I propose to take Questions Nos. 303 and 304 together.
The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 (OWTA) provides for statutory rights for employees in relation to rest, maximum working time and holidays and derives from a European Union Directive dating from 1993.
I would like to draw the deputy's attention to the fact that since September 2017, policy responsibility for employment rights legislation generally, including the OWTA, transferred to the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection so that any proposal to amend the legislation, or the Regulations thereunder, will be a matter for consideration by that Minister.
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is an independent statutory body under the remit of my Department which has responsibility for the enforcement of employment rights, including the OWTA. In 2017, as part of its work programme, the WRC carried out a targeted campaign to investigate compliance with employment law generally in the equine sector.
In the specific case to which the deputy refers, I understand that compliance notices were served by the WRC on the employer for breaches of the OWT Act. This was subsequently appealed to the Labour Court and that Court upheld the actions taken by the WRC in issuing the working time compliance notices.
The Labour Court is an independent adjudicative body operating under my Department and as Minister, it is not appropriate for me to comment on the outcome of any matter before that Court. It is my understanding that the Labour Court decision in this instance is being appealed to the Circuit Court.
I am aware that the issues before the Labour Court involved consideration as to whether workers in the equine sector should come within scope of the definition of "agriculture" in the context of the OWTA Act and Regulations as that sector can avail of certain exemptions under the legislation.
As I have indicated, any discussions or proposals of this nature involving the OWT Act and Regulations of this nature now comes within the policy responsibility of the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection and will be a matter to be examined by that Department. The WRC and the Labour Court, will enforce employment law as it applies at a particular point in time.