Tuesday, 17 May 2005
Seanad Eireann Debate
This amendment would prevent individual managers and supervisors being given the responsibilities of an employer, which would be extremely onerous and problematic both in implementation and in encouraging positive safety behaviour.
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Killeen): Amendment No. 1 in the name of Senator O’Toole had considerable merit and while I might not have accepted it as it was, I would like to have considered a variation on it.
On amendment No. 2, as Senator Cummins has pointed out, the definition as it stands is particularly wide and open to sweeping interpretation. For example, it is possible that a site manager on a construction site could be included because he or she controls or directs the work. We need to ensure that managers do not escape their responsibility and liability. However, a provision in section 80 addresses that particular concern. I thank Senators Coghlan and Cummins for drawing attention to the deficiency in the Bill and in the circumstances, I will accept the amendment.
This is a straightforward technical amendment to ensure that the cover is extended as intended by the Act and in its spirit. It accords completely with what I believe and what the Minister of State said. It is the kind of change that strengthens what is already contained in the Bill and it is completely in line with the Minister of State’s comments.
Mr. Killeen: Senator O’Toole is correct. The Bill was published while the health boards were still in operation, but on 1 January 2005 they were replaced by the Health Service Executive. The amendment proposed by the Senator makes the correct reference relative to the current situation. I therefore accept it.
Mr. O’Toole: I cannot speak on amendment No. 1, which I inadvertently missed moving, but I give notice that it is my intention to reintroduce it on Report Stage. I apologise for having wasted the time of the House but we must return to the issue I have raised, which concerns dealing with the collapse or partial collapse of a building. I intend to raise it again on Report Stage.
Mr. McDowell: There was some debate on this section in the other House, particularly on Committee Stage. The section provides for the gradual repeal of pre-1989 legislation and regulations. The Minister said in the other House on Committee Stage that a review was under way in his Department regarding the various pre-1989 provisions. The 1989 Act allows for the repeal of those provisions and this Bill, when enacted, will also provide for the repeal of previous enactments and regulations. Since it is now some time since the issue was debated in the Dáil, perhaps the Minister of State might update us on how things stand regarding that review.
Mr. Killeen: Senator McDowell is perfectly correct. There are several enactments, some going back not only to the last century but to the previous one, which ought to have been repealed as a result of the 1989 Act. Some work has been under way in the Department, but it has not been possible to complete it. That will now be done in the context of the new legislation rather than the 1989 Act. Considerable progress has been made, but a fair amount will be dealt with by regulation, and until the regulations have been agreed on foot of this Bill, it will not be possible to repeal all the enactments mentioned in section 4.
Mr. McDowell: A debate on this section took place in the other House which there is little point in rehearsing. I am unclear regarding the exact scope of section 6(2)(d), which states that the provisions of the Bill do not relate to members of the Defence Forces engaged in training directly associated with any of the activities specified in the previous three subsections. On the face of it, that could be construed to exclude most if not all training in which the Defence Forces are engaged. That would remove from the Act’s scope the issues that gave rise to the Army deafness cases of a few years ago. Section 6(2), paragraphs (a), (b) and (c), refer to states of emergency, active service abroad and so on. Perhaps, however, the Minister might clarify the position regarding day-to-day or routine training carried out in this country, something in which the Defence Forces regularly engage. Is it covered by legislation?
Mr. Killeen: I assure Senator McDowell that the example of Army deafness that he gave is covered under the legislation as it stands. The very narrow focus of this exclusion is activities that occur in the course of operational duties and that could not reasonably be covered. It was not specifically raised in the other House, despite a very long debate on the matter, but I assure the Senator that the provisions in this new legislation will cover such cases as Army deafness.
Mr. McDowell: I thank the Minister of State for the clarification. My concern related to training. The other provisions are specific, but the training provision appears to be broad in scope, meaning that it could be used as a means of excluding a great deal of day-to-day Army activity or training. I accept the clarification.
