Are you ready for your NERA inspection?
Caroline McEnery, managing director of The HR Suite, explains how to prepare your business for a NERA inspection
14 April 2015
In the first six months of 2013, NERA dealt with 28,794 queries. One of the main topics the queries dealt with related to the terms and conditions of employment. In the same period NERA made 2,755 workplace inspections, 42% of those inspected were non-compliant and in breach of their employer duties. 29 convictions resulted in fines of €400,000 being imposed.
The National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) was established by the government in February 2007 to ensure employers comply with employment rights legislation and to promote a culture of compliance in Ireland in the areas of employment. NERA completes this through announced and unannounced workplace inspections where it reviews employee files, take copies of documentation and interview management and employees as necessary. Inspections can be initiated for a number of reasons, for example: routine inspection, on foot of a complaint received about non-compliance or as part of a NERA campaign focusing on a specific sector or piece of legislation.
There are over 40 pieces of employment legislation protecting employee rights in the workplace and the onus is on the employer to abide by the obligations set out in this legislation. The following are examples of legal obligations of employers that can result in fines if not complied with:
- All employers are legally entitled to a copy of their contract within two months of commencing employment.
- Are your staff contracts up to date covering all relevant legislation?
- Are the contracts given to new employees within the set timeframe?
- All employees must receive a written notice of the organisations dismissal policy and procedures within 28 days of commencing employment.
- Do you have a comprehensive policy and procedures manual for employees?
- Do you have an acceptance process signed off by your employees?
- Employees must be paid the correct rate of pay including the premium due in relation to Sunday work and overtime.
- Do you have records of this?
- All hours worked by employees must be recorded by employers.
- How are you currently doing this?
- All employees must receive their correct break entitlements.
- Is this being recorded and logged in your business?
- If you have employees under the age of 18 are they receiving the correct rate of pay and breaks?
What a NERA inspector looks at
The best way to prepare for an inspection is to ensure that all employment records are up to date and available for the inspector to look at if necessary. An employer is required by employment law to retain records for a period of three years. A template with a number of questions will accompany the letter notifying an employer of a proposed inspection. It is important to have this ready to go as it will speed up the process.
NERA inspectors may enter your premises at any reasonable time either announced or unannounced. If announced, the inspector will notify the employer in writing prior to the inspection.
Employers are required by law to keep their employment records at the place of employment therefore NERA can demand to see and inspect employee records and take copies if required. Inspectors may also interview and collect information from any relevant person if they so wish.
The inspector will sit down with the employer and carry out an initial interview. The relevant records will then be inspected that will encompass the below.
- Full name, address and PPS number for every employee
- Terms of employment for all employees
- Payroll details
- Copy of payslips
- Employees job classification
- Dates of commencement and where relevant, termination of employment
- Hours of work for each employee – including rest periods
- Register of employees under 18
- Work permits if relevant
- Holidays and public holiday entitlements received by each employee
- Additional records may be required to be held depending on the sector/business involved and the legislation under which the inspection is being conducted e.g. the retail JLC.
Having examined the records the inspector may then interview a sample of employees before concluding the inspection.
If a breach has occurred
Following an inspection, the employer will receive written notice of the outcome of the inspection. If a breach has been identified NERA may:
- Request the employer correct the breach
- Reimburse back pay to employees if required
- Refer employer directly to legal services for prosecution depending on the offence
- Complete another inspection
- Impose fines in association with the breach
Any breaches of legislation identified will be explained and discussed with the employer, and he/she will be given a set time period within which to rectify these and to provide proof to the inspector that the issues have been resolved.
It is important that all employers abide by their obligations set out in employment legislation to ensure not only legal compliance but employee well-being also. The HR Suite can conduct HR audits for employers to ensure legal compliance and will provide a detailed corrective action plan and relevant template documents tailored to specific business needs.
Contact our office for help in preparing for a NERA inspection or making sure your organisation is fully compliant on (066)7102887.