Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: From the Seanad
The legislation is there and it works. I say to Deputy Bríd Smith that the advertising campaign that was run was not done to try to ascertain the size of the market, for the want of a better word to use. It was done because the vast majority of people in this country do not know that they can reclassify their employment status, that there is a section in the Department to help people who are in one class and feel they should be in a different one, that there is help and legislation there and that the penalties are large. I very much accept, in the spirit of the Deputy's legislation, that the penalisation for people who are victimised as a result of going to our Department, which is causing people to be concerned and anxious and not going to our Department, is lacking in the current legislation. I will attempt to address that.
The threats and innuendo that are being sparked around here this evening are to the effect that if I do not do my job, then it will be done for me. I remind the House that this is a minority Government in a Parliament of 158 people. This is a democracy. There is nothing stopping any Member of the Opposition in this Parliament bringing forth legislation and, with collective responsibility or the agreement of the majority of this House, having it passed and put on the Statute Book. If anyone feels he or she can do a better job, by all means go ahead and do it. If the principle is right and I agree with it, I will wholeheartedly support it.
I was upset that night in July because I knew we would not be here today if I had accepted the Bill because I would have had to have done serious work, not only with the Oireachtas joint committee but also in public consultations with unions and industry. Members of this House have, for years, represented people whom this legislation will directly affect and impact. I genuinely thank them in the spirit of not blocking this Bill and recognising the work they have been doing for years is seriously important and enshrined in this Bill. I thank them for their co-operation.
The amendment that was introduced by Deputies Collins and Clare Daly and not passed on Committee Stage was reintroduced in the Seanad. They may not be aware that we agreed in the Seanad that I would write to the WRC, which I did the next morning, and ask it to conduct a review of the current statutory code of practice with regard to the part-time working directive. If it is not working, I guarantee that I will bring forward legislation to ensure that the principles behind that code of practice are enshrined in legislation and we will work collectively towards that after Christmas.
The legislation is already there. I agree that, potentially, the way we do inspections is not yielding the desired results and we will change that in the new year. We did 1,000 inspections in the construction industry in August and did not find one person who was bogusly self-employed. That does not marry with all the anecdotal evidence and stories we are being told by the people we represent. Therefore, maybe the inspection routines need to be looked at, but what definitely needs to be looked at is the fear that exists in people who are bogusly self-employed and who do not want to report it. We need to introduce the legislation to give those people comfort by ensuring the penalties on the Statute Book are significant enough to deter employers from putting workers in that position in the first place and by ensuring that protections are created for a person who tries to establish his or her rights under the current legislation. We will establish those in the new year.
I thank Fianna Fáil and in particular Deputy O'Dea for acquiescing in this. I know the pressure he was put under and I genuinely appreciate his assistance and help in the passage of the Bill, as indeed I do with every Member of this House and Seanad Éireann. It is to be hoped we will pass this once in a generation legislation that will positively impact tens of thousands of people in this country for the better in the future. We will work collectively and collaboratively after Christmas to look at and establish the size of the bogus self-employment sector and ensure we put provisions in law to protect those people.