The scheme allows companies to hire unemployed workers, who then receive €50 on top of their social welfare allowance.
The department said that, while the overwhelming majority of the 11,600 companies that have taken part in the programme had abided by the terms and conditions, 35 firms had been disqualified following “detailed investigations”.
A number of key breaches were highlighted as part of these inquiries. Theses included:
* Standard agreement not completed/adhered to;
* Appropriate mentoring/development not being provided;
* Not adhering to compliance requirements;
* Displacement issues;
* Failure to provide a reference to an intern.
In a statement, the department said it had a strong monitoring procedure in place, with more than 4,400 monitoring visits to employers having been completed to date.
“Encouragingly, 98% of these visits were of a satisfactory nature. Remedial action is taken in cases of non-compliance,” said a department statement.
Last week, one of Ireland’s leading car repair companies was forced to defend its decision to hire 28 interns under the JobBridge scheme
Advance Pitstop, which employs 200 people across Ireland, said the interns would “gain practical experience” during a nine-month stint with the company.
The anti-JobBridge campaign group ScamBridge, along with Socialist MEP Paul Murphy, picketed the company’s Cork and Dublin offices, claiming the firm was saving €400,000 by hiring interns. The group called it “gross exploitation”.
Speaking on RTÉ radio yesterday, chairman of JobBridge Martin Murphy said the scheme was working, with more than 15,000 interns moving into the workplace out of 25,000 participants.
He claimed it was “by far the most successful scheme of its kind in Europe” and that evidence of abuse of the scheme was “minimal”.
“One in four placements has actually had a monitoring visit from the department to date and there is a monthly reporting mechanism by both the intern and the employer back to the department and any cases of abuse are investigated.
“As a percentage of the overall number of employers participating, the actual reported level of abuse has been quite minimal.”
The department also stressed that a variety of control measures were in place to protect the intern and to ensure the integrity of the scheme.
“These are designed to try to ensure that the internship does not displace an existing position; that it provides appropriate training and development experience; and that appropriate mentoring and support is provided to the intern,” said a statement from the department.