Employment Bill: Further Consideration Stage

Executive Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 pm on 22nd February 2016.

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New Clause

Debate resumed on amendment No 3, which amendment was:

After clause 16 insert



"Zero hours workers


 


16A. After Article 59 of the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 (meaning of “wages” etc.) insert?—


 


“PART IVA


 


ZERO HOURS WORKERS


 


Zero hours workers


 


59A.—(1) The Department may by regulations make such provision as the Department considers appropriate for the purpose of preventing abuses arising out of or in connection with the use of?—


 


(a) zero hours contracts;


 


(b) non-contractual zero hours arrangements; or


 


(c) worker’s contracts of a kind specified by the regulations.


 


(2) In this Article?—


 


'non-contractual zero hours arrangement” means an arrangement other than a worker’s contract under which?—


 


(a) an employer and an individual agree terms on which the individual will do any work where the employer makes it available to the individual and the individual agrees to do it, but


 


(b) the employer is not required to make any work available to the individual, nor the individual required to accept it;


 


and in this Article “employer”, in relation to a non-contractual zero hours arrangement, is to be read accordingly;


 


“zero hours contract” means a contract of employment or other worker's contract under which?—


 


(a) the undertaking to do or perform work is an undertaking to do so conditionally on the employer making work available to the worker; and


 


(b) there is no certainty that any such work will be made available to the worker.


 


(3) For the purposes of this Article?—


 


(a) an employer makes work available to a worker if the employer requests or requires the worker to do the work; and


 


(b) references to work and doing work include references to services and performing them.


 


(4) The worker’s contracts which may be specified under paragraph (1)(c) are those in relation to which the Department considers it appropriate for provision made by the regulations to apply, having regard, in particular, to provision made by the worker’s contracts as to income, rate of pay or working hours.


 


(5) Regulations under this Article may amend or repeal any statutory provision (including paragraphs (2) to (4)).'.". — [Ms Lo.]

The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List:

Amendment Nos 5-17, 24, 29.

Photo of Thomas Buchanan Thomas Buchanan DUP

I rise to speak on the second group of amendments, which deal with zero-hours contracts, and to look at amendment No 3, which inserts a new clause 16A, and amendment No 24. In relation to zero-hours workers, I want to say that we will be giving our support to amendment No 3. At the outset, I want to acknowledge the role that zero-hours workers play in the workplace, especially for businesses that, at certain times, require extra workers for a length of time to help them in busy periods. I know that, over the past few months, some concerns have been raised about abuses of the use of zero-hours contracts and non-contractual zero-hours arrangements. As a result of that, a raft of amendments to the Bill have been brought forward at a very late stage, but it is far too late to bring them forward on such an important issue as this.

Amendment No 3 gives the Department the flexibility to consider provisions that are appropriate for the purpose of preventing any abuse that may arise. Given that this is subject to affirmative resolution, it gives the future Minister for the Economy the opportunity to bring forward proposals that can be debated and scrutinised in detail at Committee. It also gives us the opportunity to hear from witnesses and to open it up to a consultation exercise to ensure that this matter is dealt with in the proper fashion so that whatever is legislated for in the House meets the needs of employers and workers. It is important that, whenever work is being done on this, a balance is found that meets the needs of employers and workers.

As legislators, we need to ensure that whatever we legislate for is not detrimental to the business world, employers or workers. On an issue such as this, it is important that there is time to fully scrutinise and assess prospective legislation to ensure that what is being legislated for will meet the needs of all those interests. There is only one way to do that, which is to take the time to consult with business people, employers and employees. That has not been done; there has been no time for that, but the Alliance Party amendment gives the flexibility to allow that to be done by the future Minister for the Economy. That is why we will support that particular amendment.

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for giving way. He said that no consultation has been carried out, but does he accept that the Minister carried out a very extensive public consultation on this issue and that, through the Committee, we were given a summary of consultation responses and were contacted by a number of people who expressed their concern about the use of zero-hours contracts? For the Member to say that there has been no public consultation on this issue is incorrect.

The Minister, with the support of the Executive, carried out a public consultation, but unfortunately, some of us felt that the Minister's policy proposals just did not go far enough. That is why we tabled amendments that go much further than the Minister had anticipated. For the Member to suggest that there was no consultation is, in fact, incorrect.

Photo of Thomas Buchanan Thomas Buchanan DUP

It is fair to say that the Committee has not had the opportunity to scrutinise the matter as fully as it should, and it is much too important an issue to drive through in an Employment Bill for which no opportunity was given for us to scrutinise it in the detail required. That is why we will be opposing amendment Nos 5 to 17 and amendment No 29. They are detrimental both to employers who, by the very nature of their business, require zero-hours contracts and to those in the workforce who rely on zero-hours contracts, as they best meet their working arrangements. Let us remember that there are workers out there for whom the zero-hours contracts in place best meet their needs. Therefore, we cannot deny them the right to have zero-hours contracts, nor can we deny the employers.

There is a concern, however, and that concern needs to be addressed. I do not believe that it can be addressed by bringing forward a raft of amendments to a Bill at this late stage that have not had the proper scrutiny, and that is why we cannot support them today and will be opposing them.

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a Cheann Comhairle. I welcome the opportunity to put forward arguments in favour of the Sinn Féin amendments to deal with the vexed issue of zero-hours contracts. As you will be aware, my party tabled an amendment at Consideration Stage that would have prohibited zero-hours contracts. The House did not support the proposal, so we have brought forward a range of amendments today that will protect workers from some of the most awful working practices that exist in the developed world. There has been some criticism here that the amendments were not scrutinised by the Committee, but members of the Committee will perhaps recall that it was given all of two weeks to discuss the Employment Bill, to take evidence and table potential amendments, so there was not really the scope to engage in proper scrutiny even if the amendments had been tabled for the consideration of the Committee at its earliest possible stage.

I will deal first with amendment No 3, from the Alliance Party. As has been said, it is a broad enabling amendment to allow a future Minister to bring forward regulations dealing with the whole issue to prevent abuses arising out of the use of zero-hours contracts. I have no great difficulty with supporting it. It is a forward step, but I certainly do not think that it goes anywhere near far enough, and it demonstrates a clear lack of ambition by Members of the Alliance Party and other Members in the House, who are happy to settle for future regulation, with no surety that improvements will be made to the rights of working people.

It must also be remembered that the first line of the amendment states:

"The Department may by regulations make", so there is actually no legal requirement on the Department to bring forward regulations that would improve things. Therefore, all the amendment really does is to provide the Department with the opportunity to bring forward secondary legislation to deal with the issue.

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

I certainly will, Stephen.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

I hate to intrude across debates, but the Member will be aware that his party colleagues have brought forward an amendment to the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill later around banning smoking in cars in which there are children under 18 that is phrased around these lines — "The Minister may bring forward regulations" — so amendments from his own party in other legislation use the exact same formulation.

Photo of Kieran McCarthy Kieran McCarthy Alliance

Hear, hear. Answer that one.

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

I hear what the Member is saying, and I hear Mr McCarthy telling me to answer him.

I suppose that the fundamental difference is that there are, in the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill — not to get too far away from the zero-hours contract issue — not two competing options, where something "may" be done, or, because there is an alternative proposal, where something "is" done. Correct me if I am wrong, but there is no party bringing forward an amendment in the Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill that states that smoking will be banned in cars. The only option on the table there is that the Minister may bring forward a regulation. What is on the table here is an enabling power for a future Minister to bring something forward and our options, which would deal with some of the worst abuses of zero-hours contracts immediately.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

I am grateful to the Member for giving way. This is an entirely serious point, and I appreciate that the Member may yet come to it in his own remarks. In order to get support for the amendments he is proposing, he needs to satisfy Members that the amendments would actually do what is set out and that they are going to work and deliver, amongst other factors. Simply stating that, "If we pass these things today, we will clamp down on zero-hours contracts", is not guaranteed in some ways, because in no way have they been stress tested.

There are issues around the definition of zero-hours contracts, whereby employers can very easily circumvent them. We could end up in a situation whereby we pass something which locks something into law which may not be effective in delivering what the Member intends. This is why, building on what the vice-Chair of the Committee said, it is so important that we have the scrutiny, not just to ensure that what we are doing is balancing employers versus employees, but to ensure that this will actually work and deliver what people want to see happening.

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

I hear what the Minister says but I do not necessarily agree with him. The amendment we tabled to bring in a definition of zero-hours contracts would have included the ability for the Department to change or amend the definition of a zero-hours contract by regulation, to reflect the concern — that the Minister has indicated for a number of years — that, regardless of what mechanisms we bring in to deal with this issue, some employers will always try to circumvent them. The opportunity for amending the definition by regulation exists in our amendment No 5, but it also exists in the Alliance Party's amendment No 3; so, there is flexibility for the Department to realise, over time, that some employers are changing how they are abusing workers and it allows the Department to change the definition. So, there is not really an issue of definition. I accept that issues might arise in England from the definition included in our amendment No 5, but it is very similar to the Alliance Party's amendment No 3, and both provide for the Department to alter the definition by regulation at a later stage.

I do not think that putting the issue on the long finger is sufficient. The abuses of zero-hours contract workers happen on a daily basis through a range of guises now. Merely adopting the position of waiting for a future Minister to bring forward some regulations to deal with it is not sufficient in my opinion. It is clear that some Members are burying their heads in the sand by saying that this is going to sort out the whole problem. We have a responsibility to send out a message to people that we are actually dealing with the issue. Giving a future Minister powers to deal with it is not dealing with it. It is, once again, delaying the resolution of a problem that needs to be sorted as a matter of priority.

What we propose complements the approach envisaged by the Alliance Party, without leaving everything in its totality for a year or two before a solution is found. As I said to Mr Buchanan, the Minister has already engaged in extensive public consultation around the issue of zero-hours contracts. He has brought forward a range of policy proposals to the Executive to try and deal with the issue, but, unfortunately, there could not be agreement within the Executive on how best to tackle zero-hours contracts, because some Members wanted the Minister to go much further than he proposed. Unfortunately, he decided that there just was not time to deal with any of this and, as such, it has been put on the long finger, and the Minister has not brought forward any policy proposals because he is, in effect, hamstrung by the Executive and by time in that regard.

I move on to the specific amendments tabled in my name and those of my colleagues. Amendment No 6 gives employees the right to be given written notice of the minimum number of hours of their employment within seven days of the commencement of the contract. In complementing the proposed definition of a zero-hours contract worker, any worker who is not given that written notice will be regarded as though they were a zero-hours contract worker for the purposes of these proposals. It is a fairly simple thing. An employee, or worker, is entitled to a written contract within seven days of starting to work and, if they do not get one, they will be deemed as a zero-hours contract worker.

Amendment No 7 ensures that zero-hours contract workers are treated in the same way as other workers as regards terms and conditions of employment. In essence, what that means is that if a fixed or regular working-hours contract worker is entitled to overtime, then a zero-hours contract worker should be entitled to the same basic entitlement. This means that zero-hours contract workers cannot be penalised just because they are being placed on a zero-hours contract.

Amendment No 8 sets out that all zero-hours contract workers should be given at least 72 hours notice of any request or requirement to undertake a period of employment or any cancellation of a period of employment already agreed. What happens at present in some workplaces is that many workers have returned to the days of queuing up outside the docks or factory, waiting to see whether they will be called in for a day's work. Such employment practices cannot be tolerated in this day and age. Some employers, a very small number, bring in all their staff every day and then send the zero-hours contract workers home again.

Those people get no compensation or payment for the period in question. What we propose would address that.

Through amendment No 9, workers who are not given 72 hours' notice that they are requested or required to work a shift would be paid time and a half for that shift. In the event that the shift is cancelled without reasonable notice they would also be entitled to be compensated for that period. These two amendments would go some way to protecting workers from what I described at Consideration Stage as lazy and ineffective management practices and would certainly address the problem facing the small number of workers whose rights are being eroded by bad employers.

