The Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation has issued a framework document aimed at re-instating the Registered Employment Agreement wage setting mechanisms in lower paid sectors of the workforce.

Last May, the Supreme Court ruled that the REA system was unconstitutional, because it gave too much power to the Labour Court with inadequate oversight by the Oireachtas.

Since then trade unions have voiced concerns that around 200,000 lower paid workers have lost some of the legal protection for their terms and conditions.

A Department spokesperson said today's document is being issued to employers and unions for consultation with a view to bringing proposals to government in the very near future.

The new system would see greater oversight and involvement by the Department and the Oireachtas in the setting of sectoral wage agreements.

Crucially, for the first time, any new agreement must have regard to wages in a similar sector in other competitor EU member states.

Other criteria to be factored in include the potential impact of the recommendation on levels of employment and competitiveness, and national agreements.

It contains mechanisms for employers to seek an exemption from paying the statutory minimum wage rate for up to 24 months under certain circumstances.

It also provides that directors, managers or other officers of a company or organisation who consent or participate in any offence can be prosecuted in a personal capacity.