I move amendment No. 1:
In page 6, subsection (1), line 8, after "employment" to insert "and who may or may not have one year's continuous service".
The legislation, by and large, gives protection to employees if an employer is remiss in paying the wage, if he or she refuses to give documents to the employee and so forth. However, the employee is defined as somebody who has been working in the job for one year and the legislation does not sufficiently protect those who have less than one year's service in a company. That is more likely nowadays because people are moving between jobs and, thankfully, there is a vibrant employment market.
The amendment to the description of employee will ensure that somebody who takes a case under the legislation who has less than one year's service will not be victimised and that they can challenge the employer under the legislation. I was informed by letter that amendment No. 4, in my name, is disallowed. In the last seven years there has been a plethora of new employment legislation which has included protections for employees who have less than one year's service. Amendment No. 4 sought to insert an overarching provision in the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977, to ensure that where employees challenged an employer on the basis of rights laid down in legislation, the one year's service would not be a factor that might prevent them from doing so or from challenging their dismissal.
The only protection an employee with less than one year's service has is the Industrial Relations Acts under which they can take a case to the Labour Court. However, that is not binding on an employer. An employer does not even have to appear at the hearing as they can ignore a request to attend. Even if the Labour Court makes a ruling that the employee has right on their side, it cannot make a binding order.
There is, therefore, a lacuna in the law where people who are employed for less than one year are not protected. The fear is that such people will not take a challenge under the minimum wage legislation because they have less than one year's service and for fear that the employer will find a way of dismissing them because he or she will label them as troublemakers. They do not appear to have any protection except under the Industrial Relations Acts.
If the Minister will not accept this amendment, perhaps she would give serious consideration to amending the main body of employment legislation to cover people with less than one year's service who take a challenge on the basis of rights laid down in such legislation and who are likely to be dismissed for doing so. Amendment No. 1 would have tied in with amendment No. 4 which has been disallowed. If I had known amendment No. 4 was going to be disallowed, I might have looked at the Bill more closely to find a better way to insert it.
Under section 25 of the Parental Leave Act and under section 38 of the Maternity Protection Act, 1994, there are certain protections for people who have less than one year's service. However, that protection is not replicated in this Bill. The more recent legislation recognises that there could be a diminution of service for employees but that has not been done in this legislation. Perhaps the Minister will explain.