Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Questions (22, 23)

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

17 Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the case of workers in the Jane Norman chain who were ejected from their jobs in an almost identical manner to that which occurred in the La Senza chain, when the company was put into administration in June 2011, and where to date the workers have still not been paid approximately a month’s wages, despite the fact that Jane Norman is now trading again in the State and has re-employed other staff on reduced pay and conditions; the action he proposes to take to remedy this situation and prevent similar situations occurring again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4113/12]

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John Halligan

Question:

26 Deputy John Halligan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if his attention has been drawn to the case of workers in the Jane Norman chain who were ejected from their jobs in an almost identical manner to that which occurred in the La Senza chain, when the company was put into administration in June 2011, and at which to date the workers have still not been paid approximately a month’s wages, despite the fact that Jane Norman is now trading again in this State and has re-employed other staff on reduced pay and conditions; the action he proposes to take to remedy this situation and prevent similar situations occurring again; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4110/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 17 and 26 together.

Inspectors of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), following complaints, called to all of the Jane Norman stores and concessions operating within the State in an effort to establish the position on the ground. The NERA Information service gave information to the employees on their entitlements and on the practical business of the submission of the various claims for monies owed to them.

The Jane Norman closure did indeed have similarities with the recent closure of the La Senza group in that both retail groups closed suddenly without notice to the employees, both were placed into Administration in the UK and both communicated poorly with their staff at the outset. A settlement was however subsequently reached at La Senza following talks by both sides. In both cases better communications and the following of established procedures by the employer side would have permitted an orderly closure whereby all employees would have been aware of their entitlements and the uncertainty as to whether and when they would be paid would have been avoided.

Although this is a matter for the Minister for Social Protection, my understanding is that in cases of insolvency, unpaid wages due to workers prior to it being placed in administration can be paid directly by that Department from the Social Insurance Fund up to a maximum of 8 weeks pay and within a pay ceiling of €600 per week. Any such claims should be submitted by employees to the administrator of the group who will certify and forward them to the insolvency payments section in the Department of Social Protection. I am not in position to advise on the status of any particular claims or progress in relation to their processing as these are matters for the Minister for Social Protection.

Unpaid wages that were incurred after the group entered administration do not come within the protection of insolvency legislation and accordingly could not be reimbursed from the insolvency fund. These outstanding entitlements can be pursued through the Rights Commissioners Service. Any decision in favour of an employee issuing from such proceedings may be enforced (against the administrator) as though it were a civil order made by a judge of the Circuit Court. The Single Complaint Form downloadable from the Workplace Relations website (workplacerelations.ie) should be used. I understand that a number of such claims are currently being pursued under various provisions of Employment legislation before the Rights Commissioners Service in respect of the companies at issue.

Question No. 18 answered with Question No. 7.