Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Questions (641)

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

641. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she has established regulatory mechanisms to monitor and invigilate employment rights compliance in all publicly funded infrastructural capital projects; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27685/19]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Employment)

Ireland has a comprehensive body of employment legislation, in respect of which the Workplace Relations Commission, which comes under the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Ms. Heather Humphries T.D., is mandated to secure compliance.

Ireland’s employment rights legislation protects all employees, including those employed on publicly funded infrastructural capital projects, who are legally employed on a contract of service basis. This is specifically set out in Section 20 of the Protection of Employment (Part Time Work) Act 2001.

Where an individual believes they are being deprived of employment rights applicable to employees they may refer a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) where the matter can be dealt with by way of mediation or adjudication leading to a decision that is enforceable through the District Court. Complaints can be made on a single online complaint form available at the WRC’s website www.workplacerelations.ie.

Ireland also has a well-resourced and proactive labour inspectorate, which forms part of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). The WRC undertakes inspections on the basis of risk analysis, which identifies certain sectors as a result of complaints received and on a routine basis.

It is important that any person with questions or complaints regarding their rights under employment law should contact Workplace Relations Customer Service on lo-call 1890 80 80 90 or at www.workplacerelations.ie

There are, separately, strict rules governing public procurement, responsibility for which rests with my colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Mr. Paschal Donohoe T.D.

I am committed to address the issue of false self-employment, and I have put in train a series of measures to deter, detect and tackle it. A key element is the increased focus by Social Welfare Inspectors on the enforcement of PRSI compliance obligations. Inspectors nationwide have commenced a campaign of employer inspections and a new unit is being established to focus specifically on the area of false self-employment.

Deliberate misclassification of employment status is an offence with penalties on prosecution of up to three years imprisonment and/or fines up to €13,000 or twice the amount denied to the Social Insurance Fund as a result of the misclassification, whichever amount is greater. The new unit will ensure that cases of fraudulent misclassification of employment status are prosecuted and that the full force of penalties are applied. To this end, led by my Department, the 2007 Code of Practice on Employment Status will reach the end of a comprehensive revision process next month. This Code will be a vital tool for employers and employees alike so they can be clear when a worker is genuinely self-employed. This document will be circulated to ICTU and IBEC for their input before it is published. In addition, Heads of Bill have already been drafted in order to place the revised Code on a statutory footing later this year.

The question of whether a worker is employed or self-employed is not always a simple one. The Courts have repeatedly stated that a decision must be made based on the specific facts of each case, having regard to key tests such as the level of control a would-be employer has over the worker and the level of obligation they have towards each other.

My strong view is that this is a far better mechanism than trying to capture in legislation a definition that can never be black and white.

I have instructed my officials to also explore a range of legislative proposals to complement the increased inspection work that will be key to the long term success of this project. These proposals include anti-penalisation provisions for workers who will be able to take a claim to the WRC if they are victimised by an employer for raising a query regarding their status; and an increase in penalties for employers who deliberately mis-classify employees as being self-employed.

Scope Section of my Department undertakes investigations on foot of requests from a variety of sources, for example employees, employers or Social Welfare Inspectors. These investigations cover a variety of situations, for example, modified classes of PRSI for civil and public servants, family employments or insurability of Directors.

I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.