Question to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr. Richard Bruton, TD)

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the policy of his Department relating to the release of notifications of proposed redundancies under section 12(1) of the Protection of Employment Act 1977, as amended; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will consider amending section 12(3) of the Protection of Employment Act 1977, as amended, in order that copies of notifications of proposed redundancies will be sent directly to the employees affected, in addition to the employees’ representatives, as is currently provided for; and if he will make a statement on the matter. – Jerry Buttimer

For WRITTEN ANSWER on 23, June, 2015.

REPLY

The Protection of Employment Act 1977 implements Council Directive 75/129/EEC on the approximation of the law of Member States relating to collective redundancies.

The purpose of Part II of the Protection of Employment Act 1977 is to facilitate consultation and notification between employers and employees in instances of proposed collective redundancies. It serves a very important purpose in terms of ensuring good industrial relations within a company. It requires an employer who proposes to create collective redundancies to initiate consultations with employees’ representatives in advance of those redundancies “with a view to reaching an agreement”. The Act defines “employees’ representatives” as a trade union, staff association or excepted body with which it has been the practice of the employer to conduct collective bargaining negotiations. In the absence of a trade union, staff association or excepted body, “employees’ representatives” are defined as “a person or persons chosen (under an arrangement put in place by the employer) by such employees from amongst their number to represent them in negotiations with the employer”.

Section 12(1) of the Act imposes an obligation on employers to notify the Minister in writing of any proposals to create collective redundancies at the earliest opportunity, and, in any event, at least 30 days prior to the first dismissal. Subsection (3) of section 12 provides that a copy of that notification must be supplied to the employees’ representatives affected who may forward to the Minister any observations they have relating to the notification. The importance of this provision, which serves a key role in ensuring consultation and notification in instances of proposed collective redundancies, is underlined by the fact that an employer who fails to comply with this provision is liable, on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding €5,000.

The Act expressly sets out who is entitled to receive a copy of a notification sent to the Minister pursuant to Part II of the Act. It ensures that all parties directly affected by the proposed redundancies are made aware of what is contained in the notification to the Minister, and are given an opportunity to make observations on it, by providing that a copy has to be sent to the employees’ representatives affected (Section 12(3)).

It is in the public interest on a range of fronts that employers engage fully in the consultation and notification process set out in Part II of the 1977 Act as amended. Firstly, such engagement plays an important role in facilitating industrial peace, which is in the interests of the wider community. The purpose of the consultations includes the possibility of avoiding the proposed redundancies, reducing the number of employees affected by them, or by mitigating their consequences by recourse to accompanying social measures (Section 9(2)(a)). Furthermore, they serve to identify the basis on which it will be decided which particular employees will be made redundant (Section 9(2)(b)). Accordingly, I have no plans to amend Section 12 of the 1977 Act.

The policy of my Department in relation to the release of notifications of proposed redundancies under Section 12(1) of the Act is not to release such notifications except in compliance with the law, including Freedom of Information legislation.