NERA (the National Employment Rights Authority) is operating on an interim basis pending the enactment of the Employment Rights Compliance Bill 2008, which is expected to be in mid 2009. The NERA Review of 2008 was published on their website in recent days.
In summary, the Review states that employers with proper records can expect an inspection to be carried out quickly and easily and that most employers co-operate with NERA by demonstrating compliance or rectifying any breaches detected.
Inspections are carried out in response to complaints, as part of sectoral campaigns and on a routine basis. NERA have reported that they received 1,516 complaints from employees during 2008 and that they carried out 27,900 calls, interviews and inspections. They detected 4,629 breaches of employment law in 2008 and recovered €3,112,064 in arrears of wages for employees.
The Review indicates that most breaches of employment rights were detected in the contract cleaning, catering and hotel industries, which of course reflects that fact that these sectors were specifically targeted by NERA in 2008. A significant number of the breaches detected related to the failure to comply with pay rates provided in Employment Regulation Orders in these sectors, in particular, payment of Sunday premium. This in turn has led to the agreement to set national rates for the catering industry in the negotiations between IBEC and SIPTU.
The inspection campaigns targeting breaches of particular pieces of legislation highlighted that 45% of employers were in breach of the Organisation of Working Time Act - primarily due to a failure to keep records.
70 cases were referred by NERA to the CSSO for prosecution . The report states that a large number of these cases resulted in successful convictions and the imposition of a fine.
Employers are usually given advance notification of an inspection by NERA in a letter setting out a list of records they will want sight of.