Tuesday, 24 February 2009
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Question 76: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of workplace inspections carried out by the labour inspectorate in 2008; the way this compares with the same period in 2007; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7280/09]
Question 85: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the National Employment Rights Authority will be established on a statutory basis; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7273/09]
Question 108: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment her views on the more than 4,600 breaches of employment law reported in the annual review of the National Employment Rights Authority; the steps she will take to ensure a higher level of compliance with employment law; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [7274/09]
Billy Kelleher (Minister of State with special responsibility for Labour Affairs, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment; Cork North Central, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 76, 85 and 108 together.
The Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008 is designed to give effect to commitments in Part 2 of the 10 Year Framework Social Partnership Agreement, Towards 2016, to greatly increase public confidence in the system of employment law compliance. The establishment of a new, statutory office — NERA — to secure better compliance with employment law through information and enforcement activities, supported by an enhanced Labour Inspectorate with extensive powers, formed one aspect of these commitments and is a central feature of the Bill. The Bill is currently undergoing Second Stage reading in this house with further stages of the Bill in both Houses to follow and a target date for enactment in the first half of 2009.
In terms of workplace inspections, the number carried out by NERA in 2008 was nearly twice the 2007 level — almost 28,000 workplace inspections in 2008 as against just fewer than 14,500 in 2007. This increased level of inspection activity is of course reflective of the greater level of Inspectorate resources available to NERA which currently stand at seventy-nine as opposed to the original level of thirty one.
Since it commenced operations on an interim basis in 2007, NERA has had considerable success in ensuring that abuses of workers rights and entitlements do not go unchecked. Early in 2008, NERA undertook a nationwide information and awareness campaign which has been instrumental in bringing about a much greater level of awareness both by employers and by employees of the respective rights and obligations under employment law. This information and awareness role continues to play a significant part in NERA's employment rights compliance and information strategy and is one that I believe will prove to be more beneficial in the longer term in bringing about a greater compliance culture.
As regards the level of breaches detected in 2008 reported at 4,629 in NERA's 2008 annual review, this represented a virtual doubling of the level detected in 2007 — 2,344 and there is a symmetry between the increase in the level of inspections undertaken to the level of breaches detected. It must be recalled that, where breaches are detected, NERA's primary objective is to seek compliance with the relevant legislation and rectification of any breaches identified, including redress for the individual/s concerned and payment of any arrears due to employees. The fact that arrears due to employees totalling €3.1m were recovered in 2008 suggests that NERA has been successful in achieving compliance through negotiation with employers stressing compliance as opposed to the necessity to resort to institute prosecutions.