Thursday, 12 July 2018
Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage
I apologise for the delay. I was about to start last night when we adjourned.
I share Deputy Willie O'Dea's concerns about bogus self-employment. I think everybody else in the House does too. This Bill is not an appropriate vehicle for the amendment that has been tabled on Report Stage. The amendment would have such an impact and is so detailed and worthy that it should be subject to proper and thorough scrutiny to allow the House and all stakeholders who are at risk of being adversely or positively impacted the opportunity to consider the full implications of what is being proposed.
Deputy O'Dea stated a fortnight ago that I did not draw sufficient attention on Committee Stage to how problematic the amendments were to the penalisation provisions. I beg to differ because if one checks the Official Report, one will see I drew attention to them at that stage. We fixed those last night and I am genuinely grateful. None of us was aware that such a detailed amendment would be tabled on Report Stage. I accept that the amendment is well intentioned. I am particularly concerned about some of its consequences. The amendment could fundamentally change many aspects of employment law and social welfare and revenue law without any consideration of the negative consequences for employees, employers or even consumers. I am worried that the Bill, which we have all worked on for an awfully long time, which we all want passed and which has gone through a comprehensive drafting and scrutiny process, could have inserted into it a new provision that is not in line with the purpose of the Bill but would have far-reaching and unintended consequences. The risk is not just that we would have bad law but that it would not meet the objectives of the Bill and would have adverse impacts on other legal codes that are very much relied upon particularly by employees.
The Bill has been more than three years in the making. It has been through an extensive process of consultation and scrutiny prior to, and during, its consideration in the Oireachtas, including a public consultation carried out by the University of Limerick study and detailed discussions with IBEC and ICTU over six months or more which helped me focus on the drafts and the heads of the Bill which have been subject to detailed analysis and debate since then. It has gone through a regulatory impact analysis, RIA, which was conducted and submitted to Government along with the drafts of the heads of the Bill. The RIA was published at the same time as the heads of the Bill so everybody could have a look at it. The draft heads were referred to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel for drafting and the office, as normal, worked closely with the Attorney General, the advisory council and my officials in that process.
The heads of the Bill were also referred to the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation for pre-legislative scrutiny and, in May 2017, the Minister of State with responsibility for employment and small business addressed the joint committee on the draft Government legislation during an appearance before that committee for pre-legislative scrutiny on the Banded Hours Contract Bill 2016 which was offered to us by Sinn Féin. Subsequently, Department officials briefed the joint committee on the draft legislation in June 2017. The Bill was published in December 2017, completed Second Stage in February and Committee Stage in May.
That is only a brief overview of the process and scrutiny that this Bill has undergone.
It is only right that the Bill should be subject to this comprehensive scrutiny but my difficulty is that the amendment has not been subjected to any scrutiny, consultation or debate with the broad range of stakeholders who are likely to be affected if it is carried, with the Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection or with the Members of this House.
As we are not going to conclude proceedings in the next 60 seconds, I ask the Minister to move the adjournment of the debate. We will return to it after the Topical Issues, which will take 48 minutes, and the statements on Northern Ireland, which will take 85 minutes. I have no control over that. The House made a decision in respect of it.