Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: From the Seanad
I thank everybody for their contributions. The one thing I can safely say is that we are all in agreement regarding the fact that there are people in this country who are made bogusly self-employed through no fault or acquiescence on their part. I do not yet know the size of that cohort of people. I do not know if it is as small as some people say it is or as large as Deputy Brady says it is. I am sorry if Deputy Coppinger thought I was annoyed that night in July. I was not annoyed. Rather, I was desperately upset. I compliment the Deputy on the work involved in bringing forward that amendment at that stage and the work being done by the Oireachtas joint committee of which Deputy O'Dea is a member.
I was so upset that night because it meant I would have to go back to the drawing board and carry out pre-legislative scrutiny and consultation with industry, unions and people with a vested interest in this area to make sure the amendment would do exactly what we wanted it to do. We had not prepared any work or done any research on it. I also had to ensure it would have the desired effect of addressing what we think is the problem within that market. I was genuinely, desperately upset when I went home that night. The House is aware that I lost the vote because of Fine Gael's lack of people in the House that night. I was upset because I do not want this legislation delayed.
Deputy O'Dea brought the other amendment in to put a commencement date on the legislation of not less than six months and I argued on the basis that the amendment discounted the President's role. We amended the legislation in the Seanad to make sure that he was not excluded. There was never any doubt in my mind that I and the people in my Department have spent so much time in the past year to progress this Bill because we want it passed. We do not want to delay it. We do not want to see it sitting on a shelf or waiting to be commenced for months on end. That is the only effect that accepting the amendment that night would have had on this Bill. We would not be standing here tonight with a sense of collective co-operation between all parties in this House and the Members of Seanad Éireann to see this Bill passed, which it is to be hoped will happen here this afternoon. That is the only reason I was upset.
I totally accept and appreciate that we have a difficulty in this country with people who are bogusly self-employed. I somewhat disagree with Deputy O'Dea's earlier comments that it is okay for people to make their own arrangements with employers about being self-employed. It is not okay. Under such an arrangement, those people are only paying 4.5% to the State while still getting the equalisation of all of the schemes. That is not okay to my mind, so what we are doing here is the right thing for the Government to do, and it is pursuing that. I have a couple of ideas that we are progressing in the Department, one of which is that particular idea of making sure there is an equal and level playing field between those who pay into the Social Insurance Fund and those who draw from it. I expect to progress that after Christmas.
I am also conscious that the current legislation within the Department with regard to classifying and reclassifying people works. I am not being smart when I say that Deputy Boyd Barrett has just told everybody that the legislation works and that the penalties are not small, they are bloody large.