The rationale behind this amendment is to address the point that an employer’s obligation to ensure, where he or she takes on the employees of another business, that each employee receives all the information set out in section 9(1) is unworkable. It is often the case that employers using employees from another company, for example, for maintenance work or other such services, might not know which or how many people are coming to work at any given time. It would be far more straightforward to oblige employers to ensure that the actual employer of those workers were made aware of all the safety information. There would then be an obligation on that actual employer to pass on the information to his or her employees in the usual way, as if the workers were working for their own and not another employer.
Mr. Killeen: Senators Coghlan and Cummins are correct in this regard. As the legislation stands, it would appear that the obligation was on the employer to give information to employees of another employer, which could clearly be difficult in practice and would remove the obligation from the second employer, diminishing the health and safety requirements on him or her. I am therefore able to accept this amendment.
Mr. McDowell: Perhaps the Minister of State might clarify what that means, taking Senator Cummins’s example of a subcontractor on a site. Who is responsible for ensuring that the information is provided to the employee? Is it the subcontractor or the main contractor?
Mr. Killeen: There are obligations on both. The obligation on the main contractor is to give the information to the subcontractor, but the employee in question in this instance would be an employee of the subcontractor. In that circumstance, the obligation to give him or her the information lies with the latter, who is the direct employer. As the Bill stood, the middle person, the subcontractor, would have had no obligations regarding health and safety; the obligation would have been directly from the main contractor to all those working on the site. Under Senator Coghlan’s amendment, the obligation is on the main contractor to pass information on health and safety requirements to the subcontractor, who in turn is obliged to ensure that his own employees on the site have the relevant information. That strikes me as considerably more workable. It also ensures that the subcontractor, as the direct employer, has the obligation towards his own employees.
Mr. McDowell: I thank the Minister of State. While this is dealt with in another section, perhaps, regarding the amendment, he might spell out how it would affect the employees or those employed by recruitment agencies. Is the agency responsible for passing on the information to the individual subcontractor? Does the agency for whom the person is working have the primary responsibility?
Mr. Killeen: The primary obligation regarding health and safety requirements is on the main contractor. Assuming that the staff were taken on by the main contractor rather than a sub-contractor, that contractor has a clear obligation to pass on the health and safety requirements to the agency that employs the staff. If we accept this amendment, the onus would be on the employer to ensure, either directly or through the intermediary, that the information was passed on to the employee.
Mr. McDowell: If, for example, an agency brings farm workers into this country to work on a specific farm or co-op, it is the farmer who is primarily responsible for their health and safety and not the agency.
Government amendment No. 5:
Mr. Killeen: This amendment involves the deletion of section 17 and its replacement with a new section which is very similar. It arises from the directive on mobile sites which contains requirements that are better met with the new wording. It is also a result of HSA advice following consultation with its clients and the professional bodies. It will also have an impact on the new construction regulations which are to be updated.
Section 17(1) refers to someone who commissions or procures a project. Section 17(2) refers to someone who designs a project and section 17(3) refers to someone who carries out construction work. Each of these groups has particular obligations under this section on health and safety.
Mr. O’Toole: I support this amendment. It improves the section as it makes it clearer.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 17 deleted.
Section 18 agreed to.
Acting Chairman: Amendments Nos. 6 and 9 are related and may be discussed together.
Mr. Cummins: I move amendment No. 6:
and, following the review, the employer shall amend the risk assessment as appropriate.”.
The current text of the Bill obliges an employer to review the risk assessment annually, regardless of whether there had been any changes or not. This could be an unnecessary burden for employers with low risk workplaces. There is also a danger that employers running higher risk workplaces will focus on the annual requirement and neglect their obligation to be vigilant and to keep the situation under constant review. It is preferable, therefore, to tie the requirement for the review to actual changes in the workplace and not to some arbitrary period of time. Where there are alterations to the environment, the employer will need to review more regularly, even if the last review took place recently.
