I thank the Deputy for raising this very important issue. Both of us are very familiar with what is happening with Avara in Shannon and I am sure both of us have been in contact with the workers.
First, it is important to point out that our thoughts are with the workers. It is a very difficult period for the employees experiencing this uncertainty, particularly in the liquidation process. That must be noted.
I am taking this matter on behalf of my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty. The Deputy's question in tabling this matter refers to threatened redundancies at Avara pharmaceuticals in Shannon. The Minister, Deputy Doherty, has informed me that, as yet, she has received no official notification from the company of collective redundancies. I am sure the Deputy hopes, as I do, that it does not come to that situation. It is important that every effort be made to save the company, Avara, and these jobs in Shannon. I can assure the Deputy, and I note Deputy Harty is present, that every effort is being made by the liquidator to ensure we can save the jobs in that company at this time. I do not want to say any more about that now. It is important we save those 114 jobs.
I will go through the process with the Deputy in case it comes to that but hopefully it will not. The Protection of Employment Act 1977 imposes a number of obligations on employers who are proposing collective redundancies, including an obligation under sections 9 and 10 to engage in an information and consultation process with employees' representatives and to provide certain information relating to the proposed redundancies. Section 11A of the Act provides that, where an employee believes the employer to be in breach of sections 9 or 10, they may pursue a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission. It is also an offence under section 11 where an employer fails to comply with sections 9 or 10. There is also an obligation under section 12 which makes it mandatory on employers proposing a collective redundancy to notify the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection of the proposed collective redundancy.
An employer is prohibited from issuing any notice of redundancy during the mandatory employee information and consultation period, required by the 1977 Act, and until 30 days have elapsed from the date on which the Minister has been notified. For the avoidance of doubt, the 30-day mandatory information and consultation process and the aforementioned 30-day period from the date of notification to the Minister may run concurrently. However, since it will not be possible to complete the notification to the Minister until the identity of the employees' representatives for the purpose of the information and consultation process has been established, it is conceivable that both periods may not be entirely concurrent.
In the first instance, it is the responsibility of the employer to pay statutory redundancy and other wage-related entitlements to eligible employees. However, the Social Insurance Fund provides a safety net for employees in situations where the employer has become insolvent and the company is to be liquidated. It is the liquidator's responsibility to seek, on behalf of employees, payment from the redundancy payments scheme in respect of statutory redundancy and from the insolvency payments scheme in respect of wage-related entitlements.
An eligible employee is entitled to two weeks' statutory redundancy payment for every year of service, plus a bonus week. Compensation is based on the worker's length of reckonable service and reckonable weekly remuneration, subject to a ceiling of €600 per week. In order to qualify for a statutory redundancy payment, an employee must have at least two years' continuous service, be in employment which is insurable under the Social Welfare Acts and be over the age of 16.
Entitlements covered under the insolvency payments scheme include arrears of wages, holiday pay, sick pay, payment in lieu of minimum notice and certain pension contributions. Payments are calculated by reference to an employee's wages and are subject to a limit of €600 per week; and arrears of wages, sick pay, holiday pay and minimum notice are limited to eight weeks.
To date, the Minister, Deputy Doherty, has not received any applications for statutory redundancy or wage-related entitlements in respect of employees of Avara pharmaceuticals.
If this was the case, my Department would ensure that the affected employees receive advice on jobseeker's payments and other income supports that may be available to them and to provide support to them in relation to returning to work, or accessing appropriate education and training and development options.
The Minister's team in the mid-west division already met employees of the company on 12 August 2019 and provided them with information on the Intreo services available locally. All jobseeker's benefit forms were taken on the day from all present, with a view to speedily processing the claims, once the date of closure was confirmed.