When the Employment Law Compliance Bill 2008 was introduced almost a year ago, Minister Micheal Martin stated that "it was the most significant single piece of legislation introduced in the employment rights area in recent years". Its primary purpose is to achieve compliance with existing employment rights legislation and to place NERA (the National Employment Rights Authority) on a statutory footing. The second stage of the Bill was put before the Dail just over a week ago and the Minister highlighted proposed changes in general terms.
Employers who may have been concerned by the stringent obligations placed on them in relation to the publication of notices and by the number of new criminal offences listed in the Bill, should welcome some of the proposed amendments to the Bill, which Minister Kelleher states he intends to introduce at committee stage, including:
- the removal a number of proposed criminal offences;
- the deletion of the fixed–payment notices provision;
- the clarification of the provision requiring Employers to display notices in the workplace informing employees of their entitlements and NERA's contact details. It is now proposed that NERA will supply template display notices in appropriate languages and that these notices may be displayed by electronic or other means or both. This change takes account of the practice of many employers to display notices on their intranets and removes the concern employers had regarding the form of the notice and the possibility that they may be at risk of prosecution in circumstances where notices they had displayed might be removed by third parties;
- the amendment of the mandatory provisions regarding the provision of statements of employment (similar to a reference) to employees on their departure to provision on a request only basis;
- the Bill will be amended so as to require employers to keep a copy of any employment permit granted to any of their employees, rather than a copy of every employee's passport or other identity document, which the Minister agrees would be unnecessarily burdensome. The Minister also stated that the opportunity will also be taken to clarify provisions of the Employment Permits Acts to assist their operation and enforcement.
The full text of the proposed amendments will be publicised at Committee Stage.
The Minister's speech also included reference to the following issues which will be welcomed by Employers:
- the possible streamlining of the different Employment Rights Adjudication bodies in line with ongoing Government deliberations in relation to agency rationalisation and efficiency reviews and
- the need for employer and employee representatives on joint labour committees to be responsive to prevailing circumstances and to consider the impact of terms and conditions on the ongoing viability of businesses and the protection of employment levels. He noted in particular the progress made in this regard in the catering sector where current negotiations are aimed at having one JLC for the country instead of two, and dealing with the issue of Sunday premium rates.
See the text of the Minister's speech here.