Wednesday, 18 January 2023
Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection
857. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection when she will inform the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands in relation to a specific issue (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [63576/22]
As the Deputy will be aware, it has been claimed that the Chief Appeals Officer used the outcome of a 'test case' in a particular occupational sector to likewise determine the employment status of all workers in that sector. i.e. that all workers in that sector are automatically deemed to have the same employment status of the worker in the so called 'test case'. I am advised that that is not the case and is, in fact, a misunderstanding of the approach taken by the Chief Appeals Officer.
The Chief Appeals Officer has advised me that the discussion in relation to the use of ‘test cases’ before the Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection on 5th December 2019 specifically related to a number of cases considered in the 1990s. These cases, involving workers in a particular sector, were selected as so called 'test cases' not to determine the employment status of all workers in that sector but rather to identify criteria that could be used by Deciding Officers and Appeals Officers for the purpose of assessing each case on an individual basis and to improve the quality and consistency of decision making in relation to the determination of whether an individual was employed or self-employed. The Chief Appeals Officer has advised me that the test cases were not used to determine a particular outcome on a 'group basis' that would be applied to all cases from that employment sector, as seems to have been inferred by some observers, but instead that the cases informed the identification of criteria that could be applied to each individual case in that sector. Decision makers (both Deciding Officer and Appeals Officers) would then apply these criteria to all cases that came before them and depending on the circumstances of each case, as assessed by reference to these criteria, an individual decision would be made in each case. This approach was a precursor to the subsequent development on a tripartite basis of the Code of Practice for Determining Employment or Self-Employment Status of Individuals under the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness, a code which was subsequently updated in 2007 under the Towards 2016 Social Partnership Agreement.
The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements. Every individual making an appeal always has the opportunity of having any evidence in his or her own case presented to and considered by an Appeals Officer.
I trust that this clarifies the matter for the Deputy.