Employers still exploit naive staff

UNSCRUPULOUS employers are still flouting the law and exploiting naive workers despite a raft of legislation protecting employees, consumer complaints have revealed.

Some employers are still not issuing wage slips or contracts to staff and are reneging on their duty to provide benefits and entitlements, including sick and holiday pay. When workers in such situations query their terms of employment, many are being sacked on the spot, according to voluntary information bureau, the Citizens Information Centre (CIC).

Queries about employment and work terms at CIC have doubled in the past four to five years, as the numbers working on a contract basis or part-time continues to rise. Staff at the centres said they were stunned by the numbers of employees who don't have access to a wage slip and have not been informed of their holiday entitlements. Many disgruntled employees don't inquire about their rights until after they have left the workplace or have been let go, according to Comhairle, the umbrella group for the CIC .

Of the employment queries received, almost half concerned redundancy rights.

Others related to holiday entitlements, confusion as to how many hours constituted working part time and the inability to secure a contract.

Confusion existed in many instances among both employers and employees. Kilkenny CIC development manager Sarah Drea said centres in the south east had reported a 20% hike in queries for the first six months of this year, rising to 20,808 consultations. The number of queries about unfair dismissals, consumer issues and income tax are also on the rise, she said. Tax individualisation introduced by the former Government has caused major headaches for volunteers providing the free and confidential information service in centres nationwide, she said.

"Many people are being penalised by individualisation, and the concept is not very well supported," Ms Drea said.

"Many people who reared their families over the years didn't have a choice but to give up work. They now feel that they are being penalised by an unfair regime," Ms Drea added.

She also feels that there should be better protection for the self-employed.

Because they pay a lower rate of PRSI, they are entitled to less benefits in the event of sickness or their business going to the wall. They should have the option of paying a full class A stamp. Those who do not have private insurance often find themselves in a pickle if something does go wrong. Employment legislation also has to be improved to ensure that nobody is preyed upon by unscrupulous employers.

Some abuse the fact that they can fire someone if they have not got 12 months' experience and get rid of them if they start to query their benefits or pay.

With more people also losing their jobs, queries about welfare entitlements have hit a new high. Those who have worked all of their life and suddenly find themselves out of work typically have most trouble unravelling the red tape associated with welfare.

Others on low income are also under-claiming and are not aware they are entitled to family income support.

The CIC has found that most long-term unemployed typically know their precise entitlements.

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