I am on record as stating very clearly that I am committed to tackling the issue of false self-employment. The deliberate mis-classification of a worker as a self-employed contractor, in a situation where they are actually working as an employee, is wrong. I am progressing a number of initiatives to combat this.
The existing Code of Practice is being revised to bring it up-to-date in terms of case law and new developments in the labour market. This Department, Revenue and the WRC are jointly producing a new Guidance document, which is expected to be finalised by the end of this year, following observations by ICTU and IBEC.
A dedicated unit of Social Welfare Inspectors – the Employment Status Investigation Unit (ESIU) – has been established and additional decision-making support in Scope Section has been redeployed, with a special focus on targeting and reducing false self-employment nationwide for the purpose of supporting employment rights and the integrity of the Social Insurance Fund.
There are approximately 350 Social Welfare Inspectors appointed nationwide who carry out work across PRSI and social welfare schemes, including the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) and the newly established ESIU. Social Welfare Inspectors are engaged in a programme of employer inspections nationwide.
A total of 1,931 employer inspections have been carried out across the country by SWI’s this year up to the end of August (excluding the work of the ESIU). The savings achieved so far this year from all PRSI inspections carried out comes to a total of €1.184m. False self-employment cases form a portion of those figures.
SWI’s nationwide are engaged with renewed focus on a programme of employer inspections, with upskilling on false self-employment issues ongoing.
In this year to date, SIU have completed 1,214 employer inspections with outcomes of €762k in PRSI savings. It is expected that SIU will more than double the number of employer visits in 2019 over 2018.
Legislative proposals are also in train to underpin the increased inspections and strategic targeting approach. These include anti-victimisation measures to give workers recourse to the Workplace Relations Commission if they feel they have been victimised by their employer as a result of questioning their employment status.
Legislation is also being drafted to introduce a new criminal offence of wilfully misclassifying a worker as being self-employed.
In addition, a legislative amendment will place the Guidance Document on a statutory footing, once the final draft is agreed later this year.
I hope this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.