Dáil Questions: Jobs

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Dáil Issues, Jobs, Oral Questions

Clare raises questions from the TTIP agreement, code of practise to prevent another Clerys situation, the need for lone parents and workers on casual contracts to seek extra hours, standards in the aviation sector and the amount of money to nurture indigenous industry.. not many answers though…

 

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will bring forward legislation to insert a social responsibility clause into the Insolvency Act and the Companies Act, to ensure that the rights of workers are protected.
– Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 15th July, 2015.
Ref No: 28631/15

R E P L Y

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Bruton TD)

Ireland has a robust suite of employment rights legislation, which offers extensive protections to employees. The protections enshrined in legislation are underpinned by the National Employment Rights Authority’s (NERA) proactive labour inspectorate. In addition, NERA’s Information Unit has been restructured and expanded to form a new Workplace Relations Customer Service Section, which provides information in relation to employment, equality and industrial relations rights and obligations, and how to obtain redress where appropriate. NERA information officers are available to meet staff, either individually or collectively, to discuss their employment rights, including matters related to redundancy. The Workplace Relations Customer Service Section can be contacted at Lo-call: 1890 80 80 90. The website www.workplacerelations.ie also provides extensive information on employment rights.

In addition to the protections provided to employees under employment rights legislation, company law provides that the matters to which directors must have regard in the performance of their functions include the interests of the company’s employees in general, as well as the interests of its members.

In light of the suite of employment rights legislation already in place, I have no plans to amend the Companies Act 2014 to insert a provision in relation to social responsibility.

Moreover, one of the key principles of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) which is shared at European level is that CSR is a voluntary approach by businesses and organisations which goes beyond compliance with regulatory requirements. Increasingly, good CSR practices are distinguishing the best companies from their competitors. CSR practices that are embedded as a genuine part of a company’s values and operations can help enhance the company’s profile and competitiveness.

I would encourage all companies to embrace the concept of CSR and integrate social and environmental concerns into their mainstream business operations. The Government’s National Plan on Corporate Social Responsibility, “Good for Business, Good for the Community”, provides guidance and advice to companies who are interested in embracing CSR principles. The Plan is available on my Department’s website, www.djei.ie.

Personal Insolvency legislation is a matter for my colleague the Minister for Justice and Equality and I have no direct function in relation to this legislation.

DAIL QUESTION

NO. 23

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he has read the Report of Living Wage Technical Group; and whether he proposes to bring forward legislation to deal with this issue.
– Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 15th July, 2015.
Ref No: 28630/15

R E P L Y

Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Nash TD)

I note that, in its latest report, the Living Wage Technical Group has calculated the Living Wage in Ireland for a single-adult household to be €11.50 per hour. The new figure represents an increase of 5 cent per hour over the 2014 rate.

The Living Wage concept is grounded in the idea that a person’s wage should be sufficient to maintain a safe, decent standard of living. Of course, it is not isolated from a State’s taxation and social support systems.

So, at an individual level the resources required to achieve a minimum essential standard of living is very dependent on family circumstances and thus the interaction of individual earnings with household income and State-provided supports such as Child Benefit, Family Income Supplement as well as those available in relation to housing, education and health.

In the UK, it is a voluntary code with which some employers, who already pay in excess of the UK national minimum wage, have become associated. The Living Wage concept there draws its strength from the fact that it is a grassroots civil society campaign. At present, around 1,500 separate employers across the country have endorsed the approach. In the UK the Living Wage Foundation has calculated the 2015 UK Living Wage as £7.85 and £9.15 for London.

In its recent Budget the UK Government applied a concept of a National Living Wage by which companies will be required to pay a minimum of £9 an hour by 2020, applying to workers over 25.

The National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Bill 2015 is expected to be enacted shortly. The Bill provides for the establishment of the Low Pay Commission whose main function will be, on an annual basis, to examine and make recommendations on the national minimum wage, with a view to securing that the national minimum wage, where adjusted, is adjusted incrementally over time having had regard to changes in earnings, productivity, overall competitiveness and the likely impact any adjustment will have on employment and unemployment levels. The Commission was established on an interim basis in February 2015 and I expect to receive its first recommendation on the minimum wage following the enactment of the legislation.

While I am on record as endorsing the concept of a Living Wage I would differentiate between the application of a mandatory National Minimum Wage and a societal movement that would see employers volunteer to pay what might be considered to be a Living Wage.

I intend to hold a Living Wage forum in the Autumn, to which civil society organisations, trade unions and, crucially, employers will be invited to discuss the concept of a Living Wage in Ireland and whether and how it can be applied here.

DAIL QUESTION

NO. 3

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to introduce legislation to ensure that part time workers have a legal right to seek or avail of extra hours; if he discussed this matter with the Minister for Social Protection prior to the introduction of recent changes to Lone Parent Payments; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.
For PRIORITY answer on Wednesday, 15th July, 2015.

