In earlier replies this year to similar questions on this issue I detailed the requirements imposed on employers by the Protection of Young Persons Act, 1996, and how the Act seeks to protect the welfare of "children", persons under 16 years of age, and "young persons", 17 and 18 year olds. The Act seeks to protect the welfare of young persons in the workplace by requiring employers to keep wages and employment records detailing the hours of work of any such young persons, rest intervals etc. The Act also lays down specific limits as to the hours that can be worked by young persons and prohibits the employment of persons under 18 in late night work.
The Act is administered by the employment rights division of my Department and is enforced by the labour inspectorate within that division. Enforcement practice to date has involved carrying out inspections based on complaints received about specific breaches of the Act and as a matter of routine. Breaches of the Act can be detected by close examination of these records. Inspections have taken place during normal office hours as the majority of employers carry on business during these hours. Enforcement experience has shown that the majority of employers found to be in breach of the Act are willing to adjust their practices to conform with the legal requirements. To ensure that corrective measures are taken by employers in such instances and that further breaches do not occur it has been normal practice for a follow-up inspection to be carried out after a suitable lapse of time.
While I am satisfied that all reasonable measures have been, and are still being, taken to enforce the 1996 Act with a view to safeguarding the rights of young persons in the workplace, I am very conscious of the continuing concerns being expressed by various groups in relation to the exploitation by less scrupulous employers of young persons. With these concerns in mind I am pleased to state that arrangements are now being put in place for the immediate involvement of the labour inspectorate in inspections outside of normal working hours.
As ever I urge anyone with information in relation to breaches of the Act to notify the employment rights division of such breaches. I am confident that all such reported breaches will be dealt with expediently and that every effort will be made by the officials of my Department to eradicate non-compliance with this and any other employment rights legislation.