Proposed Government legislation to enhance the rights of workers in precarious employment will fail to protect them unless it is amended, according to the Labour Party.

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty is proposing legislation that would give workers in variable-hours employment the right to have their actual hours of work reflected in a contract after 18 months.

This is intended to provide greater security for workers regarding hours of employment and predictability of income.

However, Labour’s employment spokespersons Ged Nash said the legislation does nothing at all to provide a remedy for thousands of workers who are on so-called "if and when" contracts.

Under such arrangements an employer may offer a worker a number of hours, but the employee does not have to take them.

Mr Nash that the employer and the worker have no "mutuality of obligation" - and in such situations, the law is of the view that there is no enduring contract of employment.

Without such a contract, the worker is not entitled to seek the protections afforded by the new legislation, or other entitlements under other employment legislation.

He described "if and when" contracts as being at the "very edge" of what the current suite of employment legsialtion allows.

Mr Nash said that with a reference period of 18 months, and allowing for the period of time to get the law enacted, it would be 2020 before any worker would be able to avail of the legislation - and recommended a reference period of 13 months.

He said that while there was much in the legislation to recommend it, the minister had only gone as far as employers would allow her to.

He said his big fear was if the issue of "if and when" contracts was not addressed, then they would become the employment contract of choice for bad employers in Ireland.

Mr Nash also said there was much publicity about zero hours contracts, but noted that these were rare in Ireland, while "if and when" contracts were much more prevalent - as had been confirmed by research at the University of Limerick in 2015.