With regard to amendment No. 9, the content of the safety statement is based on the identification of hazards and the assessment of risk. If it is accepted that the review of the risk assessment would be required every time there is a significant change, rather than when a period of time is elapsed, then it follows that the safety statement should also be reviewed in line with the changes. This amendment would delete the requirement for annual review regardless of whether there had been changes.
Mr. O’Toole: I am taken by the argument put forward in support of the amendment, but I am not convinced it makes things better. I was going to put this amendment forward on three occasions, but I held back each time. I am not sure if the amendment strengthens or weakens the situation. Using Senator Cummins’s line of logic, it is clearly important. However, I like the regularity of an annual review come what may, which is currently required under legislation. That is probably why I did not put the amendment forward. However, I accept that there are times during the course of a year where a risk assessment has to be carried out. I just do not want to lose the baby with the bath water. Most people would want to have a risk assessment carried out each year.
Mr. McDowell: I am inclined to agree with Senator O’Toole. In ideal circumstances, there would be no need for a statutory provision for a risk assessment. As circumstances changed and a risk was created in the workplace, people would take account of it and make suitable provision. The purpose of legislation like this is to flash an amber light on a regular basis. There is merit in doing it on an annual basis as a result.
Ms White: The assessment should be done on an annual basis. It is very easy for accidents to happen. Under pressure in business, people can overlook their obligations. Giving it a statutory basis is the thing to do.
Mr. Killeen: The Bill places considerable emphasis on prevention. The risk assessment statement and the safety statement are very important tools. I am taken by the point made by Senator Cummins on the annual review. There is some evidence to suggest that people hang their hats on that provision and feel it is the only requirement of them. There are workplaces where far more frequent reviews are required. On the other hand, it is fair to say that there are workplaces where the level of risk does not change much and the annual requirement for risk assessment contributes to an additional cost burden.
I quite like the amendment, but there are number of areas where I would change the wording. I will come back with an amendment on Report Stage which goes along with the principle proposed by Senator Cummins.
Mr. Cummins: I accept what the Minister of State said. The amendment really deals with the principle of an annual review, especially in companies where items do not change from one year to another. I look forward to the Government amendment on Report Stage.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 19 agreed to.
Acting Chairman: Amendments Nos. 7 and 8 are related and may be discussed together.
Government amendment No. 7:
Mr. Killeen: Amendment No. 7 is a technical amendment which is consequential on amendment No. 8. The latter arises from a debate in the Dáil and serves to clarify that employers must bring the safety statement to the attention of new employees upon commencement of employment. The existing provision only required an employer to bring the safety statement to the attention of employees once annually. These amendments mean employers will be required to bring it to the attention of new employees when they start work. There are circumstances in which people could be in employment for 11 months, for example, before the annual review would arise. These amendments ensure the risk assessment and safety statement is brought to the attention of all new employees.
Mr. O’Toole: I support these amendments. This is a provision one would assume was already in place. It is amazing none of us identified this omission previously. Accidents often take place involving workers employed on a temporary basis and who have not been made aware of the risks associated with the working environment. These amendments ensure newly recruited employees will be made aware of all such issues upon commencement of employment. This is probably the single most important provision in the Bill in terms of the implementation and application of health and safety measures because it ensures people commencing employment will be informed of the dangers of the workplace and the safety regulations that must be implemented.
Mr. Cummins: I join with Senator O’Toole in supporting these amendments. This is an important provision which might well have been overlooked.
Mr. Moylan: These amendments represent the most worthwhile provision in the Bill and I join with the previous speakers in welcoming them. The onus is now on the employer to ensure new employees are informed of safety regulations. I compliment the Minister of State on this provision.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 8:
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 9 not moved.
Section 20, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 21 to 25, inclusive, agreed to.
Mr. Cummins: I move amendment No. 10:
It seems unduly onerous that employers should be required to consult both with the safety representatives and all employees on all matters set out in this section. In some circumstances it will be appropriate to deal with the safety representatives only while in other cases it might be more fitting to consult with the entire workforce. Where there are alterations to the working environment, employers are obliged to have a safety review even if the last review took place only recently.
