I have forwarded the details supplied by the Deputy to the Workplace Relations Commission for examination and action if appropriate. Irish employment rights law makes a distinction between a contract of service, which applies to an employer-employee relationship, and a contract for services, which applies in the case of a self-employed person. Most employment rights legislation does not apply to independent sub-contractors with the exception of health and safety and equality.
Ireland has a well-resourced and proactive labour inspectorate, which now forms part of the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC. There are already existing mechanisms in place to tackle this issue. Inspections are undertaken on the basis of risk analysis which identifies certain areas of focus. Where the WRC inspection service receives complaints in relation to bogus self-employment or bogus sub-contracting, they are forwarded to the Revenue Commissioners and-or the scope section of the Department of Social Protection for investigation either solely by the recipient or jointly with the WRC.
In most cases, it will be clear whether an individual is employed or self-employed. Where there is doubt in relation to the employment status of an individual, the relevant Departments and agencies will have regard to the code of practice for determining employment or self-employment status of individuals. This code was drawn up and agreed in 2007 by the relevant Departments with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, and the Irish Business Employers Confederation, IBEC.
The Deputy will be aware that the Department of Finance and Department of Social Protection have recently conducted a joint public consultation on the use of intermediary-type structures and self-employment arrangements.
There is a convergence of interests with my Department. Apart from the significant losses to the Exchequer, the practice has serious implications from an employment rights perspective. In this respect, it is important that individuals are correctly designated so that employees are not deprived of employment rights. This is particularly the case for vulnerable workers.
The case highlighted by the Deputy is one example of the changes that are emerging in the world of work. The European Foundation for Working and Living Conditions, Eurofound, has identified nine distinct new forms of employment. The work of Eurofound reflects a common problem at EU and international level, and not just in Ireland.