Amendment No 10 gives workers the right to request fixed and regular employment but no more often than every 12 weeks. It also places a duty on employers to respond within 10 working days of receiving the request. At present, too many employers use and abuse zero-hours contracts by having a significant proportion of their staff on such contracts, without considering the needs of the employees or workers for job security, an expectation of earnings and the ability to plan for future events, such as holidays or time off, or even for the assurance that one can borrow enough money to buy a car or own one's home. It is made clear in the amendment that only compelling business reasons can be used to turn down a request for a fixed and regular working contract and that a desire by an employer to use zero-hours contracts does not meet that criterion. Finally, any employee who is refused or does not get a response within the stipulated time shall be entitled to make an application to an employment tribunal to have their case heard.

Amendment No 11 is similar to amendment No 10 but deals with continuous employment. It places a duty on employers who have continuously employed a zero-hours contract worker for a period of 12 weeks to offer that worker a fixed and regular working hour contract 12 weeks after their first engagement with the employer. It also establishes that any worker who works 12 weeks out of a period of 26 weeks shall be entitled to the same rights. Any worker who is not offered a fixed and regular contract shall once again be entitled to make an application to an employment tribunal.

Amendment No 12 is very simple. It deals with exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts and makes them void, except in circumstances where the employer can demonstrate a compelling business reason, such as confidentiality or the protection of trade secrets, to justify such an agreement. I thought that there was widespread agreement across the House and across society that exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts were unacceptable. I heard Members opposite, from all parties, indicate such at Consideration Stage, when they argued that we should not go as far as an outright ban but that issues such as exclusivity clauses should be addressed and not be allowed to stand.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance 3:45 pm, 22nd February 2016

I am grateful to the Member for giving way. Will the Member explain to the House how he can guarantee that the wording he has put forward for the clause will achieve the outcome he seeks? If employers are allowed to provide a compelling reason for an exclusivity clause, what is to stop virtually every employer citing one or other rationale? For example, confidentiality is only cited as a "for instance"; there is not an exhaustive list of reasons that employers can use. On that reading, employers could cite any reason as a compelling business reason, thereby negating the intent of the amendment. That is why scrutiny is so important: it helps ensure that what is put forward will actually work by achieving a proper ban on exclusivity. The Member has not used the wording, for example, in the Great Britain small business legislation; this is entirely different wording. There is no understanding, there is no appreciation and there is no stress test to ensure that the wording put forward, going into primary legislation, will actually achieve the outcome that the Member seeks.

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for his intervention. There is no problem with amendment No 12. It is very clear-cut:

"(1) Any term or understanding, written or oral, of a contract or engagement (whether express or implied, and whether formal or informal) that requires a zero hours contract worker to work exclusively for one employer shall be void. (2) The provisions of subsection (1) shall not apply where the employer can demonstrate a compelling business reason, such as confidentiality or the protection of trade secrets, to justify a contractual requirement that the zero hours contract worker shall work exclusively for the employer in question."

I do not understand how Minister Farry reads into that that an employer could put forward any possible reason for having an exclusivity clause in a zero-hour contract. I read that as providing that an employer must have a compelling business reason. It will be up to the employer to justify it, and it is as not as straightforward as saying, "Because we want to use zero-hour contracts with exclusivity clauses. That is our compelling reason". The onus will be on the employer to prove that there is a compelling business reason for it.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

It is one small suggestion, which is why legislative scrutiny is so important. The addition of the word "reasonable" provides a qualification of the "compelling business reason". At this stage, there is no qualification written against the phrase "compelling business reason" in the draft that the Member has provided. I stress that, once this is passed — if it is passed — it will go into law, and tribunals will rule on that basis. If you put in a reasonableness test, that will give some scope for cases to be taken where there are breaches of the content of that amendment. As it is currently worded, there is no qualification. It is open season for employers to define what is a "compelling business reason" without any check or balance on it.

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

If the Minister reads amendment No 10, he will see it says that:

"The employer’s desire to use zero hours contracts is not a compelling business reason for using such contracts."

The fact that an employer wants to use exclusivity clauses and zero-hours contracts is not sufficient to warrant them having exclusivity clauses. We are getting hung up on the detail of what the Minister interprets from an amendment and what I interpret from an amendment.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

That is what legislation is for.

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

Well, we can agree to differ: I read it to be one thing, and the Minister, in trying to put this on the long finger, wants to read another thing into it. From my reading of it, it is very simple. That amendment would prohibit the use of exclusivity clauses in zero-hour contracts. It would make them void unless an employer could bring forward a compelling business reason why they should be in use. That would be up to the employer to prove.

Amendment No 13 makes it unlawful for an employer to subject a worker to a detriment simply because they are a zero-hours contract worker or for other reasons as the Department may specify by regulation. The purpose of the amendment is that, if any of the aforementioned amendments are made and employees are allowed to request fixed and regular working hours or there is a duty to provide them with a written contract and an employee or a worker requests one of those things, there is protection, in that employers cannot punish them or subject them to a detriment just because they have requested a contract or fixed and regular working hours. There is also the provision that any worker who faces such a detriment shall be offered the right to make an application to an employment tribunal.

Amendment No 14 makes the dismissal of an employee unfair if the primary reason for that dismissal is that the worker is a zero-hours contract worker or for other reasons, as the Department may specify by regulation. That could include some of the earlier amendments on requesting a contract or requesting fixed and regular working hours.

Amendment No 15 deals with continuous employment and makes technical amendments to the existing legislation that deals with the issue.

Amendment No 16 gives the Department the right to introduce regulations that would establish a maximum proportion of workers that an employer can have on zero-hours contracts. The demand and the requirement for employers to use zero-hours contracts may well differ within sectors. This will be subject to further consultation, which would allow input from employers' representatives and the trade union movement. The difference between these amendments and the all-encompassing Alliance Party amendment is that this one places a duty on the Department to bring forward those regulations, whereas amendment No 3 does not place that duty on the Department but merely gives it the power.

Amendment No 17 deals with how the amendments will be interpreted and ensures that those who are genuinely self-employed will not be affected by the proposed changes. It also clarifies, for the purpose of the amendments, the difference between a worker and an employee. The recent increase in the rights of workers, which the Minister has championed largely through agency workers, has led to a move away from casual worker contracts toward zero-hours contract employees, even when that is not the most appropriate form of contract.

That concludes my remarks on the amendments. I appeal to all Members to support the amendments. I do not think we can waste the opportunity to deal with zero-hours contract workers. If we do not do it now, it will be another year or two years before the regulations provided for in the Alliance amendment are made. The people out there who are employed on zero-hours contracts, many of whom are being abused by employers, will not forgive us for not taking the opportunity to protect them from such immoral working practices.

Photo of Gerard Diver Gerard Diver Social Democratic and Labour Party

I welcome the opportunity to speak to the group 2 amendments. At Consideration Stage, I stated that the SDLP was against zero-hours contracts and supportive of the Sinn Féin amendments.

We said that we would have liked to see greater detail on how the prohibition of zero-hours contracts would be carried out, and I welcome the greater detail provided in today's amendments.

The Alliance amendment on zero-hours contracts states:

"The Department may by regulations make such provision as the Department considers appropriate for the purpose of preventing abuses arising out of or in connection with the use of— (a) zero hours contracts; (b) non-contractual zero hours arrangements; or (c) worker’s contracts of a kind specified by the regulations."

In terms of the legislative duty imposed on a Department, we do not believe that that is strong or robust enough. The Department may, basically, do what it considers to be appropriate on zero-hours contracts. In our view, that does not represent the sort of impetus and zeal that we need to see to deal with the iniquity of the situation. I cannot stress enough to the House — Mr Flanagan and others have outlined it — the number of people in all sorts of roles and responsibilities who are being exploited under zero-hours contracts. We cannot afford to be ambiguous in the language that we use.

As I said at Consideration Stage, those contracts are often used by unscrupulous employers. In many cases, they are used to avoid paying employees properly and giving them the other reasonable employment rights that one could expect. When we think about it, those contracts are limiting people's lives; they are limiting their ability to plan for the future and to have the reasonable things that people would like to have for their family and children. We cannot forget the long-term effects that people constrained in zero-hours contracts have to contend with daily.

At Consideration Stage, I pointed to a study by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development that found that over 60% of those on zero-hours contracts wanted more hours but could not get them from their employers. I do not think, and neither does the SDLP, that that is a satisfactory situation. We said that we wanted detail as to how zero-hours contracts could be abolished in a reasonable and logical way.

Amendment No 6 requires minimum hours for a worker's employment to be supplied at the commencement of the contract. That amendment does not attempt to specify how long those hours have to be. It will give a prospective employee a firm indication of the working span to anticipate from their employment.

Amendment No 7 is in relation to equal treatment, which is a particularly important point. The clarification in the amendment is welcome; it calls for proper overtime rates to be paid to essentially all workers. That is a sentiment that the SDLP supports. One of the main areas of abuse of zero-hours contracts by employers is that those employees have fewer rights in the workplace. We are talking about a two-tier employment system where some people are treated differently from others; in effect, they are treated as second-class citizens in employment. That is wholly unacceptable. I, and my party, believe that the House cannot and should not stand over that under any circumstances.

Amendment No 8 requires employers to give employees reasonable notice — 72 hours — of changes to the commencement or cessation of an employment period. Those amendments seek to give those on zero-hours contracts the same rights and entitlements as those on fixed-term or longer contracts. We in the SDLP agree with that. I ask the House how, in all reasonableness, anyone who believes in the fair and equal treatment of people in employment can have any difficulty with that.

Amendment No 9 is an amendment to amendment No 8. It stipulates the working conditions, should an employee decide to take up a period of work when not properly notified, as referred to in amendment No 8. The amendments up to amendment No 11 represent the further strengthening of the position of those on zero-hours contracts, who, for too long, have not had equal rights in the workplace and have often been abused as a result.

Amendment No 12 is particularly important. Exclusivity clauses have been the bane of many people struggling in employment and who have been trying to make a living or support their families. In many instances, it is simply illogical to require an employee to work for only one organisation and perhaps receive only a few hours per week and low pay. Let us face it: most organisations do not have trade secrets, although I accept that there may be circumstances in which there are particular aspects with intellectual property or specialisation, but, in most employment circumstances, those things are rare. In the amendment, the duty to satisfy an exclusivity clause is right and proper. There are very few instances in which the contracts can be justified.

We support amendment No 16, which requires the Department to make regulations about the number or proportion of zero-hours workers whom any one employer may employ.

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP 4:00 pm, 22nd February 2016

When it comes to zero-hours contracts, members of the Committee know where I stand. When it comes to the Sinn Féin amendments, it is with regret that I say that I cannot support them for the simple reason that we have not had the time to scrutinise fully and challenge the detail. That has been demonstrated by the exchange between Mr Flanagan and the Minister. When the Minister went into detail and tried to draw out some of the finer points, Mr Flanagan read out the text of the amendment without giving a substantive level of detail or explanation.

I take the House back to Consideration Stage on 12 January, when the Minister said that he could be minded to bring forward something at Further Consideration Stage on zero-hours contracts. As Chair of the Committee, I said that, if he did, I would:

"ask the Committee to scrutinise such proposals fully and to engage with stakeholders to the fullest extent, as it is our right and remit to investigate anything that he brings forward on that." — [Official Report, Vol 111, No 2, p58, col 2].

That is why I firmly believe that tabling the amendments at Further Consideration Stage is regrettable for employers and employees. Tabling them at this stage does not give the House the time —

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

I will, yes.

Photo of Fra McCann Fra McCann Sinn Féin

You may have a point. We have had discussions on this in Committee, and the Minister has been before us and put across his position. However, two weeks ago, when Phil brought amendments to the House, there were reasons why people would not support them, so he tried to table amendments that would gain the support of other parties. It seems that, no matter what he tries to do to get legislation that will protect workers, it is not enough for the rest of the Members.

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

Do you know what I would have liked? If that was the Member's sole honest belief, I would have loved it if he had approached us about the amendments. Instead, the first time we saw them was when the Order Paper was published by the Business Office.

I appreciate where Mr McCann is coming from, but if that is the level of engagement that he and his party believe is enough to convince parties on this side of the House that that is the right way to go, he is lacking. That worries me.