Mr. Killeen: As Senator Cummins says, this amendment will remove the obligation on employers to consult with both their employees and the safety representatives in every circumstance. I welcome the inclusion of the phrase “as appropriate” because there are circumstances in which it is entirely appropriate that an employer should consult with both. However, it has been pointed out to me that there are circumstances where it may not be possible to consult with both, particularly in construction situations, for example, where there are a number of sites and the safety representative is only present at one. This requirement was not only onerous but could not reasonably be met in particular situations. In this context, I accept the Senator’s amendment.
Mr. Cummins: I thank the Minister of State.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 26, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 27 and 28 agreed to.
Government amendment No. 11:
Mr. Killeen: This is a technical amendment which requires the replacement of a euro sign with a pound sign. The monetary sum is a direct quote from the Redundancy Payments Act 1967 and should be corrected to indicate a pound sign rather than a euro sign.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 29, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 30 to 57, inclusive, agreed to.
Mr. Killeen: This amendment was drafted following legal advice. Section 58 provides that the Minister must allow at least 21 days for consultation before he or she signs any new regulations into law. However, there may well be a period before the regulations are ready in any event. This amendment will ensure existing regulations under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 remain in force until regulations under this Bill have been prepared. There was some doubt whether this would be the case.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 58, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 59 to 61, inclusive, agreed to.
Acting Chairman: Amendments Nos. 13 and 14 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
Mr. Killeen: This is a technical amendment. There are circumstances in which the powers and functions of the Health and Safety Authority may be transferred to another person or body, for example, the Railway Procurement Agency in regard to railway accidents. This provision will enable such a transfer to take place. Amendment No. 14 is also a technical amendment to clarify that an inspector appointed under section 33 of the 1989 Act continues and is deemed to be so appointed under the new legislation.
Mr. Leyden: Will the Minister of State elaborate further in regard to the delegation or transfer of responsibilities? He used the example of the railways. Will the amendment allow for the delegation of responsibility to other organisations or will the airport authority have responsibility, for example, for rail and bus services?
Mr. Killeen: It is a matter for the authority to decide. If this amendment is agreed, the Health and Safety Authority will, in specific cases where confusion might exist as to the responsible statutory body, be permitted to take decisions to enable the involvement of other persons and agencies.
Amendment agreed to.
Government amendment No. 14:
Amendment agreed to.
Section 62, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 63 to 65, inclusive, agreed to.
Acting Chairman (Mr. Kitt): Amendments Nos. 15 and 16 are related and may be discussed together by agreement.
Mr. O’Toole: I move amendment No. 15:
I tabled these amendments after learning of the reservations of a number of people. I have discussed my worries with the Minister of State’s advisers and understand the Government’s different perspective on this matter. Under subsection (6), which reads “where a person on whom an improvement notice has been served”, an employer receives notice of a problem which must be remedied and is given a deadline by which to do so. The employer or workplace owner must then confirm in writing to the inspector that certain actions were taken and improvements made. The inspector, upon being satisfied that the problem has been ameliorated, must within one month give written notice of compliance to the original complainant. There would be no objections to these straightforward steps.
It was brought to my attention that in some situations complex issues may arise. Examples include the chemical industry, which is of increasing significance to Ireland. Highly qualified people may be required to find solutions to such issues. An inspector might not have the qualification necessary to confirm that remedies have been put in place. The remedies may be found wanting, in terms of qualification, under the rigours of a court challenge.
The wording of my amendment is intended to confirm to the original complainant that the inspector was informed by the employer or owner of the workplace that remedies have been put in place. I agree with the suggestion from the Minister of State’s advisers that this might be a dilution of the original proposals contained in the Bill. I am not enthusiastic about a dilution but am worried that inspectors who feel inappropriately qualified for a certain task may hesitate or refuse to confirm that measures have been taken. Support structures might be put in place so that inspectors may make use of independent experts to confirm adequate remedies have been made. The legislation as it stands does not mention this matter. Under the current wording, the inspector, “on being satisfied that the matters have been so remedied,” appears to have discretion.
