Dáil Éireann - Volume 648 - 28 February, 2008
Written Answers. - Employment Rights.
Deputy Róisín Shortall Deputy Róisín Shortall
Deputy Róisín Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress to date on the work of the National Employment Rights Authority; when the authority will be placed on a statutory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8332/08]
Deputy Brian Hayes Deputy Brian Hayes
Deputy Brian Hayes asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the progress made in establishing the National Employment Rights Authority and the five new regional offices of the inspectorate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8475/08]
Deputy Jack Wall Deputy Jack Wall
Deputy Jack Wall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when the National Employment Rights Authority will be established on a statutory basis; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8324/08]
Deputy Billy Kelleher Deputy Billy Kelleher
Deputy Billy Kelleher: I propose to take Questions Nos. 19, 46 and 47 together.
The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) has been established on an interim basis since February 2007. The Authority will be established on a statutory basis on the enactment of new Employment Law Compliance legislation which I propose to publish shortly.
A budget allocation of €8.553 million was provided for NERA for 2007 and this has increased to some €10.8 million for 2008.
The three units which were formally part of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment have been subsumed into NERA — the Employment Rights Information Unit, the Labour Inspectorate and the Prosecution / Enforcement Unit.
Department of Finance sanction was secured for a total staff complement for NERA of 141, including an increased complement of 90 Labour Inspectors. The Director of NERA was appointed and took up duty on 12 February 2007. The Director is supported in his role by a management team including legal and accounting expertise and an administrative staff which are now fully in place.
Considerable progress has been made in the recruitment and deployment of Labour Inspectors over the past year with 50 of the additional 59 inspector positions now filled. A further 5 inspectors are due to commence on the 3rd of March 2008 and the appointment of inspectors to fill the 4 remaining posts is progressing. Due to success in recent internal Departmental competitions and internal Departmental transfers, 5 of the original 31 inspector posts are now vacant and therefore, currently, there are 76 inspectors in the National Employment Rights Authority.
As part of the Government’s decentralisation programme, NERA established its headquarters in Carlow at the end of July 2007. The Social Partnership Agreement “Towards 2016” also provided that Inspection Services would be established on a regional basis. In this regard,  regional Inspection Services offices are now operating in Carlow, Shannon, Sligo, Cork and Dublin. Staff attached to the Shannon and Sligo offices are in temporary accommodation pending the completion of a new build and the fitting out of offices respectively.
In line with the commitment under “Towards 2016”, joint investigation activity and exchange of information has commenced with Inspectors from NERA, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social and Family Affairs. The necessary legislative provisions to enable the exchange of information between the three bodies came into effect on 30th March, 2007 with the enactment of the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2007.
NERA launched a major public awareness campaign on the 14th of January 2008 to introduce it to the general public. The style of the campaign is open, accessible and approachable, focusing in the first instance on NERA’s role in providing information on employment rights related to questions that arise in the modern Irish workplace whether from employers or employees. The integrated campaign will be ongoing throughout 2008 across the full range of media including TV, radio, national and regional press, specialised publications, outdoor and web based advertising. The key message of the campaign is “Employment Rights, it’s the law, you need to know”.
The launch of NERA’s website, www.employmentrights.ie, is also an important resource for employers and employees alike.
NERA continues to consult with its range of stakeholders and has initiated a structured dialogue with the parties to the Social Partnership Agreement, ICTU, IBEC and the Construction Industry Federation on the development of a comprehensive and responsive system of employment rights compliance and enforcement. NERA invited its key stakeholders to a briefing on the 10th of January in respect of its activity and National Awareness Campaign. NERA also engaged constructively during 2007 with other stakeholder organisations such as the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland and the Citizen Information Centres.
I am delighted with the excellent progress made to date in the establishment of the new Authority. In its first year of operation in 2007, NERA carried out some 14,400 inspections and recovered some €2.5m in arrears for workers. Specific inspections campaigns were targeted at enforcing the minimum wage, protecting young workers and at the construction sector. Over 93,000 calls seeking information on employment rights were received by NERA in 2007. NERA also continued with its prosecution remit with 98 cases being referred to the Chief State Solicitors Office in 2007.
Dáil Éireann 648 Written Answers. Employment Rights.