The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) continues to operate on an interim basis, pending the enactment of the Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008. The unprecedented economic turmoil in 2009 resulted in the Bill being delayed. It is anticipated that it will be enacted in the first half of 2010.
The preliminary report of NERA for 2009 contains some interesting statistics in relation to their areas of activities and levels of enforcement. Some of the key data to emerge from the report is as follows:
- NERA inspectors carried out a total of 22,065 inspections.
- They recovered over 2.3m in unpaid wages on foot of inspection activity carried out during 2009.
- An overall breach rate of 19% was identified. This remains similar to 2008. However the report notes that there were substantial variations in the breach rate depending on the sector involved.
- NERA dealt with some 149,000 telephone queries in 2009. This represents an increase of 38% over the corresponding period for 2008.
- NERA took on a new role, providing certain information in relation to redundancy queries. This allowed staff in the Redundancy Payment Section to prioritise the processing of redundancy claims.
- Since July 2009 NERA have been carrying out Employment Permit Compliance checks. To date a total of 1,062 checks have been carried out.
The report notes that NERA continues to meet its objective of promoting employment law compliance. It does so by pursuing a dual approach which benefits employers and employees. It assists employers to meet their obligations under employment law and also raises awareness for employees of their statutory rights and entitlements.
The traffic and volume of calls to NERA suggest that NERA is a useful service and resource both for employers and employees. To date NERA has not yet displayed the “teeth” that it may potentially exercise under the provisions of the Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008 (in its current format). When the Bill is enacted, it remains to be seen whether NERA will adopt a more aggressive approach, particularly in its inspection role.