I have taken a big interest in this in the last couple of months. I was of the view that the Deputy has just described but I was very much surprised by the results that I got back. I will outline an excerpt and then I will discuss it with the Deputy.
In 2000, a national training fund levy of 0.7% was introduced by the then Fianna Fáil Government and it was incorporated into the employer's social insurance contribution in classes A and H, with no charges for anybody else. Social insurance receipts up to the end of August 2017 were €6.6 billion. This was almost €178 million or just under 3% ahead of profile. The anecdotal story that we are told that there are millions of euro not being paid by employers because they are manipulating or controlling of certain types of employees does not add up to the figures that come in. Then I have to delve deeper and say that we genuinely know that people are employed in very casualised environments. The construction industry is probably the most obvious to us, but other industries are doing the same.
I have taken some time to look at how we can address those issues. It is much more complex than I expected. I expected to be able to introduce an employers' levy for people who are not self-employed, because the easy way is to increase the employee's PRSI from a self-employed perspective, and that is the last thing that I am going to do. While I am adamant that I am going to improve and expand all of the social insurance benefits that have been available to people on other classes to self-employed people, and actually improve the social insurance benefits to everybody else, I am certainly not going to increase the employee's PRSI contribution. I am looking at how I can best address the issue of probably a relatively small number of people or businesses in that space that are taking advantage of people and to provide some sort of levy or penalty to address the ongoing issue.
At the same time, and if the Leas-Cheann Comhairle can give me a little latitude, there are thousands of people who have never heard of Scope and do not have a clue that there is a body.
Additional information not given on the floor of the House
This includes an amount of €282 million for the national training fund. This was €7.8 million ahead of profile, also 2.7%. Bogus self-employment is where employees and employers wilfully evade income tax and social insurance liabilities.
Social welfare inspectors carry out visits to a wide range of businesses, as part of their ongoing compliance operations. Inspections are occasionally undertaken jointly with other State agencies such as the Revenue Commissioners and the Workplace Relations Commission. Where evidence of non-compliance is detected, this will be pursued.
Officials will also investigate details of specific cases supplied to my Department’s Scope section. This section deals with employers, employees and the self-employed, who may apply to have an employment or self-employment status investigated and the correct class of pay-related social insurance, PRSI, determined.
Where the misclassification of workers as self-employed is detected, the correct insurability status of the person concerned is determined and social insurance arrears are collected. Under the Social Welfare Consolidation Act, there are specific offences in regard to employment contributions, their remittance and the maintenance of prescribed wages and employment records. On conviction, fines and or imprisonment can ultimately be imposed.
Any worker who has concerns about their employment and PRSI status should contact my Department and the matter will be investigated.
My Department has concerns that some types of employment structures may be being used to reduce the amount of PRSI and tax being paid, with a subsequent loss to the Exchequer and the Social Insurance Fund. An interdepartmental working group, comprising officials from my Department, the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners has been examining the issue and I expect to receive a report shortly.