A total of €637,000 had been recovered in unpaid wages by the National Employment Rights Authority (Nera) up to the end of last month, Minister of State for Business and Employment Gerald Nash has revealed.
He said it was a criminal offence for an employer to pay an employee less than the minimum wage.
“If an employee is not satisfied that he or she is being paid his or her statutory minimum entitlement under the 2000 Act, the employee may refer the dispute to the rights commissioner or refer the matter to Nera for investigation,’’ he added.
Mr Nash was responding to Independent TD Clare Daly, who said that an employee taken on by Hertz car hire was paid "the princely sum of €2.46 per hour for a period of months on the promise of a permanent position''.
She said that if it could happen “in a company as supposedly reputable as Hertz, what was to say examples of exploitation were not happening elsewhere?’’.
Mr Nash said Ms Daly had raised a serious matter, which he understood Nera had investigated. “It is important that there is a strong message from the parliament that, where there are suspected breaches of important minimum wage legislation, they are reported to Nera,’’ he added. “Nera is equipped to carry out inspections and a suite of regulations governs the area.’’
Ms Daly said the complaint she had referred to was made in June and the person involved had started in April and finished up last week – exactly six months. In that sense, the horse had bolted by the time Nera had finalised the issue.
"Multinationals like Hertz rely heavily on people for whom English is not their first language,'' she added. "There are many European workers employed there who are not originally from Ireland and, based on that fact, they are more vulnerable to exploitation.'' She said there should be a "heavy-handed'' response in such circumstances.
Mr Nash said Nera worked closely with employers and used every opportunity to ensure they were aware of their legal obligations.