One of Mr Flanagan's comments was that we should not get hung up on the detail. We are talking about the management of zero-hours contracts and the 13 amendments that he has tabled, so there is an awful lot of detail. Shorter Bills get an awful lot more scrutiny at Committee Stage and Further Consideration Stage.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I ask the Member to ensure that he makes his remarks through the Chair and is very careful with his language, giving due courtesy and respect for all Members.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

Some language was used that individuals could have taken offence at. I remind all Members to treat everyone with courtesy and respect.

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

If I used any Committee member's first name rather than full name, I apologise. I do not think that they will be worried about that when we are talking about zero-hours contracts.

I will go back to Committee Stage and evidence that was presented to us. The Law Centre's submission stated that the introduction of an:

"enabling clause into this Bill ... would allow the Department to bring forward regulations to address zero hours at a later stage."

That is where the Alliance Party has gone. Although I am making the case for why I cannot support the Sinn Féin amendments, I want to support the Alliance amendments. The House has a responsibility to tackle zero-hours contracts, because they are being abused. Mr Flanagan will point out that he refers to a small number of employees, but Mr Diver talks about a large number.

There is an imbalance there. We have to get down to the detail that we did not get to in Committee Stage: how many people are employed on zero-hours contracts? Even when it comes to the definition, we have annualised hours, contract hours and casual labour. I think that Mr McCann referred to the councils. Belfast City Council has an advert out for casual employees. To me, "casual employees" refers to zero-hours contracts. We have to get the definition right, and we have to know what the tie-in is to the amendments tabled by Mr Flanagan and Sinn Féin.

In amendment No 5, Mr Flanagan proposes new clause 16A. It says:

"(2) For the purposes of subsection (1) the Department may by regulations vary the definition.".

I believe that including that in amendment No 5 leaves every other amendment that he has tabled open to change, definition and manipulation — maybe "manipulation" is too strong a word — should a Minister want to change the definition at any stage. The Alliance amendment, however, allows the Committee, the Department and the House to take control of what can be put forward. It worries me that the detail in the Sinn Féin amendments sounds and looks good to people on zero-hours contracts who feel that they are being abused.

I draw Mr Flanagan's attention to amendment No 8, which refers to:

"72 hours before the period of employment referred to in subsection (1).".

I do not see how the Northern Ireland hospitality or tourism industries and a lot of our smaller businesses, especially around the north coast and in my constituency, could succeed financially if they had to give all employees 72 hours' notice of when they had to come in. Also — I think that this is in a later amendment — if functions are cancelled through no fault of employers, they will have to pay all of their employees on annualised hours and zero-hours contracts at time and a half for the hours that they had expected to be in. It puts an increasing financial burden on even small businesses.

Amendment Nos 10 and 11 refer to "12 weeks". I cannot see where that period of 12 weeks came from. I do not know whether the party that has tabled the amendments put it forward after consultation or whether there was already an established rationale before that.

I hope that the Members are getting why I have concerns about the amendments that they have tabled. I do not get the detail or the explanation. This is the only time that we have had to challenge, debate and get into the fine detail of the amendments, and that is without input from stakeholders from both sides of the house — I mean employees and employers — as well as the Department and the Minister. At this stage, I am minded to support amendment Nos 3 and 24 and oppose the rest in the group.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

It has always been my intention that, during this mandate, the Assembly would introduce the proportionate regulation of zero-hours contracts. Over the past number of years, the casualisation of the labour market has increased, including the use of zero-hours contracts. Their use may be justifiable for some employers, particularly where flexibility is important, and they may be relatively benign for some workers. However, for others, they may represent the only de facto employment option and carry many problems: uncertainty over income, irregular hours, disruption to domestic and family life and difficulties in accessing benefits. As the labour market changes, it is important that we keep up with what the appropriate regulation is.

In February 2015, I presented to the Executive a paper that sought policy approval for a series of reforms that would have been broader and further-reaching than anything else in these islands. My intention was that the necessary legislative provisions would be facilitated through the Employment Bill. Regrettably, Executive agreement was not forthcoming for me to include in the Bill provisions that would have reflected the detailed policy development work and public consultation that was undertaken by my Department.

Given that this is a new area of law, it is important that there is appropriate time and space for proper legislative scrutiny at Committee level and on the Floor of the Assembly. Timely progress on the Executive paper would have allowed the space and scope for that detailed scrutiny to take place. I fully respect and acknowledge the position that the Chair has adopted in saying that any detail in terms of prescription on zero-hours contracts needs to be subject to the Committee's scrutiny as well as further engagement with stakeholders. While reference has been made to the fact that there has been a public consultation on potential proposals that would have led to Executive agreement on that, as the Chair, the Deputy Chair and, indeed, others will fully appreciate, the consultation that has been conducted by the Department is distinct from that conducted by Committees, whereby Committees have their own call for evidence and ask people to come before them to give their views. In that way, we have almost a double lock in the testing of proposals through the departmental consultation and the Committee's call for evidence.

Two new clauses have been tabled by my party colleagues Anna Lo and Stewart Dickson on zero-hours contracts. In doing that, they are very much seeking to find something that the House can unite around. The clauses define zero-hours and non-contractual zero-hours arrangements and provide a broad enabling power to make regulations in relation to these provisions. Apart from providing definitions, the clauses are not prescriptive about how zero-hours contracts are to be dealt with in legislation; instead, they provide for regulations to amend or repeal any statutory provision, including the definitions. They insert a new provision into the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996, which is an enabling framework only. That approach would allow my Department to make regulations that it considered appropriate to prevent abuses connected with zero-hours arrangements and in relation to particular contracts that could be specified in the regulations.

The amendment would establish a wide power enabling the amendment or repeal of statutory provisions so that we did not have to await the next suitable primary legislative vehicle to take the issue forward. Any regulations would be subject to the draft affirmative procedure, so the Assembly would retain the full opportunity for scrutiny.

I have heard comments from Members about the fact that it is framed with "may", it does not go far enough and there is no guarantee of action, but that is the way we frame enabling powers around regulations in legislation that we pass routinely in the Assembly. I am sure that there is acceptance — we have heard it today in comments from all quarters of the House — that we need to engage in some form of proportionate regulation. Where the difference lies is perhaps in how far-reaching it would be, not the principle or fact that there needs to be regulation. It is important — I think it is clear — that any Minister from any party would, in due course, when they had done the proper due diligence around the work, bring forward proposals in a timely manner for fresh public consultation and regulations that would then be scrutinised through the Executive and the Assembly.

The 12 new clauses relating to zero-hours contracts proposed by Sinn Féin members appear to be drawn from a number of sources including the zero-hours provisions in the GB Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015; existing employment rights contained in the Employment Rights Order (Northern Ireland) 1996; and the recommendations of the research undertaken by the University of Limerick on behalf of the Irish Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The clauses include a definition of zero-hours contracts, including provision, by regulation, to amend the definition and to provide that any regulations be made under draft affirmative resolution of the Assembly. They also provide for a requirement on employers to give notice in writing of the minimum hours of a worker's employment, to treat zero-hours workers on the same basis as comparable workers engaged by the employer and to give zero-hours workers reasonable notice of work and notice of the cancellation of work. They also include the right for workers to request fixed and regular employment and a requirement on employers to offer fixed and regular employment after 12 weeks. The clauses would provide for the prohibition of exclusivity clauses, detriment and unfair dismissal relating to zero-hours contracts, a limit to be set on the proportion of zero-hours contracts per employer and general interpretation provisions.

In the very limited time that I have had to consider the clauses, it appears to me that there may well be merit in a number of the proposed provisions. However, I would be concerned if any or all of the clauses were to succeed in the Bill today as there has been no consultation on the proposals, no assessment of regulatory or equality impacts and, crucially, no Committee scrutiny. There is a particular set or category of questions that we have to ask ourselves. One is whether the proposed regulation by way of primary legislation is actually appropriate.

Another is whether that is what we should be doing to address the issue in society. Members may have their own views on that.

The second aspect, and perhaps one that is more pertinent to the whole process of scrutiny, is whether the amendments will achieve their stated outcomes and objectives. There is no guarantee of that, because we have not stress-tested their wording. There may be means by which employers could circumvent what is put down on paper. It is all well and good to say that we can provide more regulations to prevent that, but if we were to put things into a Bill, we could end up with one unholy mess as we tried to unpick things that prove to be ineffective. It is far cleaner for us to have a broad enabling power in the legislation and then to address the issue through regulations. In that way, we will be able to modify things as circumstances evolve, particularly as we take into account rulings of tribunals as cases on breaches of regulations or, indeed, primary legislation occur. That is the most responsible way in which we can ensure that we protect people. If we get this wrong, we inadvertently raise expectations while putting in place a paper tiger that will not provide the outcomes that people are suggesting.

I do not think that it is good enough for people to come here today and talk about outcomes and make broad speeches about how we want to crack down on zero-hours contracts without going through the detail and explaining the rationale behind the way in which things are framed. This is not a debate on a Back-Bench motion in which we are talking in broad principles. This would alter the law of Northern Ireland. It is something that would go down in statute, and we would have to live with it on the far side.

The irony, of course, is that my paper to the Executive of February 2015 contained a number of proposals that, unfortunately, did not get the Executive's approval. Those proposals are reflected in some of the Sinn Féin amendments. It would have been my preference for those proposals to have been agreed by the Executive, and then for them to have been presented to the Committee for Employment and Learning and subjected to the detailed and appropriate scrutiny that should characterise a sound legislative process.

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin 4:15 pm, 22nd February 2016

I thank the Minister for giving way. Had he got Executive approval for the policy proposals that he brought forward on zero-hours contracts, would he still have stipulated that the Committee had only a fortnight to scrutinise the Bill in its entirety or would the Committee Stage have been carried out in such a way as to give the Committee sufficient time to engage in proper scrutiny, if that is actually the issue at the heart of the matter?

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

I am very happy to clarify that point, and I thank the Member for bringing it up. We had the frustration that the Employment Bill itself was caught up in the Executive system for quite a period. Had the Bill been brought forward sooner, its Committee Stage would have been much longer than the time available.

I again put on record my thanks to everyone for what they did —

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

— to move things through that quickly.

On the back of the Executive's approval of the zero-hours contracts paper, we would have brought amendments, which would probably have been enabling amendments for regulations, to the Committee at a very early stage and allowed its wider scrutiny of the Employment Bill to encompass those. In that way, we would have brought everything together as part of the discussion.

Owing to the constrained timescale, what was done was all that was feasible in the time available. We will have a very good result today if we pass the enabling clauses around zero-hours contracts, because we will not have to come back with another piece of employment legislation in order to have a platform from which to move ahead. The new Minister will be able to move very quickly from this platform. I will give way to the Committee Chair.

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

Thank you very much, Minister. I just want to put on record that the timetable that the Committee worked to for the Bill was the Committee's timetable, not the Minister's. It was agreed by all members of the Committee.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

Absolutely. I place on record my thanks to the Committee. No influence was brought to bear by the Department — the Committee made its own decision. However, had the Committee not been as proactive as it was, the Bill would not have been able to make its way through the legislative stages in the House to reach completion before the end of the mandate. A sterling effort was put in by the Committee staff and members to ensure that we are where we are today. As part of that process, however, we had to be realistic about what could and could not be scrutinised in the available time frame. We are in a reasonable place, where we have a Bill that is comprehensive, addresses a range of issues and sets out the promise of a lot more happening in the future.

We have a very prescriptive approach from Sinn Féin that has not been tested. I am more than happy to recognise that there may well be a case for supporting some of the policy intent contained in the Sinn Féin amendments. It certainly reflects some of my thinking, and I think that it reflects the thinking of other Members from a range of political parties. However, there is a danger in proceeding in a rushed way and putting in place bad or ineffective law. We do not know that the terms of these amendments will succeed in doing what they intend or whether they will be readily circumvented by some employers. As such, I recommend to my Executive colleagues that we oppose these amendments, and I recommend to the House that we oppose this approach as well.

If the Assembly has a will to take forward the measures in the Bill to legislate for zero-hours contracts, the preferred approach would be that of supporting the amendments from Anna Lo and Stewart Dickson, which make provision for general enabling powers, with regulation-making provisions, to allow for a proper process of policy development to be undertaken. These amendments have the benefit of providing a mechanism for zero-hours contracts to be included in the last opportunity for primary legislation during this mandate, while also providing for the outworkings of necessary consultations, impact assessments and stakeholder engagement to be taken forward in due course through regulations during the next mandate, should that be the wish of the Assembly.

