The aim of Community Employment (CE) is to enhance the employability and mobility of disadvantaged and unemployed persons by providing work experience and training opportunities for them within their communities. It also helps long-term unemployed people to re-enter the active workforce by breaking their experience of unemployment through a return to work routine.
CE schemes are typically sponsored by groups (known as sponsors) wishing to benefit the local community. My Department agrees participant numbers annually with each CE sponsor organisation.
The sponsor has responsibility for the recruitment of participants and supervisors and for identifying suitable work placements.
Sponsors receive annual contracts from my Department which fund the employment of both CE participants and supervisors, and funding towards training and material costs. Grant aid is provided by the Department to cover these costs on a per capita basis.
My Department is not the employer of CE supervisors and it is not for the State to provide funding for pension scheme provision for these employees. CE supervisors are employees of private companies notwithstanding the fact that the companies concerned are, or were, in receipt of State funding. CE supervisors pay a PRSI Class 'A' contribution towards the state contributory pension. This pension has a maximum personal rate payable of €12,912. Employers, including CE sponsoring organisations, are legally obliged to offer access to at least one Standard Personal Retirement Savings Account (PRSA) under the Pension (Amendment) Act 2002.
As regards redundancy, my Department continues to honour the agreement between FÁS and the relevant trade unions which allows for the payment of enhanced redundancy where a CE supervisor’s redundancy situation arises due to a decision to reduce overall CE scheme numbers. This does not apply where the employer is the instigator of the redundancy or, for example, where the sponsor no longer wants to run the CE scheme or in the case of closure due to Company Registration Office strike-off, or where the sponsor organisation does not comply with the terms of their contract (e.g. maintain participant numbers) and it is necessary for the Department to discontinue funding for the scheme supervisor position.
If schemes are unable to fill their participant places, my Department can give consideration to merging the scheme with another scheme in order to ensure viability. In these circumstances, the supervisor or assistant supervisor can transfer directly to the new scheme if there is a position of the same rank available and their rights are then protected by legislation. A business taken over by another employer as a result of a legal merger or the transfer of the rights of the employees are protected by the following legislation, the European Communities (Protection of Employees on Transfer of Undertakings) Regulations 2003.
Generally a redundancy situation for a supervisor/assistant supervisor would only arise if the scheme closed with no agreement for an amalgamation with another scheme or if there was no position at the same rank on amalgamation.
Notwithstanding the above, I am currently engaging with representatives of CE supervisors to discuss issues arising following the 2008 Labour Court Recommendation (LCR 19293). I expect that it will take a number of weeks to reach a conclusion. All parties to the engagement process have agreed that the detail of the discussions should remain confidential while the engagement is ongoing and I would ask Deputies to respect these wishes and allow the talks to continue free from speculation which might prove unhelpful.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.