Dáil Éireann - Volume 516 - 23 March, 2000
Priority Questions. - Registered Employment Agencies.
Mr. Stanton Mr. Stanton
93. Mr. Stanton asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of registered employment agencies; the number of workers employed through employment agencies; and if she will make a statement on the operation of these agencies. [8210/00]
Mr. T. Kitt Mr. T. Kitt
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. T. Kitt): Under the terms of the Employment Agencies Act, 1971, a person shall not carry on the business of an employment agency except under and in accordance with a licence under that Act. In 1999, 447 employment agencies were licensed to operate and 23 new licences were issued to date this year. All licences issued under the Act have a validity period of one year at the end of which, subject to continued adherence by the licensees to the relevant governing conditions, they are renewed upon application.
Under provisions specified in section 9 (2) of the Employment Agency Regulations, 1972, employment agency licence holders are required to furnish returns to me on a twice yearly basis indicating, inter alia, the number of persons whom they have placed in employment within and outside the State. The returns so furnished to me in respect of the period January-June 1999 indicate that, in that period, a total of 35,028 people were placed in employment, that is, 31,982 within the State and 3,046 outside the State. Of those placed within the State 17,374 were granted permanent positions and 14,608 were granted temporary positions. Of those placed outside the State 805 were granted permanent positions and 2,241 were granted temporary positions.
The primary instrument by which employment agency activity is monitored/regulated is the licensing scheme. Licences are issued to applicants only when they have fulfilled, to the full satisfaction of my Department, the relevant governing conditions as laid down by the 1971 Act and by regulations made thereunder. These conditions are designed, in the main, to ensure that only persons who are of good character and who carry on employment agency business from prem ises which are suitable for that purpose are granted licences. In assessing applications my Department operates a policy of strict adherence to all the licensing criteria. Monitoring activity also involves the checking of daily newspapers to ensure that employment agencies which advertise are licensed in accordance with the Act.
Under the Act, employment agencies are required to submit statistics showing the number of placements, both permanent and temporary and also placements outside the State. In the event of a complaint against a particular agency, the labour inspectorate of my Department is empowered under the Act to investigate any such complaint.
Mr. Stanton Mr. Stanton
Mr. Stanton: I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive reply. Does he agree that the biggest difficulty facing employers and business is a skills shortage and a shortage of workers? Does he also agree that an opening exists for certain so-called employment agencies to take advantage of this difficulty? While most employment agencies are reputable, has the attention of the Minister of State been drawn to some employment agencies engaging in churning practices, whereby they place workers with a company and shortly afterwards contact the workers and offer them positions with other companies, thereby putting the initial company at a disadvantage? Has the Minister of State any plans to monitor more closely this alleged activity, as it is causing difficulties for businesses and it constitutes unfair competition for reputable agencies?
Mr. T. Kitt Mr. T. Kitt
Mr. T. Kitt: We are conscious of the problems concerning skills in certain sectors. From the figures I quoted, the Deputy will note that the employment agencies are providing many workers but not enough. That is why the Government has referred to the need for additional workers not only from the European Economic Area but from outside it. The practice to which the Deputy referred is one of which we are aware. The problem is how to deal with it on a legislative basis. I am willing to take it up with the labour inspectorate or my officials to ascertain how we can deal with it. The problem is how to deal with these type of issues on a legal basis.
These agencies must meet certain criteria, in that they must be of good character, etc. With regard to the reports that I am given, I will closely monitor the position. This is a very lucrative area. These businesses are doing extremely well. They are private employment agencies and they have to adhere to a certain legal framework. They also have their own agency and must adhere to a certain code of practice.
Dáil Éireann 516 Priority Questions. Registered Employment Agencies.