SOME 10,000 home helps employed by the HSE have won an end to the system of zero-hour contracts.
A binding Labour Court recommendation means that these home helps will have a minimum of seven hours' work a week, according to SIPTU.
Up to now, many were on zero-hour contracts and some have not worked for months, according to SIPTU's health division organiser Paul Bell. Over time, this minimum could be extended to 10 hours a week as part of the annualised arrangement, he added.
The agreement only applies to home helps directly employed by the HSE. It does not include those who work for not-for-profit providers, which are funded by the HSE, or private companies.
Home helps who do not want to work under the annualised hours scheme could be entitled to compensation of between €2,000 and €3,000 under an exit deal.
Mr Bell said the campaign to secure some guaranteed hours for the home helps had been under way since 2009.
He also welcomed the HSE's effort to reorganise and manage "in a robust manner" the home-help hours on a county-by-county basis. The HSE can continue to outsource some of the home-help work to private companies.
In several areas, HSE home helps only provide an 'office hours' service and have been objecting to working unsocial hours. This means the evening, night and weekend work has to be outsourced to private companies.
This can create difficulties for the person receiving the service because they lack continuity of care.
The most recent HSE performance report, to the end of June, said the authority was 1.8pc below target in the number of home-help hours that it had promised to deliver.
It said: "This reflects the requirement to increase the provision of hours on a cumulative basis, so that the overall rate of hourly provision of home help is sustainable to the end of the year and for 2014 in all regions."
Although funding for the home-help service was not cut this year, it is being spread more thinly. This means people get some service, but are also seeing a reduction in the number of hours they have a home help per week.