Presumption of employment and new Statutory Code of Practice central to decent work blueprint
Unite, which represents workers in all sectors, today (Sunday) published a set of proposals designed to tackle the scourge of bogus self-employment as well as other precarious working practices. The proposals have been submitted to the Oireachtas Committee on Social Protection in response to their draft recommendations. The union has identified six key measures which, it said, would address bogus self-employment and other precarious work practices, including those involved in the so-called platform economy. The measures relate to:
- Establishing a ‘presumption of employment’: an employment relationship should be presumed to exist unless it can be proven otherwise. This means that the burden of proof in the event of a disputed relationship must be on the employer, rather than on the worker.
- A new Statutory Code of Practice is needed which will, of necessity, enshrine important legal principles and tests already set out in Court Judgments but which are currently not being uniformly applied. This would also reflect new forms of bogus self-employment such as ‘platform work’
- Establishment of a dedicated and appropriately resourced unit within the Workplace Relations Commission to carry out in-house investigation, on-site inspection and adjudication functions relating to employment status.
- Development of standard definitions of the terms ‘employee’ and ‘worker’, to be incorporated into all relevant legislation
- Introduction of best-practice ‘anti-blacklisting’ legislation.
- Extension of the limitation periods applicable to breaches of employment law to six years, putting them on the same footing as the limitation periods applicable to other areas of contract law.
Unite’s full proposals are available for download here.
Commenting on the proposals, Unite Senior Officer Brendan Ogle said:
”Bogus Self Employment is a fraud on workers, their families and the state. Hundreds of millions of Euro are lost to the state annually while it continues. It is unconscionable that this situation is allowed to persist because of poor regulation and enforcement and it must be fully addressed as a priority. Assessments must be taken out of dark rooms and exposed to public scrutiny with the correct legal principles and tests applied”.
Regional Officer Tom Fitzgerald added:
“Bogus self-employment, and other forms of precarious working, imposes unacceptable costs on workers, decent employers and on the Exchequer. In addition, the non-payment of employer’s PRSI, resulting in a loss to the social insurance fund as well as reducing a worker’s social insurance entitlements – effectively externalises a portion of non-compliant employers’ business costs to both individual workers and society as a whole.
“As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, addressing bogus self-employment and precarious employment, and ensuring that all workers have full access to employment rights and social insurance protections, is crucial to ensuring a sustainable recovery”, Mr Fitzgerald concluded.