Notably, any and all of the Sinn Féin amendments could be taken forward as part of those regulations. So the absence of support today for those amendments does not need to be the end of the consideration of those proposals, and, indeed, I would look forward to seeing at least some of those being implemented in some form in the very near future.

The amendment from my colleagues is a purely enabling amendment that provides the capacity for a Minister of the Economy to bring forward regulations. The content would be determined by that Minister and could be as broad or as narrow as deemed appropriate. The current amendment is not prescriptive in content; it solely serves to provide an early opportunity in the next mandate for proportionate regulation in an area of significant public concern and discourse, and avoids any delay in waiting for the next piece of employment legislation that, in all likelihood, would only put in place the same enabling powers as proposed by the amendment today. Given the number of variables involved, the issue of zero-hours contracts is probably best addressed through regulations in any event. Those regulations would need to be agreed by the Executive and then by an affirmative vote in the Assembly. I believe that that is the most realistic way forward, and I urge the House to support the two amendments from my colleagues and to oppose all the other amendments in the group.

Photo of Anna Lo Anna Lo Alliance

I thank all the Members who have contributed to the group 2 debate. It has been a very reasoned debate, and a lot of points have been raised and responded to by the Minister and others.

Mr Buchanan was the first Member to speak. He said that the amendments from Sinn Féin have come far too late in the day. He stressed the importance of having time to assess the amendments and to consult stakeholders, and he opposed amendment Nos 5 to 17 because they had come very late at this stage. He supports amendment No 3, and he said that it gives flexibility to the Department.

Mr Flanagan spoke passionately in favour of his raft of amendments on zero-hours contracts to protect workers from abuses by, he said, "bad employers". While he supports amendment No 3 — I think that he said that he supports amendment No 3 — and thinks that it is a forward step in enabling a future Minister to bring this forward, he wants to see this happen as a matter of priority and for this issue to be dealt with right away. He acknowledged the Minister's proposed policy, which did not get approval by the Executive. There were some discussions on the difficulties in the definition of "a compelling business reason", which was a phrase in his amendment. There were good exchanges between Mr Flanagan and the Minister.

Mr Diver spoke in support of all the amendments put forward by Sinn Féin. He criticised amendment No 3 for not being robust enough and said that, without legislation, zero-hours contracts would limit people's lives and futures. He does not want to see some workers being treated as second-class citizens and said that it was unacceptable. He supports a large number of the Sinn Féin amendments.

The Chair of the Committee, Mr Swann, mentioned that, with the amendments from Sinn Féin coming so late, it does not give the House adequate time for scrutiny. He said that we accept that we have a responsibility to tackle zero-hours contracts. Therefore, he supports amendment No 3, which will allow the Department and the Committee to take control of what will be brought forward in the future.

The Minister concluded by saying that that, while amendment No 3 will provide that enabling framework, he regretted that the proposals that he brought to the Executive last February did not receive approval. If those had been approved, the proposals would have been included in the Bill. That would have allowed for proper scrutiny during Consideration Stage. The Minister said that the Sinn Féin amendments may well have merit, but there was no consultation, no assessment on equality impact and no Committee scrutiny, and that was not the right way to implement primary legislation, so he recommends that the House oppose the Sinn Féin amendments and support the Alliance Party amendment.

Amendment No 3 agreed to.

New clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

New Clause

Amendment No 4 made:

After clause 16 insert

<BR/>

&quot;Gender pay and disclosure of information


 


Gender pay gap information


 


16A.—(1) Employers must, in accordance with regulations to be made by the Department under this section, publish?—


 


(a) information relating to the pay of employees for the purpose of showing whether, by reference to factors of such description as is prescribed, there are differences in the pay of male and female employees; and


 


(b) details of the methodology used to calculate any statistics contained in the information.


 


(2) Where there are differences in the pay of male and female employees, an employer must publish an action plan to eliminate those differences.


 


(3) A copy must be sent to all employees and any trade union recognised by the employer.


 


(4) The Department may prescribe by regulations a limit to the total number of employees and workers in an organisation below which this section does not apply.


 


(5) Regulations under subsection (4) may not be made unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.


 


(6) The regulations must prescribe?—


 


(a) descriptions of employer;


 


(b) descriptions of employee;


 


(c) how to calculate the number of employees that an employer has;


 


(d) a standardised method for calculating any differences in the pay of male and female employees;


 


(e) descriptions of information;


 


(f) a requirement that information include statistics on workers within each pay band in relation to?—


 


(i) ethnicity, and


 


(ii) disability;


 


(g) the time at which information is to be published; and


 


(h) the form and manner in which it is to be published.


 


(7) The first regulations under this section must be made by 30 June 2017.


 


(8) Regulations under subsection (6)(g) may not require an employer, after the first publication of information, to publish information more frequently than at intervals of 12 months or less frequently than at intervals of 36 months.


 


(9) The regulations shall make provision for a failure to comply with the regulations?—


 


(a) to be an offence punishable on summary conviction by a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale for every employee;


 


(b) to be enforced, otherwise than as an offence, by such means as are prescribed.


 


(10) The reference to a failure to comply with the regulations includes a reference to a failure by a person acting on behalf of an employer.


 


(11) Within 18 months of the day on which this Act receives Royal Assent, the Department must, in consultation with trade unions, publish a strategy including an action plan, on eliminating differences in the pay of male and female employees.


 


(12) For the purposes of this section, the ‘Department’ means the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.&quot;. — [Ms McGahan.]

New clause ordered to stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I will not call amendment No 5, as it is mutually exclusive with amendment No 3, which has been made.

New Clause

Amendment No 6 proposed:

After clause 16 insert

<BR/>

&quot;Contract information


 


16B.—(1) Employers shall be required to give notice in writing of the minimum hours of their workers’ employment.


 


(2) The notice shall be given before the commencement of the contract. If it is given orally, it must be given in writing within seven days from the commencement of the contract.


 


(3) The requirement under this section is without prejudice to the obligations of employers in respect of employees under section 33 of the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996.


 


(4) A worker who does not receive a notice under subsection (1) shall be regarded for the purposes of this Act as if he or she were a zero hours contract worker.


 


(5) In complying with the duty under section 33 of the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996, an employer may refer to any document issued under subsection (1).&quot;. — [Mr Flanagan.]

Question put, That the amendment be made. The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 38; Noes 55

AYES

Mr Agnew, Mr Attwood, Mr Boylan, Mr Diver, Mr Durkan, Mr Eastwood, Ms Fearon, Mr Flanagan, Mr Hazzard, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Mr Lynch, Mr McAleer, Mr F McCann, Mr McCartney, Ms McCorley, Mr McCrossan, Mr McElduff, Ms McGahan, Mr McGlone, Mr M McGuinness, Mr McKay, Mrs McKevitt, Mr McKinney, Ms Maeve McLaughlin, Mr McMullan, Mr A Maginness, Mr Maskey, Mr Milne, Mr Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr Ó hOisín, Mr Ó Muilleoir, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr Rogers, Ms Ruane, Mr Sheehan

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr Flanagan, Ms McGahan

NOES

Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Mr Anderson, Ms P Bradley, Mr Buchanan, Mrs Cameron, Mr Clarke, Mrs Cochrane, Mr Cochrane-Watson, Mr Craig, Mr Cree, Mr Dickson, Mrs Dobson, Mr Douglas, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Dr Farry, Mr Ford, Mrs Foster, Mr Frew, Mr Gardiner, Mr Girvan, Mr Givan, Mrs Hale, Mr Hamilton, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Hussey, Mr Irwin, Mr Kennedy, Ms Lo, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyons, Mr Lyttle, Mr McCallister, Mr McCarthy, Mr McCausland, Mr I McCrea, Mr McGimpsey, Mr D McIlveen, Miss M McIlveen, Mr McQuillan, Mr Middleton, Lord Morrow, Mr Moutray, Mrs Overend, Mr Patterson, Mrs Pengelly, Mr Poots, Mr G Robinson, Mr Ross, Mr Storey, Mr Swann, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Noes: Mr Dickson, Ms Lo

Question accordingly negatived.

New Clause

Amendment No 7 proposed:

After clause 16 insert



&quot;Equal treatment


 


16C.—(1) Employers shall be required to treat zero hours contract workers on the same basis as comparable workers engaged by their employer on fixed and regular working hours contracts.


 


(2) The requirement of equal treatment shall be an implied term of any contract between a zero hours contract worker and his or her employer, and the implied term shall apply to all matters relating to terms and conditions of employment.


 


(3) A comparable worker is a worker selected by the zero hours contract worker on the grounds that the worker in question is engaged on the same or broadly similar work having regard, where relevant, to whether the worker selected has a similar level of qualification and skills.


 


(4) For the avoidance of doubt, subsection (2) applies to the overtime rates payable when the worker exceeds the minimum hours of work under the terms of his or her contract.


 


(5) Subsection (2) shall not apply to the allocation of working time.&quot;. — [Mr Flanagan.]

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

As amendment No 9 is an amendment to amendment No 8, we need to dispose of amendment No 9 before putting the Question on amendment No 8.

Amendment No 9 proposed:

As an amendment to amendment No 8, at end insert

<BR/>

&quot;(3) If a zero hours contract worker accepts employment offered contrary to the requirements of subsections (1) and (2), the employer shall be required to pay the zero hours contract worker at a rate of 150% of the rate they would normally be paid for the period in question.


 


(4) An employer who has cancelled a period of employment of a zero hours contract worker contrary to the requirements of subsections (1) and (2) shall be required to pay the zero hours contract worker for the period of employment in question, even though no work has been done.


 


(5) For the purposes of subsection (4), the amount of payment shall be made up of?—


 


(a) the payment the zero hours contract worker would normally be paid by his or her employer for the period in question; and


 


(b) a sum equivalent to any other monetary loss incurred as a result of the cancellation.’’. — [Mr Flanagan.]

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

We now return to amendment No 8.

New Clause

Amendment No 8 proposed:

After clause 16 insert

<BR/>

&quot;Reasonable notice


 


16D.—(1) The Department must by regulations require employers to give zero hours contract workers reasonable notice of?—


 


(a) any request or requirement to undertake a period of employment; and


 


(b) any cancellation of a period of employment already agreed.


 


(2) A period of notice shall not be reasonable if given less than 72 hours before the period of employment referred to in subsection (1).&quot;. — [Mr Flanagan.]

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

New Clause

Amendment No 10 proposed:

After clause 16 insert



&quot;Requests for fixed and regular employment


 


16E.—(1) There shall be a duty on employers to consider at any time a request by a zero hours contract worker for fixed and regular working hours unless a request has been made in the previous 12 weeks.


 


(2) An employer to whom a request under subsection (1) is made shall deal with the application within ten working days.


 


(3) In considering a request, the employer shall give overriding consideration to the interest of the worker in having fixed and regular working hours.


 


(4) An application by a worker under this section shall be refused only where there are compelling business reasons to do so.


 


(5) The employer’s desire to use zero hours contracts is not a compelling business reason for using such contracts.


 


(6) An application shall be treated as having been refused if the provisions of subsection (2) have not been complied with.


 


(7) A zero hours contract worker whose request under subsection (1) has been refused may make an application to an employment tribunal.


 


(8) An employment tribunal shall not consider a complaint under this section unless it is presented?—


 


(a) before the end of the period of three months commencing ten working days after the application for fixed and regular employment was made, or


 


(b) within such further period as the tribunal considers reasonable in a case where it is satisfied that it was not reasonably practicable for the complaint to be presented before the end of that period of three months.


 


(9) Where an employment tribunal finds a complaint under subsection (7) well founded it shall make a declaration to that effect and may?—


 


(a) make an order for reconsideration of the application, or


 


(b) make an order that the application has been successful and make an award of compensation to be paid by the employer to the worker.


 


(10) The amount of compensation under subsection (9) shall be such amount, not exceeding the permitted maximum, as the tribunal considers just and equitable in all the circumstances.