If the Minister of State is contemplating that support from outside experts be available for inspectors, he did not mention this exists in the legislation as it stands. I am concerned about situations where an inspector lacks the qualifications or expertise to confirm a problem has been rectified. I am not committed to these amendments but wish to raise an issue which concerns the Bill’s supporters.
Mr. Leyden: I commend Senator O’Toole on raising this issue, which appears to require that a significant number of letters be written. There will be no evidence for the receipt of such communications. If letters are to be written, they should be registered in order to guarantee their receipt. It might be claimed that a letter has been sent but not received. New communications technologies, such as e-mail, should be recognised because they are traceable. The Minister of State might consider this in order to avoid the writing of an excessive number of letters. He is trying to ensure this Bill is watertight. Senator O’Toole’s suggestions are helpful and might be included on Report Stage.
Mr. McDowell: I do not have a view, good, bad or indifferent, on Senator O’Toole’s amendments. However, he touches on the important issue of the level of expertise available to the HSA. This is particularly relevant in the context of the chemicals industry, which is becoming significant in this country. A few years ago, I took part as a member of Dublin City Council in the consideration of an application for a fuel pipeline from the port to Dublin Airport. It quickly became clear that the local authority did not have the expertise to assess whether safety requirements would be met. It was difficult to find experts in this country who could make such an assessment. As it was proposed that the pipeline would run under houses, people were concerned to ensure the requirements were met. I have heard nothing further on this issue and presume no action was taken. My question is whether the expertise to deal with important and sensitive cases involving dangerous industries will be available to inspectors within the HSA.
Mr. Killeen: I will start with the last point made by Senator McDowell. When provision is made for the registration, evaluation and authorisation of chemicals directive, the REACH directive, it is intended additional people with qualifications and expertise in this area will be employed. Where individual inspectors or the entire inspectorate do not have expertise in a particular case, it is the practice that consultants are employed to deliver that expertise. That is the practice currently and when the REACH directive is taken on board, additional specialised staff will be employed to deal with the requirements thereunder.
On the point made by Deputy Leyden, the word “written” in the Bill covers letter, fax, e-mail and any of the other means he mentioned. I assure Senator O’Toole that if an inspector needs access to additional expertise from other inspectors, from within the Health and Safety Authority or externally from consultant, it will be available.
Like Senators and Deputies, I have heard the concerns of employers that there could be long delays before matters, which have been put right, are acknowledged by an inspector. That is the reason for the provision of one month. A month seems to be a reasonable period. In some of the complex cases mentioned by Senators McDowell and O’Toole, particularly in the chemical industry, the ameliorating provisions put in place by the employer would really have to be looked at in some detail by the inspector and the Health and Safety Authority.
Senator O’Toole’s two main concerns were that an inspector would feel he or she had full support in delivering his or her determination and that the employer, the chemical factory or otherwise, would not be out of commission for an unnecessarily long period. There is, however, a provision for one month. Senator O’Toole and other Senators raised a number of interesting points. I will consider them before Report Stage but my advice is that they are fully dealt with in the section as it stands. I am satisfied the points raised by Senators are adequately dealt with.
Mr. O’Toole: I appreciate the Minister of State’s response. He has made clear that in the event of an inspector feeling he or she did not have access to expertise, he or she would be entitled to acquire it. The point Senator McDowell made is important in that sometimes this expertise will not be available within the State and I ask the Minister of State to consider that issue.
When I tabled this amendment I tried to get some background on what happens on site in these situations and I spoke to a well qualified young man in the chemical industry. He explained the structure in his workplace from which I thought something could be learned. He said there are different levels of sign-off depending on one’s level of qualification, which goes back to my original point. In other words, a person with a certain level of qualification or degree is entitled to state something has been done correctly, for example, the making of a medicine or tablets. A person with a higher level of qualification is required to sign off on the product and to state that from start to finish, it has complied with the strictest safety regulations and, therefore, the company is a position to sign off on it.
