Ictu says State must use primary legislation to set out workers’ employment status

Unions claim move to publish updated code of practice ‘wholly inadequate’ to tackle misclassifying of workers as self-employed

Ictu general secretary Patricia King: she said the new revised code “must be accompanied by enabling legislation to ensure its provisions are legally binding”.  Photograph: Frank Miller

Ictu general secretary Patricia King: she said the new revised code “must be accompanied by enabling legislation to ensure its provisions are legally binding”. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

The Government will have to define in primary legislation as to what constitutes a contract for service and a contract of service if it wants to deal with disputes over the employment status of workers, trade unions have said.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) said on Thursday that the Government’s move this week to publish an updated code of practice was, on its own, “wholly inadequate to tackle the practice of misclassifying employees as self-employed”.

Ictu general secretary Patricia King said the new revised code “must be accompanied by enabling legislation to ensure its provisions are legally binding”.

Minister for Social Protection Heather Humphreys said earlier this week that the Government was planning to introduce legislation later this year to put on a statutory basis the updated code of practice on determining the employment status of an individual.

Ms King said: “For many years congress has highlighted the severe negative impact of the practice of bogus self-employment on the State’s revenue and workers’ employment rights, income and job security.

“We have actively participated in multiple meetings with senior officials on the subject. However, to date the State has chosen to deal with this matter through a variety of means, none of which have been satisfactory or successful.

“The amended code of practice is not legally binding and is another such inadequate measure. Considering the very lucrative advantages afforded to employers who misclassify workers as self-employed, there is little motivation for them to have any regard for the updated code.

“It is the considered view of congress that the only effective resolution to this long outstanding matter is through providing definitions of ‘contract for’ or ‘of service’ explicitly in primary legislation.

Fairer approach

“The State should also classify all workers as direct employees, in the first instance, until proven otherwise by applicant employers. This would ensure a more balanced and fairer approach, and would safeguard against workers being forced to pursue costly civil cases to vindicate their rights.”

The Minister said on Wednesday that she “shared the concern expressed by many commentators over the years that employees should be correctly classified for social insurance, taxation and employment rights purposes”.

“We all want to ensure that workers’ rights and entitlements are protected and in particular that workers are not incorrectly, or falsely, classified as self-employed,”