 


(11) For the purposes of subsection (10), the permitted maximum is such number of weeks’ pay as the Department may specify by regulations.&quot;. — [Mr Flanagan.]

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

New Clause

Amendment No 11 proposed:

After clause 16 insert



&quot;Fixed and regular employment


 


16F.—(1) There shall be a duty on employers who have continuously employed a zero hours contract worker for a period of 12 weeks to offer the zero hours contract worker fixed and regular working hours contract from the date commencing 12 weeks from his or her first engagement with his or her employer.


 


(2) Where a zero hours contract worker has not been continuously employed for a period of 12 weeks, there shall be a duty on employers to offer a fixed and regular working hours contract to any such zero hours contract worker who has been employed in at least 12 of the preceding 26 weeks (the reference period).


 


(3) For the purposes of subsection (1) and (2) the Department must by regulations make provision to establish?—


 


(a) a rate of pay;


 


(b) a minimum period of hours; and


 


(c) any other relevant terms and conditions of employment.


 


(4) The Department must by regulations provide for a zero hours contract worker to make an application to an employment tribunal where a fixed and regular contract under this section is not offered.&quot;. — [Mr Flanagan.]

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

New Clause

Amendment No 12 proposed:

After clause 16 insert



&quot;Prohibition of exclusivity clauses


 


16G.—(1) Any term or understanding, written or oral, of a contract or engagement (whether express or implied, and whether formal or informal) that requires a zero hours contract worker to work exclusively for one employer shall be void.


 


(2) The provisions of subsection (1) shall not apply where the employer can demonstrate a compelling business reason, such as confidentiality or the protection of trade secrets, to justify a contractual requirement that the zero hours contract worker shall work exclusively for the employer in question.&quot;. — [Mr Flanagan.]

Question put, That the amendment be made. The Assembly divided:

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

I have been advised by the party Whips that, in accordance with Standing Order 27(1A)(b), there is agreement that we can dispense with the three minutes and move straight to a Division.

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 38; Noes 56

AYES

Mr Agnew, Mr Attwood, Mr Boylan, Mr Diver, Mr Durkan, Mr Eastwood, Ms Fearon, Mr Flanagan, Mr Hazzard, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Mr Lynch, Mr McAleer, Mr F McCann, Mr McCartney, Ms McCorley, Mr McCrossan, Mr McElduff, Ms McGahan, Mr McGlone, Mr M McGuinness, Mr McKay, Mrs McKevitt, Mr McKinney, Ms Maeve McLaughlin, Mr McMullan, Mr A Maginness, Mr Maskey, Mr Milne, Mr Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr Ó hOisín, Mr Ó Muilleoir, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr Rogers, Ms Ruane, Mr Sheehan

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr Flanagan, Mr F McCann

NOES

Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Mr Anderson, Ms P Bradley, Mr Buchanan, Mrs Cameron, Mr Clarke, Mrs Cochrane, Mr Cochrane-Watson, Mr Craig, Mr Cree, Mr Dickson, Mrs Dobson, Mr Douglas, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Dr Farry, Mr Ford, Mrs Foster, Mr Frew, Mr Gardiner, Mr Girvan, Mr Givan, Mrs Hale, Mr Hamilton, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Hussey, Mr Irwin, Mr Kennedy, Ms Lo, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyons, Mr Lyttle, Mr McCallister, Mr McCarthy, Mr McCausland, Mr I McCrea, Mr McGimpsey, Mr D McIlveen, Miss M McIlveen, Mr McQuillan, Mr Middleton, Lord Morrow, Mr Moutray, Mr Nesbitt, Mrs Overend, Mr Patterson, Mrs Pengelly, Mr Poots, Mr G Robinson, Mr Ross, Mr Storey, Mr Swann, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Noes: Mr Dickson, Ms Lo

Question accordingly negatived.

New Clause

Amendment No 13 proposed:

After clause 16 insert

<BR/>

&quot;Detriment


 


16H.—(1) It shall be unlawful for an employer to subject a zero hours contract worker to a detriment by any act or any deliberate failure to act on the ground that the zero hours contract worker?—


 


(a) is or has been a zero hours contract worker; or


 


(b) any other condition prescribed by the Department.


 


(2) A zero hours contract worker may present a complaint to an employment tribunal that he or she has been subjected to a detriment in contravention of subsection (1).&quot;. — [Mr Flanagan.]

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

New Clause

Amendment No 14 proposed:

After clause 16 insert



&quot;Unfair dismissal


 


16I. The dismissal of an employee shall be unfair for the purposes of The Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996 if the reason or principal reason for the dismissal is that the employee?—


 


(a) is or has been a zero hours contract worker; or


 


(b) any other condition prescribed by the Department.&quot;. — [Mr Flanagan.]

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

Amendment No 15 not moved.

New Clause

Amendment No 16 proposed:

After clause 16 insert



&quot;Proportion of zero hour contracts


 


16K.—(1) The Department must by regulations set a limit on the number of zero hours contract workers as a proportion of the total number of those employed by an employer.


 


(2) Regulations under subsection (1) may not be made unless a draft of the regulations has been laid before, and approved by a resolution of, the Assembly.&quot;. — [Mr Flanagan.]

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

Amendment No 17 not moved.

New Clause

Amendment No 18 proposed:

After clause 16 insert



&quot;Living Wage Agency


 


16A. The Department must, by 1 November 2017, establish an unincorporated body of persons known as “the Living Wage Agency” for the purpose of measuring, researching and advancing a living wage.&quot;. — [Mr Flanagan.]

Question, That the amendment be made, put and negatived.

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP 5:00 pm, 22nd February 2016

I will not call amendment Nos 19 to 22 as they are consequential to amendment No 18, which has not been made.

New Clause

Photo of Roy Beggs Roy Beggs UUP

We now come to the third group of amendments for debate, which deal with blacklisting offences and equality exception for employment of teachers. With amendment No 23, it will be convenient to debate amendment Nos 26 and 27. A valid petition of concern has been received for amendment Nos 26 and 27. I call Mr Phil Flanagan to move amendment No 23 and address the other amendments in the group.

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

I beg to move amendment No 23:

After clause 16 insert

<BR/>

&quot;Blacklists


 


16A.—(1) Article 5 of the Employment Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 is amended as follows.


 


(2) Leave out subsection (4) and insert?—


 


&#x0027;(4) Regulations under this Article shall create an offence, which shall provide for it to be punishable?—


 


(a) by a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 6 months, or both, in the case of an offence triable only summarily;


 


(b) by a fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years, or both, in the case of summary conviction for an offence triable either on indictment or summarily.


 


(4A) The first regulations under this subsection must be made by 31 December 2017.&#x0027;.&quot;.

The following amendments stood on the Marshalled List:

No 26: In clause 26, page 16, line 14, at end insert



&quot;(1A) The repeal of Article 71 of the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 as set out in Schedule 3 comes into operation one year after this Act receives Royal Assent.&quot;. — [Mrs Overend.]

No 27: In schedule 3, page 25, line 23, column 2, at end insert



&quot;












 



 



 



Article 71.


 



 


&quot;. — [Mrs Overend.]

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. For the purposes of this group of amendments, I will direct my remarks towards amendment No 23 and the placing of a duty on the Department to make regulations that would make blacklisting a specific criminal offence.

Members may recall that enabling powers around blacklisting were first given in 1999, yet it took until 2014 for regulations to follow and for the matter to be dealt with in any way. Those regulations have not dealt with all the issues at the heart of the problem, but I commend the Minister for bringing forward the regulations earlier in the mandate. A public consultation took place on the issue in 2003, but at that time, as there was no hard evidence, according to DEL, that blacklisting was taking place, the regulations were not implemented.

(Mr Deputy Speaker [Mr Dallat] in the Chair)

Whether blacklisting is taking place is irrelevant to me: proper legislation is required to ensure that people are discouraged from collecting lists of trade union members to block them from accessing employment opportunities. In March 2009, the extent of blacklisting in the construction sector was exposed when the Information Commissioner's Office raided the Consulting Association, which was a vetting service for checking potential employees, and confiscated its blacklist. That whole process was arrived at because of data protection laws, not because of blacklisting laws. Since that incident, not a single company involved in the vetting process has apologised to their victims for their actions.

Over 3,000 construction workers were on the blacklist, and, at present, hundreds of blacklisted workers have lodged cases in the High Court against the companies that had blacklisted them. At the time, victims had no idea that they were blacklisted and often were not especially active in the trade union movement. Despite this, they found themselves on a secret blacklist, and, inevitably, work became harder to find or they were forced out of the construction industry. Blacklisting had terrible consequences for the individuals and their families, and the construction companies remain in denial. Rather than accepting their wrongdoing, they have tried to minimise the cost of wrecking workers' lives by establishing a counterfeit compensation scheme. Blacklisting victims could receive as little as £4,000 in what amounts to hush money.

The existing regulations do not go far enough, in my opinion. It is now unlawful to make and use a blacklist or to refuse employment or subject an employee to a detriment due to a blacklist entry. However, the law does not make the process of blacklisting itself a criminal offence. Although blacklisting is described as unlawful, the regulations that the Minister brought forward do not contain a free-standing right not to be blacklisted.

The Consulting Association was certainly not the only blacklister, and there is every possibility that the problem remains widespread today, because there are insufficient deterrents for people who engage in such activities. Given the secretive nature of blacklisting and the incredible difficulty in finding out if it is occurring, a strong deterrent is required. Blacklisting must become a criminal offence, with a prison sentence a definite option for the guilty. It does not suffice that it is unlawful unless there is a penalty for those involved in it.

Under the current regulations, it is unlawful to compile, use, sell or supply a blacklist containing details of people who are or have been trade union members or who are taking part or have taken part in trade union activities, where the blacklist may be used by employers to discriminate in relation to recruitment or the treatment of existing workers. Courts can award damages, including damages for injury to feelings, when the relevant provisions are breached. The regulations also allow current and former trade union members to complain to an industrial tribunal if they are refused employment, subjected to a detriment or unfairly dismissed for a reason relating to a blacklist. Employment agencies are also unable to refuse to provide a service because a worker appears on a blacklist. Whilst all of that is positive and much better than what we had before 2014, what is actually needed is strong legislation to deter people from engaging in what is already an illegal activity. Amendment No 23 delivers that and will force the Department to make regulations that would make blacklisting a specific criminal offence, something that is long overdue.

Photo of Thomas Buchanan Thomas Buchanan DUP

Very briefly on group three, we support amendment Nos 26 and 27 as they bring all of the schools into line with equality legislation, and yet time after time in the House, when we talk about equality, it is right on the lips of those in the parties opposite, yet whenever we come to legislate to create that equality, we have both parties putting down a petition of concern to stop that happening — to stop the House passing legislation dealing with equality. Therefore, they have a bit of questioning to do among themselves as to why they shout so much about equality and then, when the opportunity is there to provide equality, they turn around and put down a petition of concern to stop it. I say to you across the Chamber, "Shame on you today". We will support amendment Nos 26 and 27 and oppose amendment No 23.

Photo of Gerard Diver Gerard Diver Social Democratic and Labour Party

Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. As has been outlined, amendment No 23 refers to the issue of blacklisting and, more specifically, to the creation of an offence of using blacklisting and stricter punishments, including prison sentences, for those who are caught involved in this process. While I accept that there is, perhaps, a lack of full understanding and knowledge of the extent of blacklisting, nonetheless we understand that it happens in some cases. It is entirely repulsive that any individual should find themselves on a blacklist, as a result particularly of activities that they have done protecting the rights and interests of other workers, such as participation in a trade union or a dispute.

No McCarthy-esque measures should be allowed, with people being blacklisted and marked for the rest of their working lives where potential recruitment or participation in trade union activities are concerned. The SDLP, as a party, is obviously extremely supportive of that. In that light, we support the amendment as it is put.

We have rejected amendment Nos 26 and 27. I know that a valid petition of concern has been put in on those amendments, so we will not be voting in favour of them.

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

I will speak to the group 3 amendments. Obviously, my comments will focus on amendment Nos 26 and 27, tabled in my name and that of my Ulster Unionist colleague Danny Kennedy.

