I propose to take Questions Nos. 81 to 83, inclusive, together.
The Employment Permits Acts 2003 to 2006 make it a criminal offence to employ a foreign national without an employment permit, or for a foreign national to work without an employment permit. Section 2(4) of the 2003 Act places an onus on the employer to carry out reasonably thorough checks in order to be satisfied that a prospective employee does not require an employment permit, or that one has been obtained.
Officers of my Department, specifically, inspectors of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), are authorised to exercise powers under the Employment Permit Acts. If in the course of an inspection NERA finds evidence to suggest that an employee does not have a valid Work Permit, both the employer and employee are advised of the need to regularise the position and of the consequences of failing to do so. An employer failing to rectify matters could be prosecuted. NERA commenced taking proceedings under S.2 of the 2003 Act in 2012. To date, 14 prosecutions against employers have been initiated. No prosecutions against employees have been taken by NERA to date. The Garda Síochána are also an enforcement authority under Employment Permits legislation with prosecution powers. Statistics on Garda prosecutions would be within the remit of my colleague Alan Shatter TD, Minister for Justice and Equality.
NERA seeks to secure compliance with employment law including employment permit law through the provision of education and awareness, inspection of employers’ employment records and enforcement where necessary. While every effort is made to secure compliance, some employers either refuse or fail to rectify the breaches identified and/or pay money due to their employees. These employers are referred for prosecution. NERA inspectors now being authorised officers under the Employment Permits Acts have made compliance checks under this legislation an integral element of all NERA inspections. Joint inspections may also be carried out as part of investigations involving the Revenue Commissioners, Department of Social Protection staff and An Garda Síochána.
During the course of 2012 to date, a total number of 4052 inspections have been carried out.
Separate statistics are not maintained in respect of inspections carried out with An Garda Síochána. Joint investigations are carried out with An Garda Síochána, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection. This figure is collected on an annual basis and the latest figures for 2011 show that 118 such investigations took place. Information exchanged between the aforementioned bodies has helped to uncover non-compliance with employment law, secure payment of wages for employees and save the Exchequer money.