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 Header Item Local Employment Service (Continued)
 Header Item Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
 Header Item Employment Rights

Thursday, 4 April 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 981 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle] If she has a contrary view, I would be delighted to hear it.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I hope I have been here long enough to prove the Deputy wrong. Last Thursday, I met representatives from the Irish Local Development Network, ILDN, jobs clubs and CV clubs, which are in all counties and provide invaluable services that Intreo offices and JobPath cannot provide. No two jobseekers have the same barriers to employment so the services the State offers need to recognise that and complement each other. The services that might be suitable for Deputy Pringle might not be suitable for the Deputy sitting beside him, or for me. We need to ensure the complexity of issues facing people who still cannot find work is addressed in the next generation of activation and that employment opportunities, supports and training are available.

The Deputy asked if I would ensure certain people apply for the tender. Nobody is stopping them from applying for the tender but I will make sure they get the support they need to ensure they have the capacity to apply for the tender. No tender has been decided yet and there may not just be one tender, on account of the fact that, as I said, one size does not fit all. We see these services, which we have relied upon since their establishment 35 years ago, very much continuing into the future.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle I am glad to hear the tendering process will be fair and that the people to whom I referred can compete for them. I am interested in the Minister's comments to the effect that no two jobseekers are the same. It is a pity she does not tell JobPath that, because JobPath behaves in a way that suits its own needs. The local employment schemes are very successful and very important, especially as regards the local model they use. The Indecon report showed them to be financially viable and more viable than JobPath, with a cost of €2,544 per placement and a referral rate of 28.8%, compared with a cost per placement at JobPath of €3,718 and a referral rate of 18%. The local schemes provided more employment for €1,200 less and that is vitally important.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I do not know what the obsession is with trying to make everybody be the same.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle The Minister should tell JobPath that.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I am talking about the Deputy's comparison of local employment schemes with jobs clubs, Intreo and JobPath. We have a range of services because we have a range of people with different barriers to getting employment. It is for this reason that we have back to education allowances, job incentive schemes, training opportunities, employment opportunities, youth employment support schemes, over-55s clubs, etc. There are different barriers for different age groups and different geographical areas. We cannot compare apples and oranges and expect to get the same results. The people we send to JobPath are the long-term unemployed who have different barriers to employment from those we send to local employment schemes or CV clubs.

In the near future, I want to see a rationalisation and the finalisation of our offerings in the form of activation services for the next generation and there will be a place for all our services in that.

Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Employment Rights

 6. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty her plans to deal with bogus self-employment practices; and when legislation will come before Dáil Éireann on the matter. [15656/19]

 10. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty if her plans to improve protections for persons trapped in bogus self-employment will include new legislation; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15605/19]

 14. Deputy Joan Collins Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty her plans to introduce legislation on bogus self-employed contracts; if so, the parameters of the planned Bill; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15510/19]

 26. Deputy Willie O'Dea Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty her plans to address issues in relation to bogus self-employment; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15529/19]

 39. Deputy John Brady Information on John Brady Zoom on John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty the proposals she recently brought to Cabinet regarding bogus self-employment; her plans to progress these measures; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15639/19]

Deputy Bríd Smith: Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith This is about the Minister's plans to deal with bogus self-employment. I ask her to lay out her plans today because a number of Bills are before the Dáil, including legislation from my group, and we want to know what her intentions are. This situation resembles the Bill on banded hours, when robust legislation was brought in by the Opposition only for the Government to jump in and bring forward its own legislation. History is repeating itself but we believe the various legislation in the queue offers a more robust solution to the question of bogus self-employment.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I propose to take Questions Nos. 6, 10, 14, 26 and 39 together.

  My job is to progress Government legislation and not to progress Opposition legislation. There is nothing stopping any Member of an Opposition party from progressing his or her own legislation and I certainly would not impede it.

  Disguised employment, or bogus self-employment, occurs when businesses deliberately misclassify workers as self-employed when they work as de facto employees of the business concerned.  This is done largely to avoid payment of the employer portion of social insurance contributions. The extent of disguised employment, together with potential measures to address this issue, was considered by an interdepartmental group in 2017.  Having consulted widely with stakeholders and considered the available evidence, the group concluded that the use of disguised employment arrangements was not very prevalent in Ireland.  The work by the interdepartmental group is reassuring in that it indicates that the overwhelming majority of employers are decent employers who are compliant with employment and social welfare law. The report stated that there was not a gross use of false arrangements but I slightly differ with it on that point. I am of the view that we have always had an issue with bogus self-employment. It has not grown but it is still very evident.

  Given the concerns expressed in this House and elsewhere regarding a perceived increase in the incidence of self-employment, and to ensure that people are aware of their rights and the protections available, my Department conducted a survey and an advertising campaign earlier this year on the issue of false self-employment. We did not get an enormous response, which has led people to have certain opinions on it, but we will repeat it because we need to make sure it is consistent and that the people who did not hear what we said last time will hear it next time and the time thereafter, so that they will know what their rights are.

  Bogus self-employment is already an offence.  Any deliberate falsification of the employment status of a worker in order to avoid payment of social insurance contributions is an offence under section 252 of the Social Welfare Consolidation Act and is subject to prosecution with penalties, including imprisonment and fines.  Nobody has ever been imprisoned for this, though there have been fines and significant penalties. Establishing guilt can be problematic as employers can claim genuine error.  Employees have to be able to help us to take cases but we are all aware that, in many cases, employees feel lucky to have their job and are very reluctant to pursue it and that the security is not there in the legislation to enable them to establish their rights.

  There are already significant legislative powers to investigate and sanction employers and employees who falsely declare their social insurance status as self-employed rather than employed.  However, there are gaps and that is why I am proposing a number of new measures with a view to augmenting and building upon existing protection measures and legislation.  Based on experience from these inspections and recognising that there is a particular challenge when dealing with large companies, I have tasked the Department with establishing a dedicated team to deal with the work involved in such employer inspections.  I expect that this team will be established and functioning within the coming months.

  In addition to more rigorous policing of existing law, I intend to implement a number of new legislative measures to further strengthen the powers in our appeals and inspection sections. First, I will seek to put the code of practice for determining employment status on a statutory basis.  This code is being reviewed and updated by an interdepartmental group from the Departments of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and Finance, the Revenue Commissioners and the Workplace Relations Commission, in light of recent cases and to ensure the code is current and robust in its measures.

  Second, I intend to bring forward measures to address the victimisation, and potential victimisation, of workers who seek a determination of their employment status, including the hundreds and possibly thousands who are afraid to do so. 

  Third, I am exploring the possibility of providing for deciding officers in the scope section in my Department to make determinations on the employment status of groups or classes of workers who are engaged, and operate, on the same terms and conditions, without having to have a specific complaint or having to investigate each individual worker separately.  This would go a long way to ensuring consistency of status decisions and their timely determination, particularly in some of our larger organisations where the vast majority of employees are self-employed.

  Together, these measures are expected to strengthen the framework of protections for workers, while speeding up the dispute resolution process. While the drafting of this legislation is complex, I hope to be in a position to introduce these provisions to the Oireachtas in the spring social welfare Bill in the next number of weeks.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I ask the Deputies to abide by the one-minute rule.


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