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The Social Welfare Investigation

Department of Social Protection

I suppose it was the day every employer fears, the unexpected arrival mid month, of the officious brown envelope, bearing the insignia of a black harp.

Patrick Ryan, an elderly Tipperary farmer, received such a letter from the Department of Social Protection recently. The letter stated that they suspected he was not paying his employees the Statutory Minimum Wage. The letter further stated that they, the Department, now felt it necessary to send an Inspector to audit Paddy’s affairs and to interview him, personally.

Sure enough, on the appointed day and true to the Department’s promise, a rather stern looking Inspector, complete with heavy black rimmed glasses and matching black leather briefcase, turned up to Paddy’s farmhouse door, apparently oblivious of “Shep,” Paddy’s rather cross and aging sheepdog.

Parking himself on a chair at the kitchen table, he began to interview Paddy. “Tell me Mr Ryan about your present employees, how many staff do have working here on your farm at present? ” he began.

Well now let me think,” said Paddy, “First I suppose there’s the farm hand, I pays him about €240 a week, and he has the free use of a cottage, its the gate lodge near the entrance, as you drove in.

Then of course there’s the housekeeper,” said Paddy, obviously thinking carefully. “Now I believe she gets €190 a week, along with free board and lodgings, here in the main house.

Then of course we mustn’t forget the village idiot, he is a bit of a half-wit. He works about 16 hours a day, seven days a week, and does 90% of the manual labour. He earns around €25 a week, or whatever is spare at the time, along with the occasional bottle of whisky thrown in. Oh, and as a special treat, occasionally he is allowed to sleep with my wife.

That’s really disgraceful,” said the Inspector, “I would like to interview this half-wit immediately.”

No problem,” replied Paddy “Sure it will be me you need to talk to then.

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