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Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008
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Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008

Published: 09-07-2008

On the 18th March 2008, Micheal Martin, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment published the Government's Employment Rights Compliance Bill, 2008 which will overhaul the State's employment rights framework.

This Bill will modernise the labour inspectorate, strengthen enforcement of employment rights and work permits, promote greater compliance in the workplace and increase the penalties for those employers who seek to gain advantage by denying employees their entitlements under law.

The measures proposed in the Bill include:

  • Establishment of the National Employment Rights Authority ("NERA") on a statutory basis, including the appointment by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment of a Director and a tripartite Advisory Board. The objectice of National Employement Rights Authority will be to promote, encourage and secure compliance with employment legislation. (Please see our Spring 2008 issue of The Bottom Line for further information on NERA.)

  • The strengthening inspection and enforcement powers in the area of labour inspection including allowing the Director to take evidence on oath, ensuring labour inspectors have greater access to premises, personnel and data and empowering NERA to prosecute summary offences.

  • The empowering labour inspectors in NERA to exchange information between statutory enforcement authorities including the Revenue Commissioners so as to allow joint investigations of companies which are suspected of breaching employment law.

  • The provision for greater penalties for offences arising under employment law – in most cases up to €5,000 and/or 12 months imprisonment for summary offences and €250,000 and/or 3 years imprisonment for indictable offences;

  • Protection of whistleblowers in the event of breaches of employment law being reported in good faith. It provides for protection against penalisation of employees who make claims or who in good faith report breaches of employment law to NERA

  • New provisions to secure compliance with Employment Permits legislation.

  • To foster an increase in co-operation at workplace level so as to safeguard employment rights.

  • Service of compliance notices where NERA believes that an employee has not received money due to them.

  • An obligation to display clearly worded notices in workplaces advising employees of their employment law entitlements and how to seek redress for the denial of any entitlements together with how to contact the director of NERA for further information.

  • To strengthen the powers of the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employement to initiate investigations and publish the outcomes in cases of public interest.

  • Specification of a comprehensive list of documents which must be kept by the employer in respect of the most recent three year employment period and must be retained by employers for a further two years after the employment relationship ends;

According to Micheal Martin, "This is the most significant single piece of legislation introduced in the employment rights area in recent years. It is a comprehensive package and a firm indication of the government's commitment to the principles of social partnership. It is a reminder that, in the drive for greater competitiveness, there is a need to ensure that responsible employers who meet their obligations to employees will have a level playing field. Compliance with all aspects of employment law will be strictly enforced including in the employment permits area, national minimum wage, registered employment agreements and protection of young persons in employment."

Given the seriousness of the penalties and other proposals in the Bill, it is crucial that employers ensure that they are fully compliant in all aspects of employment law by maintaining up to date and comprehensive records for each employee. The Bill will require employers to undertake a detailed and comprehensive audit of their record management and document retention systems, and be in a position to prove full compliance should an Inspector call.

This Act will come into operation one month after the date of its passing through the Houses of the Oireachtas and could become law later this year.

We will be keeping you updated on any changes that are proposed as its passing through the Dail and Seanad. Once published we will provide comprehensive coverage of its provisions

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