Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: From the Seanad
This Seanad amendment removes a new section I managed to have inserted in the Bill on Report Stage. The section was designed to deal with the phenomenon of bogus self-employment. I do not agree with the Minister that this is a relatively minor phenomenon. It is a major issue and one that is widespread and growing. Anecdotally, I am coming across examples every day. I have had to take considerable flak from various organisations for introducing the amendment, particularly those representing employers. I emphasised to them, and do so here again, that if an employer and an employee, as it were, want to make their own arrangements and both are willing parties, I have no difficulty with that. Section 20, which is being deleted, was not envisaged as interfering with that arrangement in any way, shape or form. It was designed to deal with a scenario in which people were told by an employer, despite obviously being employees, that they had to register as self-employed and look after their own tax and pay related social insurance, PRSI. As such, they would not enjoy any of the employment rights that have been acquired over many years, including the right not to be unfairly dismissed and the rights to notice periods, redundancy, etc. The inclusion of the section is valid.
I was approached by a number of groups, including the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, that told me it was their view that the Minister would have to do much consultation, study and analysis because this was an addendum to the original legislation and quite a detailed section. On that basis, ICTU asked me if I would agree to allow the Minister to remove the section in the Seanad because otherwise the Bill would be delayed. Many people will benefit from this Bill, including many in precarious work. Based on the request made by ICTU, various members of the trade union movement and constituents in precarious employment who wanted the protections brought in immediately, I agreed to allow the section to be removed.
Notwithstanding this, the problem of bogus self-employment has not gone away. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection is doing a study on bogus self-employment at the moment and I look forward to participating in that. This issue deserves a legislative response. What are the Minister's intentions in that regard? Does she intend to bring in legislative arrangements to deal with the matter and, if so, how soon can we expect to see them?