National Employment Rights Association – Annual Report

The 119 staff operating the NERA operations responded to 25,797 calls, interviews and inspections in 2009, recovering almost €2.5 million in unpaid wages due to employees. Providing a valuable service to employers and employees, NERA ensures that employers operate on a level playing pitch whereby no competitive advantage can be gained by illegally undercutting workers statutory entitlements in the area of pay and conditions. During 2009, 39% of all callers were employers and most enquiries related to redundancies, holiday entitlement, terms of employment and payment of wages. Over 8,800 employers were inspected with an overall compliance level of 69%.One of the key areas of concern for employers was the retention of records. Keeping proper records protects employees from being exploited and employers from mischievous or vexatious claims. Where complaints were investigated by NERA the employer records were key in demonstrating compliance confirming that the importance of keeping proper records cannot be stressed enough. NERA propose to develop and distribute a guide to assist employers meet their record keeping requirements in 2010.

Inspections under the Industrial Relations and Minimum Wage legislation recovered €2.5 million in unpaid wages for over 6,000 employee identified as having been paid less than their statutory minimum entitlement, an average of €410 per employee. Of 2,981 inspections under the National Minimum Wage Act, compliance was particularly high at 93% of those inspected. Considerable non-compliance with the National minimum Wage Act was found in a number of hairdressing establishments.

555 complaints were received by NERA under the Payment of Wages Act. All employees are entitled to receive a statement of earnings (a payslip) with every payment of wages, showing the gross wages and the nature and amount of each deduction made. A total of 4,210 inspections were carried out recording compliance levels of 87%, The main breaches detected were in relation to failure to provide payslips, making illegal deductions or not recording gross wages and or deductions on the payslips. There was a particular issue where board and lodgings are provided and charged for by the employer.

144 complaints were received in respect of the Organisation of Working Time Act with a 53% compliance rate over 4,229 inspections undertaken. Again, record keeping was a major issue.

The Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996 accounted for 4,218 night-time inspections with a 99% compliance rate.

1,115 inspections were undertaken under the Employment Permits Acts with a compliance rate of 60%. In most cases, where employers were found to be employing people in contravention of this legislation, employer claimed either not to now that employees required a permit or not to know their nationality.

Particular sectors are covered by specific agreements on pay and conditions. These agreements are made by Joint Labour Committees or from negotiation between trade unions and employer. Commonly referred to as Employment Regulation Orders (ERO’s) and Registered Employment Agreements (REA’s) employers in these sectors are obliged by law to pay the wage rates and provide the conditions of employment prescribed by the respective orders and agreements.

Agriculture the Agricultural ERO applies to employers and employees in the agricultural, horticultural and equestrian sectors. NERA carried out 72 inspections in this sector in 2009 with compliance of 56% recorded and €90,000 in underpayments of statutory minimum rates paid to workers. A particular problem was identified concerning rest periods and payment of statutory minimum rates in the equestrian sector.

Catering From 442 inspections, a total of €737,000 was paid to employees in the catering sector to compensate for underpayments of the statutory minimum entitlements. This was a follow on from an intensive campaign in the catering sector in 2008, which involved inspections of over 1,000 catering employers. Despite this level of activity the level of compliance of businesses inspected in 2009 remained very low at 21%. NERA have co-operated with the Restaurant Association of Ireland and Failte Ireland to provide information to employers in the sector about compliancy issues.

Contract Cleaning. There are two ERO’s covering this sector depending on location. Following the low compliancy rates identified in 2008, 178 employers were inspected in 2009. A compliance level of 50% was recorded and €125,000 in underpayments were identified and paid out to employees.

Retail Grocery & Allied Trades this sector governs those employed in grocery shops and convenience stores. NERA carried out 284 inspections in 2009 and found a 28% compliance level. A sum of €357,000 was paid to employees in the sector. Due to the low compliance rate in this sector NERA have stated that they will be carrying out a compliance campaign in this sector in 2010.

Hotels Working in co-operation with NERA, Failte Ireland developed a guide specifically for employers in the hotel sector to assist with achieving compliance in the sector. 131 inspections found a 27% compliancy level with €165,000 being paid out in underpayments to employees. Again, insufficient records were an issue, underpayment of the statutory minimum rates of pay and not recording the correct gross pay or deductions on payslips. Given the low level of compliancy in this sector, NERA will be carrying out an increased number of inspections in this sector in 2010.

Security During 2007 and 2008, NERA carried out a compliance campaign in the security sector. In 2009, a further 48 inspections were carried out in the sector and a 46% compliance level was recorded. €285,000 was paid out to employees who had been underpaid.

Construction: A compliance rate of 45% was recorded over 395 inspections carried out in the Construction sector in 2009, with €252,000 in unpaid waged recovered for workers.