pay for 25% of the possible hours or for 15 hours, whichever is less. This rule does not apply to emergencies, exceptional circumstances or short-term relief.
Your pay should be calculated as either 3 times the national minimum wage or 3 times the minimum hourly rate in an Employment Regulation Order (ERO) (if applicable).
An employee under a zero-hours contract who works less than 25% of their potential hours in any week should be paid. The level of pay depends on whether you got some work or no work.
You got no work
If you got no work, you should be paid as if you worked 25% of the possible available hours or paid for 15 hours, whichever is less.
You are required to be available for 20 hours per week, but you got no work. You are entitled to be paid for either:
- 15 hours
- 25% of the 20 hours (5 hours)
You entitled to whichever amount is less. In this case, 5 hours is less.
You got some work
If you got some work, you should be paid for 25% of the possible available hours or for 15 hours, whichever is less.
You are required to be available for 20 hours per week and you got 3 hours’ work. You are entitled to be paid for 2 hours’ pay, to bring you up to 25% of the contract hours.
Calculating the minimum payment
€10.50 per hour is the national minimum wage. Alternatively, you could substitute the ERO hourly rate if this applies to your job.
Example 1: You got no work (€10.50 x 3 times x 5 hours) = €157.50
Example 2: You got 3 hours’ work(€10.50 x 3 times x 2 hours) = €63
This minimum payment rate does not apply if you are on call.
The rules on how to calculate these minimum payments are set out in the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018.
Right to banded hours
If your employment contract does not state the average hours per week that you actually work over 12 months, you are entitled to a banded contract.
There are 8 bands covering a certain number of hours a week (for example, 6 to 11 hours or 11 to 16 hours a week).
Once you are placed on a particular band, you have the right to work an average of those hours for 12 months.
You can find more information about the working week, including how to ask for a banded hours contract and how to complain if your request was unreasonably refused.
How to make a complaint
You should do this within 6 months of the dispute taking place. The time limit can be extended for up to a further 6 months if there was reasonable cause for the delay.
You can read more on the Workplace Relations Commission website which includes frequently asked questions for employee (pdf) and for employers (pdf).