I asked how it worked from his point of view. He gave an example of where he had to make a decision. I was stunned by it because he was quite a young man and it took a lot of guts and confidence to make such a decision. He had to pull the rug from under what would be the equivalent of a week’s supply of drugs to Ireland because a particular fail-safe was not working in the safety system. He could not be sure it was right and did not know if it was wrong. As he could not be sure it was right, he had to make a decision and state the product could not go out. The whole thing had to be dumped and an entire clean-out of the system was required.
He pointed out that people like me should recognise that when he signs off on something, he is not working for his employer but for his profession and that his reputation stands or falls on his ability to get things right. There are areas where when people sign off on something, they are putting their reputation on the line. There are times when the inspector could depend on that. The chemical industry is an easy example to prove my point and perhaps there are not too many places where one could do that. When people have a professional qualification that requires them to do things on which their professional reputation hinges, a somewhat different approach could be taken.
I will withdraw my amendment on the basis of the Minister of State listening to these arguments and in the hope he will make a judgment on whether an amendment should be tabled on Report Stage to tie in some of these issues — in other words to recognise that the inspector can seek further advice or depend on the advice within the industry. I will go with the Minister of State’s judgment on that.
Mr. Killeen: In response to Senator McDowell, I forgot to mention expertise from outside the country can be sought. This has happened in at least one situation of which I know. It seems considerably less complex than the chemical industry example about which Senator O’Toole spoke but it is the practice to seek outside expertise. The inspector is legally indemnified, although that is not quite the point Senator O’Toole made. He made the point about the professional standing of the inspector and the need for support. I will consider the arguments made before Report Stage and if I believe an amendment is warranted, I will table one.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 66 agreed to.
Amendment No. 16 not moved.
Sections 67 to 77, inclusive, agreed to.
Mr. Killeen: This is a technical amendment to realign paragraphs (1) and (2) and to clarify that they apply to paragraphs (a), (b) and (c) and not only to (c) as might be the impression created as they stand.
Amendment agreed to.
Section 78, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 79 to 89, inclusive, agreed to.
Schedule 1 agreed to.
Government amendment No. 18:
|“ 2004||European Communities (Classification, Packaging and Labelling of Dangerous Preparations) Regulations 2004 (S.I. No. 62 of 2004)|
|European Communities (Transportable Pressure Equipment) Regulations 2004 (S.I. No. 374 of 2004)|
|European Communities (Dangerous Substances and Preparations) (Marketing and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2004 (S.I. No. 852 of 2004).|
Mr. Killeen: This is also a technical amendment to insert a reference to the European Communities (Dangerous Substances and Preparations) (Marketing and Use) (Amendment) Regulations 2004. These regulations were made late in 2004 and reference to them could not be included in the Bill because it had already been published.
Mr. O’Toole: I must be missing something. I have no problem with what is being added, but we are removing things like the reference to the Dangerous Substances Acts 1972 to 1979, the safety Acts 1955 to 1980 as well as inserting the others. Why are these references being removed? Are they not still extant? We are removing lines 12 to 15, which include references to the Safety in Industry Acts, the Safety, Health and Welfare (Offshore Installations) Acts 1987 and 1995 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989, and we are inserting the European regulations. Why are we removing the references that are already present? I understand why we are inserting the new ones, but I do not fully understand the reason we are removing those Acts which appear to be relevant. Possibly, they have been overtaken by events in consolidated legislation.
Mr. Killeen: The correct procedure in this case is that the existing references under this section of Schedule 2 must be removed and replaced by the new ones. If one looks carefully, two of them are very similar, if not exactly the same. Three regulations are replacing two. The last one, SI 852 of 2004 had not been enacted before the Bill was published. It is just a procedural matter.
Mr. O’Toole: I will take the Minister of State’s word for it.
