Ibec strongly criticises Government over employment compliance law


EMPLOYERS’ BODY Ibec has strongly criticised the Government’s plans for new legislation on compliance with employment law. It says many of the proposals put forward by the Department of Enterprise and Employment had not been sought by trade unions.

At a conference on employment law yesterday, Ibec’s director of industrial relations, Brendan McGinty, said his organisation’s main concerns with the new Employment Law Compliance Bill centred on the emphasis on criminal prosecution as a means of enforcement.

He said there were 23 criminal offences proposed and that many were “disproportionate, unnecessary and oppressive”.

“Ibec supports the objective of ensuring compliance with employment rights legislation, but there are serious concerns about many of the proposals in the Compliance Bill, most of which has been promulgated, not even by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, but by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment,” he said.

The Department of Enterprise and Employment said last night that its Minister, Mary Coughlan was very open to hearing the views of all stakeholders, including members of the Oireachtas, during the passage of the Bill in the Oireachtas, and was satisfied that it reflected “what is needed to bring about a culture of employment compliance and effective employment law enforcement”.

It said that a very substantial number of amendments were being drafted by Government. It also said a number of the offences set out in the Bill had been a feature of employment law since 1946, but were being updated.

Separately yesterday, Ibec called for a review of legislation to allow for “greater flexibility” in the employment of young people.

Mr McGinty said that the vigour with which the National Employment Rights Authority was pursuing prosecutions against employers under the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act was also of concern.

“The legislation has drawn stinging criticism from a District Court judge faced with 19 prosecutions against an employer who was accused of employing young persons for one hour over the time prescribed by the legislation. The judge highlighted the impracticality of strict compliance with its terms,” he said.

Mr McGinty also suggested there was an “urgent need to cap awards made by the Equality Tribunal at two years’ pay for all claims arising out of the one event or set of related events in the one set of proceedings.”

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Labour Affairs Dara Calleary said the Government was always open to looking at proposals from the social partners on industrial relations and that Ibec’s proposals for reform of the Joint Labour Committee (JLC) system for determining pay and conditions for around 170,000 people in a number of sectors, “could be considered in this context”.

Ibec said that the JLC system was in radical need of overhaul.

The Minister said in the Towards 2016 agreement, the Government gave a commitment to modernise and streamline the JLC system and that work in this area was well advanced.

He also said that in the social partnership deal last autumn, the Government said it would introduce legislation to strengthen the existing system for the making of Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements and to provide for their effective operation.

“Measures to provide for improved operational procedures to include the nomination of chairmen for JLCs for a fixed term of office and the . . . enhancement of expertise and competencies through the practice of nominating chairmen on the basis of their experience and qualifications for the role,” he said.