I note that the introduction to the Bill refers to the idea that it will:

"Make provision relating to conciliation and other matters in connection with industrial tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal".

It goes on to say in conclusion that it aims to:

"make other provision relating to employment; and for connected purposes."

I and my party are therefore satisfied that amendment Nos 26 and 27 are absolutely relevant to the Bill.

I will take the opportunity to remind the House what the issue known as the teacher exemption from fair employment is all about and why the Assembly should waste no further time in legislating on it. Members will note that schedule 3 to the Bill refers to the repeal of various articles of legislation on the statute book, including the Employment Rights (Northern Ireland) Order 1996; the Industrial Tribunals (Northern Ireland) Order 1996; the Employment Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1999; and the Employment (Northern Ireland) Order 2003. Articles, or parts of articles, from the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 are identified for repeal. We propose to add to the list, under amendment No 27, article 71 of the Fair Employment and Treatment Order. Amendment No 26 quite reasonably specifies a commencement date for the repeal of article 71 as one year after the Employment Bill receives Royal Assent. To remind Members, article 71 of the Fair Employment and Treatment Order 1998 — FETO — is known as the teacher exemption.

That has nothing to do with the current requirement that appointees to teaching posts in the maintained nursery and primary sector possess or obtain, within a short period, a Catholic certificate in religious education. This amendment is about employment law. FETO is the consolidation and strengthening of the Fair Employment (Northern Ireland) Act 1989 and the Fair Employment Act 1976. The 1989 Act imposes six duties on employers, including the introduction of compulsory workforce monitoring, and it set up the Fair Employment Commission. FETO extended the monitoring of part-time employees and the outlawing of religious and political discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services.

Nowhere in the Western World is the community or religious background of the workforce checked and monitored more than in Northern Ireland, and any perceived imbalances that do not reflect the local population must, by law, be rectified. All employers in Northern Ireland, whether in the public or private sector, must register with the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland if they employ 11 or more employees who each work more than 16 hours a week. All employers must ask their employees, apprentices and job applicants to fill in an annual monitoring form that asks whether they are from the Protestant, Roman Catholic or other communities. That goes for all employers, except those that employ teachers. Those employers are the Education Authority for the state-controlled sector; the Council for Catholic Maintained Schools; and, for the voluntary grammar and grant-maintained integrated sectors, it is the board of governors that is the employer. All, however, are exempt from the fair employment rules laid down in FETO under article 71, which is known as the teacher exemption. That opt-out for teacher appointments goes right back to the original Fair Employment Act 1976. In 1976, Parliament exempted employment as a teacher in a school from anti-discrimination legislation. The reasons have been somewhat lost in time, but it seems to have been in recognition of the de facto segregated nature of our education system and some sort of special protection for denominational ethos. In 2016 that teacher exemption still exists.

Apart from the ridiculous situation where, uniquely, it is not unlawful to discriminate when recruiting to teaching positions, it also means that roughly 17,000 teachers employed in Northern Ireland are not monitored in the same way as all other professions. So the figures quoted in all reports on fair employment over the past 40 years are not accurate, because we do not know the religious background of 17,000 schoolteachers; they are not recorded or monitored. We can, however, surmise from the survey data collected by the Equality Commission that, 12 years ago, 85% of teachers in state-controlled schools were from a Protestant background, while 99% of teachers in the maintained sector were Roman Catholic.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP 5:15 pm, 22nd February 2016

I am grateful to the Member for giving way. Would the Member agree that it is nothing short of disgraceful that SDLP and Sinn Féin Members have tabled a petition of concern to oppose this very sensible change in the legislation, a change that will bring an end to discrimination? Yet it is opposed by parties claiming to be the champions of equality.

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

I thank the Member for his intervention. I agree, and, indeed, I find it astounding that the parties mentioned have tabled a petition of concern.

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

Sorry, I just want to reinforce what my party colleague said, especially in regard to Mr Diver's comments on amendment No 7, when we were talking about equal treatment. He said that the sentiment of the SDLP does not support:

"a two-tier employment system where some people are treated differently from others... That is wholly unacceptable... the House cannot and should not stand over that".

Was it a bit hypocritical of the SDLP to sign this petition of concern?

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

I thank the Member for his intervention and for his response. I am astounded that the petition of concern was tabled and, furthermore, at the little debate in the Chamber this afternoon. When the Ulster Unionist Party brought this issue to the Assembly for debate on 22 April 2013, and again in April 2015, the Assembly agreed with our stance that article 71 of FETO was indefensible and should go. There were dissenting voices on the other issue of the Catholic RE certificate, but, in both debates, no one, whether unionist, nationalist or other, argued that the teacher exemption from fair employment legislation should be retained.

For the avoidance of any doubt for those on the nationalist Benches, I will simply quote what CCMS representatives, Jim Clarke and Eugene O'Neill, said when they appeared in front of the Education Committee on 29 May 2013. Mr Clarke said:

"we are in agreement with that. FETO should go. We are not defending FETO; that is what that is. We are not defending FETO; let it go."

Mr O'Neill said:

"our council finds the notion of discrimination on the grounds of one's religion abhorrent. It is on record as saying that. We do not believe that, in 2013, there is a place for that exemption of teachers from fair employment. We, as a council, are quite happy for that exemption to be removed, but we are not responsible for that. That exemption is contained in the Fair Employment and Treatment Order 1998. That is a legislative thing, which, I suppose, is the Assembly's business. I could put it like this: we would not obstruct or seek to obstruct any removal of that exemption."

That is crystal clear. CCMS says that it does not rely on or use the teacher exemption.

On the controlled side, the education and library boards' teacher employment policy, now the Education Authority's, has been set out in the following terms:

"all eligible persons will have equal opportunity for employment and advancement, irrespective of perceived religious belief, political opinion, gender, marital status, disability, race, sexual orientation and age. There will be no unlawful discrimination — direct or indirect — against any person in recruitment, training, promotion or in any other way."

The controlled sector does not use the FETO exemption. Why, then, should it stay on the statute book? If it is a dead letter, let us get rid of it now.

As we explained in the two debates in 2013 and 2015, there is no justification for continuing the FETO exemption; it is a historical anomaly and needs to go. Today is an opportunity to get rid of it, and this Assembly should take that opportunity. For some reason —

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for giving way. The Member said that the controlled sector does not use this veto. Does the Member accept that no one uses it?

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

The issue is that allowing this to remain on the statute book allows discrimination to happen. Whether or not it actually happens is not the issue; it is the fact that it allows discrimination. If that is the case, let us pursue removing it from the statute book.

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

I want to continue for a moment. If the Member wants in again as I proceed, he can ask.

For some reason, the Department of Education and the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister have played a game of pass the parcel for the past three years. At times, the Education Minister has said that he is against the teacher exception and that he has written to the First Minister and deputy First Minister. However, when pressed on when he wrote to them and what the reply was, he denied having written to them at all. Then, in answer to Assembly questions, the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister said that, although it has responsibility for equality issues, it needs the Department of Education to establish a policy position and refer a review, which has been conducted. However, I recently asked the Education Minister to detail the results of such a review. Instead of giving a direct answer, he said:

"Removal of the exception under Article 71 of the FETO is a matter for OFMdFM to take forward. If OFMdFM were minded to do so I would support this as part of a full public consultation."

In short, it is back to pass the parcel. Nothing has happened for three years. The Assembly should not tolerate such prevarication, and nor should it tolerate discrimination in any field of employment. There was no opportunity to amend the ESA Bill, which was dropped, and the focus of the Shared Education Bill was deemed too narrow to accept a similar amendment two weeks ago.

On the petition of concern lodged by Sinn Féin and the SDLP, the amendments deserve the support of everyone in the Assembly. Everyone who believes in fair employment and equality must support them on a cross-community basis. Repeal of this outdated article does not target one side of the community. I urge Members on the nationalist Benches to do the right thing and vote for the amendments. The argument that OFMDFM has primary responsibility for equality and should have legislated on the matter may sound reasonable, but OFMDFM has been aware of the issue for years and has done nothing. Danny Kinahan MP, when he was in this place, tabled numerous questions to OFMDFM and Education on the FETO exception, and no action was forthcoming. More recently, I have done the same.

Photo of Danny Kennedy Danny Kennedy UUP

I am grateful to the Member for giving way. Does she recall that, in debates in the House in April 2013 and April 2015, Sinn Féin representatives, among them Mr Hazzard, Michaela Boyle, Mr Sheehan and Maeve McLaughlin, expressed themselves to be in favour of repealing the FETO exemption? Is it not absolutely unbelievable that they continue to table a petition of concern to oppose the very measure that they spoke in favour of in April 2013 and April 2015?

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

Thank you, Mr Kennedy; I appreciate your intervention and clarification on those points. I find it astounding that, while Sinn Féin is on record as supporting the removal of the exception, the Sinn Féin Minister has not moved to act on it. Meanwhile, the Sinn Féin Minister claims that it is the responsibility of OFMDFM to consult on and move the legislation. This is the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister that is made up of the DUP, which, I believe, is in support of the amendment, and Sinn Féin, which has lodged a petition of concern. On the one hand —

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

I will just finish the sentence. Sinn Féin says that it will support the removal of the exception, as Mr Kennedy said, yet the deputy First Minister is not moving to do so. Do I detect a split in the ranks of Sinn Féin on the matter?

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

I am grateful to the Member for giving way. Does she agree that it seems a little strange that Sinn Féin seems to be using an argument that this is an OFMDFM responsibility and should be subject to public consultation before it is willing to act, when it has already amended the Bill today on another equality matter regarding gender pay audits on which there has been no public consultation but there was clear consensus in the House that it wanted to move ahead? That, again, is an OFMDFM responsibility.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

There is clearly a contradiction between those two positions.

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

I thank the Minister for pointing out the hypocrisy of Sinn Féin. While —

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

I will finish my sentence. While we can be astounded by the hypocrisy of Sinn Féin in this instance, maybe we should not be surprised.

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

I am concluding —

Photo of John Dallat John Dallat Social Democratic and Labour Party

Order, please. When it is clear that a Member does not wish to give way, another Member should not pursue it. I also point out that, just now, it was not the Minister's prerogative to give way because he did not have the Floor.

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. I conclude by commending amendment Nos 26 and 27 to the House. I trust that, after this debate, the proposal will receive support from all sides of the House.

Photo of Trevor Lunn Trevor Lunn Alliance

There is certainly something strange going on here today. I will happily give way to Mr Hazzard at some point, if he can explain what on earth the Sinn Féin position is. We will not support amendment No 23 on blacklisting, but I will leave it to the Minister to speak to it. I will speak briefly to amendment Nos 26 and 27, which we will, of course, support.

The exception granted to schools has been a long-term bone of contention, as we all know. At the time, Roman Catholic educationalists were concerned that the Fair Employment Act would lead to a non-denominational system with a loss of Catholic ethos, and Protestant educational interests were concerned that Protestant teachers would be placed in an unfavourable position, as, indeed, they were and continue to be 40 years on. The exception is also in line with section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act, which does not include schools. The question is this: is it still necessary, if it ever was? It seems odd that legislation designed to prevent discrimination is causing discrimination to this day.

It is a fact that there are reasonable numbers of Protestant teachers in Catholic schools. I can think of one in north Antrim that Mr Swann will know very well: Dominican College has a Presbyterian headmaster, but that does not appear to be causing any damage to the Catholic ethos of that marvellous school.

Does the exception contribute to the annual oversupply of teachers from our training colleges? That question links to this debate, although not perhaps directly. We certainly supply too many teachers, particularly those coming out of the Catholic training system. What is the reason for that? Is it really the case that non-Roman Catholic teachers — I am sorry to keep using the terms "Roman Catholic" and "Protestant", but that is what we are talking about

Photo of Kieran McCarthy Kieran McCarthy Alliance

Forget about the "Roman" thing.

Photo of Trevor Lunn Trevor Lunn Alliance

I am getting heckled by my own party and being told to forget about the "Roman" part.

[Laughter.]

Is it really the case that non-Catholic teachers cannot be trusted to respect the traditions and ethos of Catholic schools as they do their job? Do we really not trust them to do that? I certainly trust them — I have no problem whatever.