Ref No: 28705/15

R E P L Y

Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Nash TD)

Irish employment rights legislation contains strong safeguards for part-time workers.

The Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 (the 2001 Act), which is the main piece of legislation governing the employment rights of part-time workers, implemented EU Council Directive 97/81/EC into Irish law. The purpose of the Directive was to implement the Framework Agreement on part-time work concluded by the European social partners. In general terms, the 2001 Act provides that part-time employees shall not be treated in a less favourable manner in respect of his/her conditions of employment than a full time employee and that all employee protection legislation applies to a part-time employee in the same manner as it already applies to a full-time employee. The Act further provides that where a benefit is determined by the number of hours an employee works, it shall be applied on a pro-rata or proportionate basis to part-time employees.

Further, pursuant to section 13(5) of the 2001 Act, the Labour Relations Commission prepared in consultation with the social partners a Code of Practice on access to part-time working. The Code of Practice was drawn up in the context of Clause 5.3 of the Framework Agreement, which provided that, as far as possible, an employer should give consideration to a request by workers to transfer from full-time work to part-time and from part-time work to full-time work. Under Section 42(4) of the Industrial Relations Act 1990, the Code is admissible in evidence in any proceedings before a Court, the Labour Court, the Labour Relations Commission, the Employment Appeals Tribunal or the Equality Tribunal.

The Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 (the 2003 Act) is also relevant. In general terms, the Act provides that fixed-term employees may not be treated less favourably than comparable permanent employees. The Act also establishes a framework to prevent abuses arising from the use of successive fixed-term employment contracts. In addition to these provisions, the Unfair Dismissal Act 1977 (as amended) contains a provision aimed at ensuring that successive temporary contracts are not used in order to avoid that legislation.

I have no plans at this time to amend these provisions.

My colleague the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection has responsibility for the One-Parent Family Payment (OFP) Scheme. The purpose of the phased OFP Scheme age change reforms that were introduced in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act, 2012, is to reduce long-term social welfare dependency by ending the expectation that lone parents will remain outside of the workforce indefinitely. These reforms aim to provide the necessary supports to lone parents to help them to access the range of education, training, and employment programmes provided by the Department of Social Protection to develop their skills set and, ultimately, to secure employment and financial independence.

DAIL QUESTION
NO. 36

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views regarding whether he has conducted any research or investigation into employment practices in the Aviation Sector given the particular importance of staff welfare in an employment which has critical functions in terms of the safety of passengers; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 15th July, 2015.
Ref No: 28415/15

R E P L Y

Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Nash)

I am aware of a study of atypical employment in the European aviation sector which was commissioned by the European Social partners in the aviation sector and which was published earlier this year.

I understand from my colleague the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, who has responsibility for the aviation sector, that the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has competence for all areas of aviation safety in the EU and is best placed to give an expert view on any potential safety impacts of various working arrangements.

Earlier this year EASA established a working group to examine Developing Business Models in Aviation. The Irish aviation authority participates in the working group and its work is ongoing.

Legislative packages in both the transport and social policy sphere are included in the new Commission’s work programme, both of which will be relevant for employment in the aviation sector. This is an important sector for Ireland and my Department liaises closely with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport on such matters.

DAIL QUESTION

NO. 5

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he is satisfied with the credibility of the source studies upon which the Gross Domestic Product growth and jobs growth projections for the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are based; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Clare Daly.

For PRIORITY answer on Wednesday, 15th July, 2015.

Ref No: 28706/15

R E P L Y

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Bruton TD)

The European Commission’s assessment of the likely benefits of the EU – US Trade negotiations is based on analysis carried out by the Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR), a leading independent pan-European economic research organization.

The study commissioned by my Department of the potential impact on Ireland was prepared by Copenhagen Economics, independent external experts in this field. The study is based on the best available techniques of economic modelling and uses the same model and methodology as the CEPR study, to facilitate direct comparison. It shows, based on reasonable assumptions, the potential gain of €2.4 billion in national income (over 1,200 per family and a potential jobs gain of 5,000-10,000).

These studies use the computable general equilibrium (CGE) model, the purpose of which is to simulate the impact of an EU – US Trade agreement based on assumptions about the outcome of the negotiations. The model can give important insights into the potential gains from negotiations and the potential opportunities or challenges for specific sectors. This in turn helps policy makers to frame policies on order to maximise the opportunities and mitigate the challenges.

Bearing in mind the limitations of all economic modelling, I believe these studies provide important insights and add to our understanding of the potential of the EU-US trade negotiations.

For Ireland, the studies show significant opportunity in important sectors like Pharmaceuticals Medicals Devices, Food (especially dairy), Software and Public procurement. These represent an important and growing part of our exporting economy.

