MLA got zero-hours contracts ban rolling

STORMONT’S economy minister is proposing a package of significant changes to employment law including an effective ban on zero-hour contracts in Northern Ireland first initiated by a local MLA.
Conor Murphy set out the details in an Assembly statement on Monday and launched a consultation to introduce new legislation in late 2025.
There was a previous attempt to reform zero-hour contracts in the North when Sinn Féin MLA Jemma Dolan brought forward a private members bill in 2021.
It did not provide for an outright ban on the contracts but proposed a right to request banded hours to provide certainty regarding the number of hours that a worker could typically expect to receive.
Mr Murphy’s proposals is set to take a similar approach, with the economy minister saying zero-hour contracts could be replaced with a “banded hours” system, similar to one in the Republic of Ireland.
Ms Dolan’s bill estimated that 11,000 workers, representing approximately 1.3 per cent of the North’s workforce, were covered by zero-hour contracts, however, this figure may be higher as many workers employment status may not be recognised as a zero-hour contract.
Zero-hour contracts allow employers to hire staff with no guarantee of the hours they will work.
Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s economy grew strongly in the first quarter of 2024, official data suggests.
The economy expanded by 1.4 per cent compared to the final quarter of 2023. Most of that growth came from the services sector – which is the largest part of the economy.
There was also growth in the construction sector, however manufacturing output continued to decline.
The regional performance far outstrips the rest of the UK but lags behind the Republic of Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s economy was essentially flat during 2023 as high inflation hit consumer spending and a series of public sector strikes also affected output.
The broader economic environment has been improving recently with the rate of inflation easing and public sector pay disputes being resolved.
That is reflected in a better performance for consumer services with the broad retail and hospitality sector growing by 2.2 per cent in the first quarter of the year.

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