Mr. Leyden: I thank the Minister of State and his staff for alerting the House to this particular situation regarding the new European directives. However, a provision could be included in the Bill so it would also comply with all European directives. So much comes out of the European institutions that it is difficult to ensure that Bills remain relevant all the time. I do not know if the Minister of State can do anything about this. It makes it more difficult for people to comply with Bills when there are also regulations.
Mr. O’Toole: The constitutional treaty should be passed.
Mr. Leyden: We must do so. We might have a constitutional issue. In any event, this Bill was in circulation for some time, these new regulations were introduced and they have now been included in the Bill itself, which I commend. However, other ones may arrive in the next weeks and it is difficult to keep the Bill up to date. That is my point.
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.
Schedules 3 and 4 agreed to.
Government amendment No. 19:
Mr. Killeen: This is also a technical amendment to ensure consistency throughout the Schedule. It involves substituting the word “Authority” for the word “Board”.
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule 5, as amended, agreed to.
Schedules 6 and 7 agreed to.
Question proposed: “That the Title be the Title to the Bill.”
Ms Cox: I apologise to the Minister of State, as it was my intention to speak during the Second Stage debate and on Committee Stage today. Unfortunately, I was delayed coming to the House. I wanted to make some specific comments with general application that the Minister of State might consider before Report Stage. It might be valuable to introduce some amendments to deal with the issues. I know there were debates in both the Dáil and the Seanad regarding the particular status and treatment of temporary agency workers. I run a recruitment agency and have a particular knowledge of how agency workers work and how the temporary work agency business operates. I welcome the inclusion of this issue in the legislation as well as the protection given to those working on temporary assignments.
I also thank the Minister of State and his Department for having listened to the various positions put forward by the National Recruitment Federation pertaining to this issue. However, I have a concern. It is in the nature of the temporary worker business that a call might come at 8.30 a.m. from a client organisation which needs someone to start work on site and in situ at 9 a.m. The assignment may only be for one hour to three hours to cover an immediate requirement. I am not referring to longer assignments of one or two weeks or three or four days but to the particular case of a very short-term assignment lasting from an hour up to one full day.
The documentation requirements appear to be too onerous as far as the transactions between both the employer and the agency and the agency and the temporary employee are concerned. Perhaps we need to examine this issue to ensure we do not enact something that will be ignored, although I do not know how to frame it. If the legislation is ignored in the extremely short-term cases of one hour up to one day, it will also be ignored in the greater scheme of things, which would defeat the purpose of this important legislation which contains important protections for this sort of worker.
Perhaps the Minister of State will take cognisance of this issue. Previously, the House has discussed how legislation that we perceived to be protecting agency workers was put in place and it actually worked against agency workers because the protection level was too great for someone to bother with it, particularly when it came to women, pregnancy and similar matters. Such workers might actually feel discriminated against by virtue of the protection we are trying to enact.
I ask the Minister of State to consider the issue and I apologise again for not raising it during the Second Stage debate and for not being here for the debate on the relevant section on Committee Stage. Quite often, an agency might fill four or five bookings of this kind of short-term, immediate requirements in one day. This needs some sort of consideration.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Acting Chairman: When is it proposed to take Report Stage?
Mr. Leyden: Next Tuesday, 24 May, subject to availability. I thank the Minister of State and his officials for guiding this Bill through the House. It shows the Minister of State’s confidence and knowledge of this particular Bill that he was prepared to listen to amendments from all sides of the House and to amend the Bill accordingly. In the circumstances, I thank him for bringing the Bill this far and wish him well on Report Stage.
Mr. Cummins: I will wait before thanking the Minister of State for the Bill, but I thank him for accepting quite a number of the amendments which were put forward. The Members appreciate it.
Mr. Killeen: I thank the Senators for their co-operation. I have accepted some amendments and will consider others. The Senators suggested next Tuesday, 24 May for the Report Stage. My understanding is that 31 May might be a more suitable date as I will be out of the country next Tuesday, 24 May.
Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 24 May 2005.
Sitting suspended at 4.30 p.m. and resumed at 5 p.m.
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