Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Questions (1246)

James Lawless

Question:

1246. Deputy James Lawless asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if consideration has been given towards the adequate rest periods of retained firefighters in receipt of jobseeker's benefit being encouraged into full-time employment through their local employment offices; the position for local fire services in view of the fact they will be without firefighters due to the time spent on call breaching the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [12919/19]

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Written answers (Question to Employment)

The circumstances in which a person shall be regarded as being available for employment for the purposes of Jobseeker’s Benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance are set out in Article 15 of the Social Welfare (Consolidated Claims, Payments and Control) Regulations 2007 – S.I. No 142 of 2007.

Retained firefighters are subject to the conditions of being available for and seeking full-time work, as are all other jobseekers.  Therefore, as jobseekers in receipt of a payment, retained firefighters are not exempt from activation.  As with all activation customers, the aim is to facilitate the transition to full-time employment via training and other supports.  For this cohort, my Department takes into account the time given to their firefighting commitments.

It is worth noting that S.I. No. 52/1998 - Organisation of Working Time (Exemption of Civil Protection Services) Regulations 1998 provides that persons employed in a range of activities, including retained firefighters, are, as regards the carrying out of the duties involved in that activity, exempt from the application of sections 11, 12, 13, 15 and 16 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.  The exemptions relate to daily rest periods, rests and intervals at work, weekly rest periods, weekly working hours and night working hours, respectively.

In its decision dated 21 February 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Mr Matzak’s on-call time when not at his place of work constituted working time, for the purposes of the Working Time Directive.  The ruling was specific to the case in question.

The question of staffing resources for local fire services is a matter for local authorities who come within the remit of my colleague Eoghan Murphy T.D., Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.