DAIL QUESTION

NO. 9

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the amount of grants paid per year, every year to indigenous Irish start-up companies, and foreign start-up companies between 2011 and 2015.
– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 15th July, 2015.
Ref No: 28629/15
R E P L Y
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Bruton TD)

Enterprise Ireland works with entrepreneurs and business people across the full business development spectrum – from early-stage entrepreneurs and high-potential start-up businesses to SMEs with potential to scale and internationalise and Irish multinational companies across a wide range of sectors. Enterprise Ireland’s remit includes both indigenous start-ups and mobile entrepreneurs who were attracted to Ireland and have established start-ups here.
EI’s support system for young companies includes help with business planning, mentoring and development advice, feasibility funding and finance, typically in the form of equity investment, as appropriate to the founder’s ambitions and the company’s potential and stage of growth. In certain cases, equity might be supplemented by specific grant supports such as Management Development, R&D or participation in a trade mission.

Total financial supports paid by Enterprise Ireland to indigenous start-ups and start-ups by overseas entrepreneurs in Ireland is as follows:

Table 1 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 to date Total
Supports to start-ups €17,120,840 €22,297,364 €27,498,099 €29,597,638 €12,231,438 €108,745,380
This rising budget reflects a steadily increasing number of start-ups with major potential supported by Enterprise Ireland, which last year numbered 185. The vast majority of these are Irish owned start-ups, and last year just 10 were identified as deriving from overseas entrepreneurs.

There is an opportunity to attract more entrepreneurs to select Ireland as a location to establish their start-up. On July 13, I announced the most recent €500k Competitive Start Fund aimed at encouraging entrepreneurs outside Ireland to locate their start-up businesses here.

The role of the 31 Local Enterprise Offices (prior to 2014 the County Enterprise Boards) is to provide advice and information on State supports to small and micro-businesses in the start-up or expansion phase. A breakdown of CEB/LEO funding between start-ups and business expansions is not immediately available. Information in relation to the total amount of State funding awarded is outlined below. Data for 2015 for the LEO is currently being verified.

Table 2: CEBs/LEOs Expenditure

Grants Paid and Training Supports:

2011                     2012              2013                  2014

€18,134,754  €18,775,750  €18,180,500  €18,459,500

IDA Ireland does not support start-up companies. However, in recent years they have put an increased emphasis on “emerging companies” which are fast-growth tech companies which they have targeted in an effort to encourage them to make their first move to internationalise their companies in Ireland.

DAIL QUESTION

NO. 16

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views regarding whether he is aware of employers dismissing employees with long service as a cheaper option than a severance package; his plans to address this matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 15th July, 2015.
Ref No: 28416/15

R E P L Y

Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Nash TD)

The Deputy will understand that I cannot provide legal advice in relation to the law applying to any particular situation, or the interpretation of legislation. Independent legal advice should be sought if an individual has concerns about a specific employment situation.

The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) provides general information on employment, equality & industrial relations legislation, through the Workplace Relations Customer Service and Information Unit. It can be contacted at Lo-call: 1890 80 80 90 or via its website www.workplacerelations.ie.

The Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2007 lay down criteria by which the fairness or otherwise of dismissals are adjudicated upon. While the Acts provide for some potentially-fair reasons for dismissal, the onus is generally on the employer to show that there were substantial grounds justifying the dismissal. Under the Unfair Dismissals Acts, each case is adjudicated upon its merits and on the particular facts of the case. Generally, there is a requirement to have at least one year’s continuous service in order to take a case under the Acts. The normal time limit of 6 months for submitting a claim for redress for unfair dismissal may be extended to 12 months in exceptional circumstances.

Dismissal in circumstances where a genuine redundancy situation exists is regarded as one of the fair reasons for dismissal under the Unfair Dismissals Acts although unfair selection for redundancy is regarded as an unfair dismissal under those Acts. However, where an employee has been dismissed due to a genuine redundancy situation, an employee who has at least two years’ continuous service will be entitled to a statutory redundancy payment under the Redundancy Payments Acts 1967 to 2014. The amount of the statutory redundancy payment is based on the employee’s length of service, and is calculated at 2 weeks’ pay per year of service plus a bonus week, subject to a wages cap of €600 per week. Where an employer disputes an employee’s entitlement to a statutory redundancy payment, an employee may take a case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal under the Redundancy Payments Acts, and the Tribunal will make a determination on the matter.

Any arrangement for a redundancy payment over and above the statutory redundancy amount is a matter for negotiation and agreement between the parties which, where the parties so request, may be assisted by the industrial relations machinery of the State via the Labour Relations Commission or the Labour Court. I would encourage any parties who are in dispute with regard to extra-statutory redundancy terms, and where it is not possible to resolve the matter locally, to avail fully of the services of these bodies.

I should mention that the relevant adjudicatory bodies for cases referred under the Unfair Dismissals Acts and the Redundancy Payments Acts after the commencement of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 will be an Adjudication Officer of the new Workplace Relations Commission and, on appeal, the Labour Court.