I listened with interest to what others said here today. I remember that, when Jim Clarke and Mr O'Neill came to the Committee, they announced that they had no problem with the removal of the exception. Mr Hazzard appears to have confirmed that Sinn Féin has no problem with the removal of the exception. However, if I read it right, that is because you think that that is down to OFMDFM rather than the Department for Employment and Learning. It is the same removal. If that is your only problem, why on earth would you petition it? Here is an opportunity if you want to explain it.

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

I am going to sum up.

Photo of Trevor Lunn Trevor Lunn Alliance

OK.

The exemption continues, along with the difficulty in training for the Catholic certificate in religious education, which acts as a key aspect of institutional separation in education. It acts as a barrier to the efforts to bring about a shared future in Northern Ireland. It is a measure whose time has passed; really, we do not need it. I am glad to hear such unanimity across the House to the effect that we do not need it. I wonder who is pressing for it to be retained. I do not know.

There does not appear to be anybody left to oppose this. It would be possible for the Catholic system to retain the Catholic certificate; they do not have to retain the exception at the same time. They could, of course, perhaps make it a bit easier for others to obtain it.

I regard the Ulster Unionist amendments as timely and worthy. It is a pity about the petition of concern — it is a pity about all petitions of concern, frankly — but here we have another one. I still do not understand why Sinn Féin wants to petition this or why, not to let them off the hook, the SDLP is assisting them; it makes no sense. If the time has come to remove this then remove it. It will not be any less legal or less valid if we do it under this legislation instead of trying to persuade OFMDFM to do it. Let us get on with it. We will certainly be supporting amendment Nos 26 and 27.

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin 5:30 pm, 22nd February 2016

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I rise to oppose amendment Nos 26 and 27 and perhaps shine a bit of light on the situation. I came into the Chamber about halfway through the debate on the previous group, and it appears that we and the Ulster Unionists have swapped roles. Instead of the Ulster Unionists decrying a lack of consultation and Committee scrutiny, we are perhaps the ones saying that now. For this very delicate equality — Mr Swann is shaking his head but he in particular decried a lack of public consultation on a certain issue —

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

If the Member looks at the Hansard report, he will see that my colleague did not mention anything about a lack of consultation. He may have mentioned a lack of debate on the issue, but we have been debating this issue for the past three years on the Floor, so there has been plenty of consultation on it.

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for her input. I referred directly to Committee scrutiny. This issue has not been in front of the OFMDFM Committee for scrutiny. This is very delicate equality legislation we are talking about.

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

One second. We are talking about repealing equality legislation here. Sinn Féin has repeatedly said that the time has come to look at this very carefully and see if it is needed any more. I am certainly of the view, as are members of my party, that it is no longer the time for the measure, but we want to see the process being followed through properly. We want to see a proper public consultation through OFMDFM, who are in charge of it. We do not want to see it latched onto the side of a different Bill, which is unfortunately what is happening here. Members can shake their heads, but those are the facts about what we are dealing with. This is being attached to a Bill that is the responsibility of a Department that does not have the authority for it. That is exactly —

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

Will the Member give way?

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

I thank the Member for giving way. He said that he came in part of the way through the debate on the last group. That is obvious, because he is not aware of what his party has been putting into the Bill, from measures on zero-hours contracts to those on gender pay and disclosure of information. Those areas are the responsibility of OFMDFM.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

With no public consultation.

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

With no public consultation, Committee structure or anything. So, the Member is arguing against himself.

The Member has petitioned against the amendments. I was going to say that he has been conned, but I am not allowed to use that unparliamentary language so I will not. He still has the option tomorrow to vote in favour of the amendments. Even though the petition of concern is still in place, they can do the right thing, as everybody in the House is saying, and support amendment Nos 26 and 27. His arguments against them are not stacking up, because his own party has countered them through what it has done at Consideration Stage and Further Consideration Stage. To say that this is not the responsibility of the Department for Employment and Learning is a nonsense, because the Department for Employment and Learning ceases to exist in a few months. Responsibility for the legislation in this Bill will be passed to the appropriate Department afterwards.

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

I take the Member's points on board to a certain extent but, on the gender pay stuff, the regulations would involve public consultation and scrutiny. That would not have been the case with this, because it is different; it is delicate equality legislation that should be dealt with through OFMDFM. Let me say it on record: I am for the repealing of this legislation, but I want to see it done in the appropriate fashion. I and my party do not believe that this is the appropriate forum to do it. It is as simple as that.

There are a few things to touch on. There is a growing concern in this House — the Minister himself has touched on this — that issues are being attached to Bills that they should not be attached to. This is a case in point; the repeal needs to be dealt with through OFMDFM. I think that Members are looking for pot luck. They see this as an opportunity to attach something to a Bill to get it through. I do not see that as —

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

No, I will not give way.

I do not see that as being the right way to go. As I said, there has been no scrutiny and no examination in a neutral environment of the consequences that may roll out from it. That is what we want to see when we are looking at the issue. I say to Mr Kennedy and Mrs Overend that that is the reason. This is not a flip-flop from a previous education debate. The Education Minister has written to OFMDFM, as far as I am aware, to take the issue on. That is why we are opposing it. This Bill is not the place to be discussing the issue.

Photo of Christopher Hazzard Christopher Hazzard Sinn Féin

No. I am coming to an end. We want to see dialogue in a neutral environment and a public consultation through OFMDFM. That is the place to deal with this.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Mr Deputy Speaker, seldom have Members from the SDLP and the Sinn Féin Benches spoke more unconvincingly out of both sides of their mouth. Mr Hazzard —

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

Will the Member give way?

[Laughter.]

Photo of Robin Swann Robin Swann UUP

He cannot accuse the SDLP of speaking out of both sides of its mouth, as it did not speak at all on the matter.

[Laughter.]

Photo of John Dallat John Dallat Social Democratic and Labour Party

Order, please. Whatever about speaking out of both sides of the mouth, I would much prefer that you spoke through the Chair.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Mr Swann is quite right, because we had a contribution from the SDLP in which the Member spectacularly failed to mention the amendments whatsoever, other than to say that the party was going to oppose them, without reason or rationale.

To return to the point, Mr Hazzard says, "In fact, we support the removal of article 71", but today — or tomorrow — Sinn Féin is going to veto the amendments. So intent is it on vetoing it that it is going to deploy a petition of concern. You therefore speak with no credibility whatsoever when you try to suggest to the House that, in fact, you are in favour of repealing the application of article 71, when, by your actions, you are going to guarantee that it is not repealed. Therein is the hypocrisy of the situation.

There are politicians on the nationalist Benches who have made a career out of talking about discrimination. The walls of the Chamber have echoed for years with protestations about discrimination and about how a community, in one way or another, has been shamefully treated and hopelessly discriminated against. It is, however, those very people who, in this debate, and tomorrow, are going to protect and cement discrimination and ensure that this very modest move to chip away at discrimination is defeated. Of course, they are the same politicians who pin their colours to the European Convention on Human Rights and laud all its protections, yet article 71 can be in existence only because of a derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights. In order to make it lawful to discriminate in the manner that article 71 permits, there had to be a derogation from the convention. Therefore, those coming from that background, having made their careers out of protestations about discrimination, to end up as those who are the defenders of discrimination, they have a lot of explaining to do.

"Pitiful" is the only word that I can think of for Mr Hazzard's attempt to explain the inexplicable. As for the SDLP spokesman, as was pointed out, he did not even go there, because he knows, I suspect, full well that it is utterly inexplicable why those who claim to be against discrimination should themselves be those determined through a petition to ensure that discrimination stands.

Mrs Overend is right: there has been shameful passing the parcel on the matter. I have answers from OFMDFM and the Minister of Education, each saying that it is the other's responsibility. I welcome the indication from Mr Buchanan that he and his colleagues will support the amendment, but what has the First Minister done about it? When you ask a question of the First Minister and deputy First Minister, the answer you get is this: "Well, that is for the Department of Education." When you ask the Department of Education, it says: "That is for the First Minister." What has the First Minister done to bring the matter to a head; this disgraceful, ridiculous, unedifying discrimination provision whereby teachers, and employing authorities when they employ teachers, are exempt from discrimination legislation?

Photo of Sandra Overend Sandra Overend UUP

I thank the Member for giving way. Will he join me in asking either of the Sinn Féin Members who spoke this afternoon to clarify, or get clarification from the Minister, on whether he actually has written to OFMDFM, because we have received conflicting messages about whether there has been a letter? Maybe that letter and the response could be put in the Library for other Members to see.

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

I certainly endorse that suggestion. If there has, allegedly, been an attempt by the Education Minister to encourage OFMDFM to deal with the issue, let us get it out into the public domain. Let us see that correspondence and the reply. Who is hiding from the issue and why? That is the question. It is a nettle that needs to be grasped. Nobody seems prepared to grasp it. When there is an attempt to grasp it in the House, the people who line up to ensure that the issue is not dealt with are the SDLP and Sinn Féin.

Photo of Paul Givan Paul Givan DUP

I am grateful to the Member for giving way. Obviously, Mr Hazzard has been put forward to try and sell the unsellable and the indefensible in this respect. At times, Back Benchers have to do these things for their parties. Does the Member agree that the rationale put forward by Mr Hazzard that there was no Committee scrutiny or consultation — and that seems to be what he is hanging the issue on — flies in the face of the position taken by Sinn Féin on what were sensitive and controversial amendments brought forward by Mr Lunn and Mr Dickson to the Justice Bill? Does it not highlight the stark contrast in the approach that Mr Hazzard's party is taking today and reveal the hypocrisy in its position?

Photo of Jim Allister Jim Allister Traditional Unionist Voice

Well, I will have to take the Member's word for it that, as a Back Bencher, sometimes — and maybe he was speaking from personal experience: I do not know—

[Laughter.]

— he has to say things he does not believe in. I have no idea. He is absolutely right that, today, Mr Hazzard was the emperor without clothes to say that, "Oh, we could not do that because we are very cognisant of the need for consultation", when his party, as Mr Givan points out, were the very people who were so anxious and eager to rubbish his amendments and those of others when it suited on the pretext of all that. Yes: it only adds another layer to the hypocrisy that is so self-evident here.

I say to those parties: apply your own standards of what you are on record as saying about discrimination. If you believe in them, then, overnight, withdraw the petition of concern and allow the matter to be dealt with because, patently, neither Department is willing to deal with it. Now is the time to grasp the nettle.

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance 5:45 pm, 22nd February 2016

First of all, I will discharge my duty as Minister in relation to the blacklisting amendment, which relates directly to the functions of my Department. The intention is to modify article 5 of the Employment Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 so that regulations must make non-compliance with blacklisting regulations an offence which could, in certain circumstances, be punishable by imprisonment for up to three years. The current blacklisting regulations make it unlawful to compile, supply, sell or use a prohibited list, ie a blacklist. This core feature of the regulations is termed the general prohibition. As well as the general prohibition against compiling, selling, supplying and using a blacklist, the regulations also make it unlawful for an employer to refuse a person employment for a reason related to a prohibited list; to dismiss an employee for a reason related to a prohibited list; and to subject a worker to any other detriment for a reason related to a prohibited list. The regulations also make it unlawful for an employment agency to refuse its service to a worker for a reason related to a prohibited list.

Individuals may enforce their rights contained in the regulations through an industrial tribunal or a court. Complaints against employers or employment agencies for refusing employment or services, for dismissal or for detriment can be made by the individual concerned to an industrial tribunal. Compensation can range from £5,700 to £76,600. Individuals, trade unions and other organisations may complain to a court that the general prohibition in the regulations has been breached, or was likely to be breached, where they have suffered a loss, or may suffer a loss, as a consequence of that breach. Where the court upholds the complaint, it may award damages to the complainant. The award of damages may include compensation for injury to the feelings of the complainant. No minima or maxima apply to the size of these awards.

During consultation on the 2014 blacklisting regulations, consultees were asked whether they supported the Department's view that enforcement should take place via civil law. Those not in agreement with that view were asked to indicate what alternative approach they favoured. Of the six substantive responses, five agreed that enforcement should take place via civil law. Only one consultee considered that enactment of both criminal and civil sanctions would be appropriate.

