The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) has the power to make unannounced visits to your workplace to ensure that your company is complying with employment legislation. The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) is an office of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and has its headquarters in Carlow, with regional offices in Cork, Dublin, Shannon and Sligo. NERA aims to secure compliance with employment rights legislation and to "foster a culture of compliance in Ireland".

Set up on an interim basis in February 2007 on the back of a commitment made in the social partnership agreement Towards 2016, the agency will be placed on a statutory footing by the Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008, which is currently making its way though the Oireachtas. The Bill also includes provisions relating to NERA's inspection powers and penalties for non-compliance with employment legislation.

NERA has the power to seek from employers any documentation necessary to demonstrate compliance with employment rights legislation. While inspectors can arrive unannounced at a workplace, most inspections take place at a time pre-agreed with the employer following notification by NERA of the proposed inspection. The agency will normally supply the employer in advance with a list of the records it will be looking for during the inspection.

If an employer appears to be in breach of the legislation, it will be informed during the course of the inspection and the inspector will also write to the employer following the inspection notifying it of the outcome. The employer will either be required to remedy the breach or will be informed that, as a result of the inspection, the matter has been referred for prosecution.

In circumstances where an inspection may ultimately give rise to a criminal prosecution, it is essential that employers take all appropriate measures to protect themselves. In this regard, relevant members of staff should be fully informed about how to deal with any notification of a proposed NERA inspection. Employers should prepare themselves adequately in advance of any inspection, including by ensuring that the information and documentation referred to above is on hand and that all employment records, policies and procedures and contracts of employment are fully up to date and comply with the legislation.

Guidelines on Inspections

NERA has recently published a guide to inspections on its website, setting out the records to be made available by employers for inspection and the general powers of inspectors. The guide sets out the standard records that an inspector will require access to during the course of an inspection.

These include:

  • Employer registration number with the Revenue Commissioners
  • List of all employees, their contact details and PPS numbers
  • Terms of employment for each employee
  • Payroll details
  • Evidence that payslips have been provided to staff
  • Employee's job classification
  • Dates of start and end of employment
  • Hours of work for each employee
  • Register of employees under 18 years of age
  • Whether board and/or lodgings are provided, along with the relevant details