Workplace Inspections: The Role of the WRC

by Eva McDonnell, Founder/ Director of PerspectiveHR

Employers often ask me for guidance around their responsibilities towards their employees. What to put in a contract, holiday and leave entitlements etc. I am also frequently asked similar questions by (sometimes disgruntled) employees and furthermore, asked how and what happens when an Employer is in breach of legislation.

The Workplace Relation Commission’s Inspection Services (formerly known as NERA: National Employment Rights Agency) are responsible for the monitoring of Employment rights in Ireland. They do this through their powers of inspection of all workplaces across Ireland. The WRC received over 13,000 specific complaints and carried out 5221 workplace inspections from October 2015 to September 2016.

Workplace inspections are carried out randomly, or on foot of a complaint submitted to the Commission. Inspectors will enter the workplace at reasonable times and while they will normally notify the employer of their visit in advance, the reason for the inspection is not normally disclosed. Depending on the nature of the inspection, they will interview employers and employees, take statements, examine, and take copies of records and in some scenarios, initiate legal proceedings. If necessary, inspectors may be accompanied by other inspectors or the Gardaí.

The WRC’s Inspection Services have the power to carry out employment rights compliance inspections in relation to several key pieces of legislation such as The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, The Payment of Wages Act 1991, Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2006 and The Protection of Employment Act 1977-2007.

Where a breach of employment law has occurred, there are several methods of enforcement available to the Inspectors under the Workplace Relations Act 2015. The WRC has the power to bring summary prosecutions against employers alleged to be in breach of an employment law. The WRC can also serve a compliance notice on an employer specifying how the legislation has been contravened and how it can be rectified. Fixed payment notices can also be issued, normally in respect of a payment of wages issue.

Failure to comply with such notices can result in legal sanctions being invoked against Employers. Several factors are considered at this stage; the nature of the breach, the level of co-operation received; the employer’s previous history of compliance and whether they have rectified the compliance.

Obviously, the inspector’s requirements will depend on the nature of their investigation, but as a minimum, an Employer should have the following in respect of its employees:

  • Employers Registered Number communicated to Revenue
  • Name, address, and PPS number of all employees
  • Dates of commencement and termination (where relevant) of all employees
  • Written terms of employment for all employees
  • Employee status and classification (job title, full-time, or part-time etc.)
  • A record of all annual leave and public holidays taken
  • A record of hours worked, including start and finish times
  • Payroll details, including hourly rate, overtime, commission, bonuses as well as evidence that payslips are issued to employees.
  • Employment permits or evidence that they are not required for Non-EEA nationals.
  • A register of any employees under 18 years of age
  • Details of any board or lodgings provided

So how likely is it that a company would be inspected? Quite simply, it is hard to say. As stated, the WRC received 13,000 complaints last year, which is quite a significant number. However, inspections aren’t possible in every case and nor should they be as many of those complaints will be unfounded or unwarranted. Employers should be aware of their responsibilities, though, particularly in terms of salary and holiday pay, and not use ignorance on either party’s side as an excuse.

About the author
PerspectiveHR is led by Eva McDonnell, BA (HRM), LLB, CIPD. Eva has significant experience working across all aspects of Human Resources, including Recruitment and Selection, Performance Management, Employee Engagement and Communication, and Organisational Development and Design. She can be contacted on 0876471907 or at eva@perspectivehr.ie

Categories: Legal

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