The blacklisting regulations can be read alongside the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998, where there are criminal sanctions. The Information Commissioner already has the powers to investigate breaches of the Data Protection Act and to undertake criminal prosecutions if necessary. If blacklisting occurs in the future, it may well be covered by an investigation by the Information Commissioner and lead to prosecutions. Criminal offences are unusual in employment law, and the Department considers that the package of measures in the 2014 regulations provides adequate protection, especially taking into account the outcome of the public consultation on the issue.

In my view, civil law is the best area in which to enforce the regulations. Other employment relations concerns are dealt with appropriately using this method, and, as I have indicated, there is recourse to criminal penalties through data protection legislation, if that is warranted. I therefore oppose the amendment and invite Members to join me in doing so.

I also want to make some comments as an individual Member, primarily on the amendments tabled by Mrs Overend and Mr Kennedy. Their purpose is to repeal article 71 of the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 a year after this Bill receives Royal Assent. The effect would be to remove the current exception that exists in fair employment legislation in relation to schoolteachers. I am aware that this is a matter on which there has been some discussion, albeit not in the context of the Employment Bill. The policy focus here is very much on equality in education. The Department referred to in article 71 of the Fair Employment and Treatment Order is, in fact, OFMDFM, which has the lead on equality matters.

It is my view that this exemption to equality legislation should be removed. It was not justifiable in the first place, and the arguments against it are today even stronger. Any professionally trained and educated teacher should be capable of teaching in any type of school or sector, irrespective of their personal background. Therefore, we need to separate personal background from the ethos of a school. Teachers should be able to reflect and promote the ethos of a school in which they work, irrespective of their own particular views.

The situation would be helped by more ready access for all trainee teachers to the certificate of religious education for situations where it is still retained. As others have said, it is important that we decouple the issue of the exemption to equality legislation with the potential to require the certificate, because the requirement for the certificate can be applied on a non-discriminatory basis to anyone from any background. The issue is therefore a level playing field in terms of access to the certificate, which is clearly embedded in the St Mary's University College approach to the curriculum and available to students at Ulster University, but it is only available to students at Stranmillis via distance learning from the University of Glasgow, notwithstanding the fact that there are institutions on their doorstep that could equally provide them with access.

In so far as we have different sectors in Northern Ireland and no matter what teacher training infrastructure we will have, there should be provision to reflect the particular requirements of the various types of school, but there should also be scope for the development of a much more integrated module that trains all teachers in the full spectrum of diversity, with top-ups available specific to particular sectors. The application of the exemption to equality legislation serves only to restrict the job opportunities of some qualified teachers compared with others in what is a very tight and competitive labour market.

In closing, I want to refer to some of the comments that were made. Like other Members, I am stunned by the arguments or the lack of arguments being put up on these very particular amendments. The point I want to return to is the notion that the reason for the petition of concern and presumably the votes against today is the fact that this has not been subject to public consultation or Committee scrutiny and is a matter for OFMDFM when this is not an OFMDFM Bill. Let me be very clear about this: we have already made an amendment, only a matter of about an hour prior to this point, that passed a new duty relating to equality to the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister.

I heard Mr Hazzard, before he left the Chamber, refer to the fact that the amendments were different because the amendment about the gender pay audit was one where we have enabling powers but the issue before us here is prescriptive. However, if people refer to that amendment, they will see that, while it has enabling powers in some respects, it is also prescriptive in a range of areas. I invite Members to note the occasions on which we have duties on employers that they must do certain things and on the Department that it must do certain things — that is right across what is quite a lengthy amendment. I will give one example that appears towards the end, where it says that the Department "must" produce a strategy. That is not "may". We have had no consultation on the merits or otherwise of having a strategy, but we have a directive from the Assembly today that the Department "must" do something. Therefore, we have a massive inconsistency. The basis on which the amendments are being rejected today does not stand up to scrutiny. The arguments that those who propose it are using are the selfsame arguments as have been used to justify them doing something in OFMDFM on equality matters today — on a matter on which there has not been any debate in the Assembly, certainly not in my time as an MLA over the past nine years. At least you can say that the teacher exemption to fair employment legislation has been discussed and voted on in the Assembly. Until we had the discussion and vote today, there had not been a single vote in the Assembly on gender pay. Members from Sinn Féin saw fit to proceed with that and to set out prescription on the way forward, but they are not prepared to do that on an issue that is well established and on which everyone seems to agree we want to see change.

We have already accepted the principle that my Bill today is a bit of a free-for-all and does not have to refer to matters that extend directly to my Department or the Department for the Economy, but we are drawing an artificial line around this issue for some bizarre reason that I cannot understand and virtually no other Member seems to understand.

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. I thank Members who contributed to the debate on the group 3 amendments that deal with the proposed criminalisation of blacklisting and the repeal of article 71. I will go through some of the remarks that Members made.

Mr Buchanan was a strong proponent of equality during his short contribution and never mentioned blacklisting. Mr Diver spoke in favour of criminalising blacklisting and never mentioned article 71. That seemed to be the way the debate went on, as Members focused on amendment Nos 26 and 27, while a minority spoke on amendment No 23.

Sandra Overend provided an overview of why she believes article 71 is no longer required. Trevor Lunn appeared to ponder the question of whether segregation was necessary in education in any sense. Chris Hazzard argued that, given the sensitive nature of the matter and the fact that it deals with repealing equality legislation, the unintended consequences of the proposed legislative change need to be fully explored before it is repealed.

Photo of Stewart Dickson Stewart Dickson Alliance

You commented that Mr Lunn said that there was no place for segregation in education in Northern Ireland. It is not only Mr Lunn who said that: President Obama, when he came to Belfast, said that as well.

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

I thank the Member for his intervention. I do not recall Mr Obama being present during the debate that we are winding up on, but I am happy to be corrected that President Obama is a strong advocate of integrated education, as are many other Members of this House and elsewhere in society.

Mr Allister highlighted how the issue appears to have fallen between the stools of OFMDFM and the Department of Education, yet the Minister for Employment and Learning is here to respond to the issue. We now have three stools that the whole thing has fallen between.

Minister Farry seems to — I cannot even read what he said now — sorry, Minister Farry responded first on blacklisting. That is why I was confused. He reckons that the current mechanism for dealing with blacklisting through civil law provision is sufficient and argues that there is recourse through criminal law for anybody who breaches the Data Protection Act. I do not think that that is sufficient. Some trade unionists do not agree with that, and that is why the legislative change has been proposed. I suppose that the proposed changes to blacklisting have been somewhat overshadowed by the amendment from left field by the two Members from the Ulster Unionist Party. Far be it for me to criticise anybody for bringing amendments from left field into Minister Farry's Bill, which may well be described in the Bill Office as now being a skip where everything is dumped.

I think that the phrase that Stephen Farry was hunting for when he was talking about the debates that we have had today is "consistent inconsistency". Members from some parties have highlighted the fact that we cannot support some amendments because they have not gone through any scrutiny process, and, now, at the end of the day — we are not even near the end of the day because this has gone on longer than it was supposed to — but, at this stage of the day, the same Members are arguing that that is not a good enough reason for opposing something. Consistent inconsistency is the order of the day. Before I conclude —

Photo of Stephen Farry Stephen Farry Alliance

I thank the Member for giving way. I appreciate his point that we are all being consistent on being inconsistent today, but can the Member have a go at trying to reconcile his approach where his colleague proposed an amendment earlier today to this legislation that modified equality legislation, which is the responsibility of OFMDFM, without any public consultation or discussion in any format whatever, while he is perfectly content to oppose that being done with another matter on which there has been quite a bit of debate?

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for his intervention, although I presume that he is speaking as an individual Member in this debate. I can see where the Member finds the inconsistency, but if you take the —

[Laughter.]

You asked me to try; I did not say that I would succeed. If you take the example of —

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

No comment, Danny.

Photo of John Dallat John Dallat Social Democratic and Labour Party

Order, please. I have to discourage this cosy little chat between the Members from Fermanagh and South Tyrone and direct the remarks through the Chair.

Photo of Phil Flanagan Phil Flanagan Sinn Féin

"Protection", Jim, would be a good word. What we proposed earlier with our raft of amendments, as Anna Lo helpfully called them, were changes, most of which have been subject to a full public consultation by the Department for Employment and Learning or which would be through the regulations process, but I will be reminded by the Deputy Speaker that I am no longer speaking about the amendments in group 3.

Nobody can be quite sure what the unintended consequences of repealing article 71 would be. We are not opposed to the principle of repealing article 71; we are concerned about the potential unintended consequences that might arise if it were to be repealed. For that reason, we do not think that this is the proper legislative mechanism, but it is something that we would be willing to explore with other Members, as we have done in the past, to find a way of doing it that meets the needs of everybody concerned.

Question put, That the amendment be made. The Assembly divided:

<SPAN STYLE="font-style:italic;"> Ayes 37; Noes 55

AYES

Mr Attwood, Mr Boylan, Mr Diver, Mr Eastwood, Ms Fearon, Mr Flanagan, Mr Hazzard, Mrs D Kelly, Mr G Kelly, Mr Lynch, Mr McAleer, Mr F McCann, Ms J McCann, Mr McCartney, Ms McCorley, Mr McCrossan, Mr McElduff, Ms McGahan, Mr McGlone, Mr M McGuinness, Mr McKay, Mrs McKevitt, Mr McKinney, Ms Maeve McLaughlin, Mr McMullan, Mr A Maginness, Mr Maskey, Mr Milne, Mr Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr Ó hOisín, Mr Ó Muilleoir, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr Rogers, Ms Ruane, Mr Sheehan

Tellers for the Ayes: Mr F McCann, Ms McGahan

NOES

Mr Allen, Mr Allister, Mr Anderson, Ms P Bradley, Mr Buchanan, Mrs Cameron, Mr Clarke, Mrs Cochrane, Mr Cochrane-Watson, Mr Craig, Mr Cree, Mr Dickson, Mrs Dobson, Mr Douglas, Mr Dunne, Mr Easton, Dr Farry, Mr Ford, Mrs Foster, Mr Frew, Mr Gardiner, Mr Girvan, Mr Givan, Mrs Hale, Mr Hamilton, Mr Hilditch, Mr Humphrey, Mr Hussey, Mr Irwin, Mr Kennedy, Ms Lo, Mr Lunn, Mr Lyons, Mr Lyttle, Mr McCallister, Mr McCarthy, Mr McCausland, Mr I McCrea, Mr D McIlveen, Miss M McIlveen, Mr McQuillan, Mr Middleton, Lord Morrow, Mr Moutray, Mr Nesbitt, Mrs Overend, Mr Patterson, Mrs Pengelly, Mr Poots, Mr G Robinson, Mr Ross, Mr Storey, Mr Swann, Mr Weir, Mr Wells

Tellers for the Noes: Mr Lunn, Mr McCarthy

Question accordingly negatived.

Clause 21 (Variation in procedures for certain orders and regulations)

Amendment No 24 made:

In page 14, line 37, after &quot;Article&quot; insert &quot;59A or&quot;. — [Ms Lo.]

Clause 25 (Interpretation)

Amendment No 25 made:

In page 16, line 10, after &quot;Act&quot; insert

<BR/>

&quot;, except in section (Gender pay and disclosure of information),&quot;. — [Ms McGahan.]

Clause 26 (Commencement)

Photo of John Dallat John Dallat Social Democratic and Labour Party

Amendment No 26 is a paving amendment for amendment No 27.

Amendment No 26 proposed:

In page 16, line 14, at end insert

<BR/>

&quot;(1A) The repeal of Article 71 of the Fair Employment and Treatment (Northern Ireland) Order 1998 as set out in Schedule 3 comes into operation one year after this Act receives Royal Assent.&quot;. — [Mrs Overend.]

Photo of John Dallat John Dallat Social Democratic and Labour Party

As the Principal Deputy Speaker explained earlier, a valid petition of concern has been received on amendment No 26. Amendment No 26 has been moved, so I must advise the House that today's proceedings on the Bill will now stop. The vote on amendment No 26 and the remainder of the Further Consideration Stage of the Employment Bill will be taken at the start of tomorrow's business. I ask Members to take their ease for a moment.