SIPTU has demanded urgent action by the Government to end the imposition of zero-hour contracts on home helps working for voluntary sector organisations which are funded by the Health Service Executive (HSE) to provide public health care schemes. SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “It has come to the attention of SIPTU that a number of voluntary sector organisations providing public home care services are employing staff on zero-hour contracts.  “In recent weeks we have engaged with the HSE on this issue. It is apparent that the HSE is aware that vulnerable workers are being exploited by the imposition of zero-hour contracts. In recent months it has requested that the thirty two community and voluntary sector organisations, which it funds to provide home care services, confirm the number of employees on their books and the number of hours of service being provided to service users in their area.” Paul Bell added: “SIPTU has challenged the HSE on its failure to ensure that basic employment standards are part of any tender for the provision of publicly funded services. We have also directly contacted the Minister for State with responsibility for the elderly and disabled, Kathleen Lynch, and Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Ged Nash, seeking information on how this situation has been allowed to go unchecked for several years. “The Government must put its own house in order in relation to zero-hour contracts. Immediate action is needed to produce legislation aimed at eliminating this employment practice which subjugates and impoverishes vulnerable workers. This situation has entrapped hundreds of mainly women workers who are providing community health services on a third party contracted basis. Many find themselves ineligible for social welfare payments or Family Income Supplement even though they cannot secure the necessary number of working hours to support themselves and their families.” Approximately 3,500 home helps work for community and voluntary sector organisations which are fully funded by the HSE. It is estimated that up to a third of these workers are employed on a zero-hour contract basis. Home helps directly employed by the HSE benefit from a binding Labour Court recommendation which guarantees a basic nine hour working week.