Questions on Workers Rights

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To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the steps he will take to introduce mechanisms to improve compliance by sub-contractors with legal wage rates.
– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 25th November, 2014.

Ref No: 44143/14
R E P L Y

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

Ireland’s robust suite of employment rights legislation applies to all workers, whether employed by a sub-contractor or other class of employer. Workers who consider they are not receiving the correct wage rate can make a complaint to the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) which is the body responsible for enforcing minimum statutory employment rights entitlements in the State, including the national minimum wage, or can go directly to a Rights Commissioner. The proposed Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2014 will provide for a new statutory framework for establishing minimum rates of remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment in specific sectors, including the construction sector.

NERA also has a proactive labour inspectorate, which carried out over 5,500 inspections in 2013. NERA’s policy is, in the first instance, to seek voluntary compliance where breaches of employment law are detected but will prosecute where this is deemed appropriate.

A key issue that arises in relation to the sub-contractor model is the issue of whether individuals are employees or are self-employed. It is not within NERA’s remit to make determinations regarding the employment status of individuals vis-à-vis employment or self-employment. This is the responsibility of the Department of Social Protection who make decisions in relation to the insurability of employment and the appropriate class applicable where the matter is called into question and the Revenue Commissioners who also make decisions concerning the correct employment status of individuals. Where either of these bodies makes a determination on these issues NERA, in accordance with the Code of Practice for Determining Employment or Self-Employment Status of Individuals will generally accept their decisions on the issue. Finally, the matter can also be determined by the Courts.

Finally, the Deputy will be aware of the programme I am currently undertaking to reform the State’s employment rights structure. The reform programme, which is at an advanced stage, will result in the establishment of a new two-tier Workplace Relations structure comprising two statutorily independent bodies replacing the current five. Provision has been made in this Bill for a range of enhanced compliance and enforcement measures, including the use of Compliance Notices and Fixed Payment Notices.

DAIL QUESTION

NO. 123

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views that sanctions imposed on employers found guilty of breaching the law in terms of workers wages and conditions are sufficiently robust; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Tuesday, 25th November, 2014.

Ref No: 44142/14

R E P L Y

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

Ireland has a robust body of employment law, encompassing a comprehensive range of employment rights together with both civil and criminal remedies to ensure that individuals can vindicate their rights. The suite of employment rights legislation is underpinned by a proactive labour inspectorate.

As regards wages, the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 modifies all existing contracts of employment, collective agreements or legislative provisions, in the event that they provide for a rate of pay less than the National Minimum Wage. In addition, the proposed Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2014 will provide for a new statutory framework for establishing minimum rates of remuneration and other terms and conditions of employment in specific sectors.

The National Minimum Wage Act provides for a number of criminal offences, ranging from the failure to pay the statutory rate to the obstruction of Inspectors in the exercise of their functions. Penalties range from a maximum fine of €2,500 (Class C) and/or imprisonment for a summary conviction or a maximum fine of €12,697.38 and/or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 3 years for a conviction on indictment.

Following conviction, if the offence continues the person will be guilty of a further offence on every day the offence is committed, and on summary conviction to a further fine not exceeding €500 (Class E), or on conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €2,500 for each offence.

An individual who considers that they are not being paid the National Minimum Wage may refer the matter to a Rights Commissioner of the Labour Relations Commission or to the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) for investigation.

Other conditions of employment are provided for in Ireland’s comprehensive suite of employment rights legislation, together with redress to the relevant adjudicatory bodies where there has been an infringement of an employee’s statutory rights.

The Deputy will be aware of the programme I am currently undertaking to reform the State’s employment rights structure. The reform programme, which is at an advanced stage, will result in the establishment of a new two-tier Workplace Relations structure comprising two statutorily independent bodies replacing the current five. Provision has been made in this Bill for a range of enhanced compliance and enforcement measures, including the use of Compliance Notices and Fixed Payment Notices.