Review of the Application of the Unemployment Benefit & Assistance Schemes Conditions to Workers Who Are Not Employed on a Full-Time Basis

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1.1 Background to the Expenditure Review Programme

In 1996, the coordinating Group of Secretaries, established under the Strategic Management Initiative ( SMI), identifed in "Delivering Better Government"

"A need for a systematic analysis of what is actually being achieved by the €15.24 billion in Government resources spent annually"

and recommended that

"Agreements between the Department of Finance and individual Departments on delegated authority for programme expenditures (should) provide a schedule of reviews of expenditure to be carried out during the currency of the agreements, with the aim of ensuring that each programme of expenditure is subject to a thorough review at least once every three years"

The Government accepted this recommendation and approved a programme of reviews with the twin aims of providing:

1.      A systematic analysis of what is actually being achieved by expenditure in each spending programme and

2.      A basis on which more informed decisions could be made on priorities within and between expenditure programmes

1.2 Structure of the Review Programme

In the Department of Social & Family Affairs ( DSFA) the reviews are undertaken by Working Groups chaired at Principal level and made up of officers from the policy and executive sections, other Departments and agencies, as appropriate, and the Depoartment of Finance ( D/Fin).

These Working Groups report to a joint D/Fin-DSFA Steering Group that oversees the programme of reviews. This Steering Group is chaired by the Secretary-General and is composed of appropriate officers at Assistant Secretary, Principal and Assistant Principal levels from both this Department and the Department of Finance.

At the central level , a Steering Committee has been established to oversee the Civil Service wide series of reviews. The Working Group to review the application of the Unemployment Benefit ( UB) and Unemployment Assistance ( UA) schemes conditions to workers who are not employed on a full-time basis was established and held its first meeting on 23rd July 2003. The Group met on 18 occasions and submitted its report to the Steering Group on 23rd January 2006.

1.3 Background to this Review

Since 1997 the Quarterly National Household Survey ( QNHS) have shown both a continuing increase in the number of people opting to work solely on a part-time basis and a significant decrease in the number of people in involuntary part-time employment. In addition, a changing labour market has resulted in a move away from the more traditional work patterns, with a consequent increase in the number of atypical workers. In recognition of these changes, legislation* has been introduced to ensure that part-time workers are not discriminated against in relation to the terms and conditions of employment.

While the provisions of this legislation do not impavt directly on the unemployment schemes, it is accepted that there is a need to develop the UB code to take account of the changing nature of the labour market. As a response to that need, a Departmental Working Group on Atypical Employemnt was established in 2000 to examine issues involved. In its report, the Working Group made a number of recommendations in relation to atypical workers.**

1.4 Purpose and Scope of this Review

The purpose of this review is to examine and report of the UB/UA schemes conditions to workers who are not employed on a full-time basis i.e. part-time, casual and systematic short-time workers (to be reffered to as atypical workers for the purposes of this review). An atypical worker is intended to mean any person who is not considered to be a full-time worker in the context of the legislation governing entitlement to UB/UA, including people who work substantially shorter hours than the norm for that occupation, but whose pattern of work excludes then for UB/UA.

The scope of the review is limited to those aspects where overlaps occur between the UA and UB i.e. the "day of unemployment" and Sunday working in the context of the unempolyment week. It is not the intention to include means testing in the review although it is recognised that the assessment f earningd for UA purposes may require a study at some future date.

1.5 Terms Of Reference

a.      Identify the objectives of the unemployment payment schemes in relation to atypical workers in the context of the present labour market with particular reference to the nature and extent of current atypical employemnt activity;

b.      Consider the extent to whivh these objectives remain valid and compatible with the mission and current strategy of the Department;

c.      Establish the level and trend of contribution by atypical workers to the SIF in the context of the UB scheme;

d.      Establish the level and trend of resources i.e. the cost and staffing resources associated with the unemployment payment schemes activity relevant to atypical workers;

e.      Define the outputs associated with atypical worker scheme activity and identify the level and trend of those outputs;

f.       Comment on how efficiently and effectively the unemployment payment schemes have achieved their objectives in relation to atypical workers, over the short and long-term having regard to:
(I) The extent to which the application of the UB scheme conditions is providing appropriate protection to atypical workers,
(II) The extent to which the unemployment payment schemes respond adequately to the needs of atypical workers with particular regard to the "day of unemployment" and the Availability/Genuinely seeking work conditions as they apply to both UA and UB, and
(III) The extentr to which the current arrangements applicable to atypical workers address possible disincentive effects.

g.      Evaluate the degree to which the objectives warrant the allocation of public resources on a current and ongoing basis having regard yo equitable treatment versus value for money;

h.      Examine the scope for alternative policy and/or organisational approaches to achieving the objectives in relation to atypical workers on a more efficient and effective basis, having due regard to the recommendations of the Working Group Report and the implications for the Live Register; and

i.        Specify suitable indicators, if any, which can be used to monitor and evaluate the schemes in relation to atypical workers in the future.

1.6 Methodology and Consultation Process

In order to identify and examine the objectives of the UB scheme conditions in relation to atypical workers and to assess its future applocation the following methods were utilised:

An historical analysis of the scheme was carried out, based on Departmental files, Dáil debates and Parliamentary Questions (PQs). These sources describe the initial objectives and their developments over time. The major changes were charted and the original objectives were examined.

Submissions were invited from a number of organisations, and replies received from the Central Statistics Office (CSO), Pavee Point, the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed (INOU) and ICTU. The views expressed by these groups are set out in Appendic 12(b).

Statistical sources from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) inckluding the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) were used to add a quantitive element to the review and to highlight changes over time.

A review of relevant literature was undertaken as part of the process. Details of the publications reviewed and a summary of the specific issues related to atypical employment, which were raised in it, are included in Appendix 16.

A survey by Lansdowne Market Research of employers and employees (See Appendix 1).

An examination was carried out of the UA/UB Schemes available in other countries-(see paragraph 5.3.1 & Appendix 10 for details).

*Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001


Last modified:24/11/2008

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