Wednesday, 29 June 1994
Dáil Éireann Debate
25. Mr. Boylan asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the plans, if any, he has to amend the Unfair Dismissals Act in respect of employers with fewer than 20 workers, and to seek derogations from planned EU Directives governing working conditions.
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. Quinn): The Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-93 are a fundamental part of our labour legislation and any changes in this area need to be carefully assessed and debated. This is precisely what was done in the most recent review of the legislation which was initiated with the publication of a discussion document in 1987. Following extensive consultation, that review culminated with the enactment  of the Unfair Dismissals (Amendment) Act, 1993 which came into operation only last October.
The Deputy will no doubt be aware that the Task Force on Small Business, in its report in March, 1994, recommended that where an employer has fewer than 20 employees, the burden of proof under the unfair dismissals legislation should be neutral as between the employer and employee. The task force also recommended that the qualifying service period for eligibility under that legislation should be two years for employees employed in enterprises with fewer than 20 employees.
The issues of burden of proof and length of service for eligibility under the legislation were debated at length during the recent consideration of the legislation and, on balance, it was decided that the provisions of the 1977 Act in relation to those issues should not be changed.
In regard to the second part of the question, it is not clear which EU Directives the Deputy has in mind. The Task Force on Small Business recommended that the Irish legislation implementing the EU Directive on the organisation of working time should take maximum advantage of the derogations and exemptions permitted therein. It further recommended that, for businesses with fewer than 20 employees, the annual leave provisions of the Directive should not come into effect until the latest possible implementation date, which is November, 1999.
In my reply to Question No. 7 by Deputy McManus on 10 March, 1994 (Official Report, Vol. 440, cols. 639-643) I stated that, in accordance with a commitment given in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work, I intend to consult fully with all interested parties on the implementation of this Directive. I will consider the task force recommendation as part of that consultative process.
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