The Labour Inspectorate at the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment is responsible for enforcing much of the employment legislation in Ireland. It also has responsibility for enforcing certain Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements. It has a role in record inspection and information gathering for other parties within the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.
These inspectors are empowered to enter premises at reasonable times, interview employers and employees, take statements, examine and take copies of records and initiate legal proceedings. Their activities are generally carried out on the basis of complaint investigation or a mix of planned and targeted sectoral and random inspections.
The Equality Tribunal investigates or mediates complaints of discrimination in employment, training and access to employment. The tribunal has jurisdiction in all areas covered by the Equality Legislation with the exception of discriminatory dismissals (Labour Court).
The Tribunal may also investigate complaints of discrimination on the grounds of gender under the pensions Act 1990, where an employer has failed to comply with the principles of equal treatment in relation to occupational benefit or pension schemes. It operates in accordance with the principles of natural justice with core values of impartiality and professionalism.
Investigations are conducted by Trained Equality Officers who have extensive powers to enter premises and obtain information relevant to their investigation. They will then consider submissions from both parties before arranging a joint hearing or hearings in order to reach a final decision in the matter. Final decisions are binding and are published. Where a complaint of discrimination is upheld, redress must be awarded.
Trained Tribunal Equality Mediation Officers can assist disputants to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. Mediated agreements are binding and are kept confidential.
As part of the National Social Partnership Towards 2016 a new statutory Employment Rights Office, the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) was established in February 2007. The number of Inspectors in the Labour Inspectorate has been trebled and it will be working on improving Employment Rights compliance with the Department of Community and Family Affairs and the Revenue Commissioners in joint Investigation Units.
Employment Rights cases will be heard in the first instance by a Rights Commissioner and that decision may then be appealed to either the Employment Appeals Tribunal or to the Labour Court. The NERA has been established on an interim basis pending the introduction of new Employment Rights Compliance Legislation.
For further information visit www.employmentrights.ie
Employers should take note that as result of substantial increases in enforcement resources it is likely that many more organisations will face prosecutions for breaches of Employment Legislation. The responsibility is on Employers to ensure there are proper policies and procedures in place to ensure they comply with all aspects of Employment Legislation.