The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) published its sixth Annual Report today.
In welcoming the report, Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English TD, said:
“The WRC faced challenges during 2020 that were unprecedented owing to the impact of COVID-19. However, it acted quickly to adapt its services and continue offering fairness and good work practices for employers and employees across the country.”.
Minister English highlighted the success of the WRC in recovering €1.7m. in unpaid wages for employees over the year and concluded by saying:
“The WRC will continue to play a pivotal role in assisting employees and employers in Ireland as we move towards a jobs-led economic recovery post pandemic.”
Dr David Begg, Chairperson of the Board of the WRC commented:
“The year’s positive outcomes reflect very much the ambition of the Board to maintain dispute resolution, adjudication, advisory, and inspection services to a world class standard even in the most challenging circumstances.”
The report outlines the response of the WRC in continuing to deliver its services whilst observing public health guidelines and travel restrictions.
WRC Information and Customer Services Unit:
Operating remotely, the WRC’s information line dealt with 53,000 calls in 2020. This is broadly consistent with 2019 when, pre-pandemic, the WRC dealt with 55,000 calls.
In 2020, the WRC Inspectorate recovered €1.7 million in unpaid wages for employees and carried out 7,687 inspections over the period. In addition to carrying out its primary function in relation to employment rights, the WRC Inspectorate assisted the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) in relation to monitoring the Return to Work Safely (RTWS) Protocol.
Public Offices and Health and Safety for staff and service users:
The WRC also had to quickly develop a Return to Work Safely guide and to fit-out and re-configure its public offices in a manner consistent with government and Health Service guidelines, to ensure the health and welfare of all staff and service users.
Adjudication, Mediation and Conciliation Services:
Perhaps most challenging, in terms of service delivery for the WRC was the work of the adjudication, mediation and conciliation services, which due to the pandemic, had to move to online platforms during the year. Very early in the pandemic, the Adjudication service carried out an extensive consultation process with stakeholders as to how a remote approach could be delivered securely and consistent with fair procedures and constitutional justice, and following this consultation, rolled out incrementally a new service delivery model, which comprised a mix of written procedures, virtual and face-to-face hearings. Similarly, conciliation and mediation were provided, primarily remotely over a variety of platforms, but also in-person as circumstances allowed.
The Report also states that:
- a new Mid-West regional office was opened in Ennis, Co. Clare, and work on the Southern region office in Cork City progressed, albeit impacted by COVID-19
- a new case management system for Mediation Services was developed and rolled out
- a new case management system for the Conciliation Service was advanced and it will be rolled out in 2021
New structures and policies were embedded within the Legal Division in relation to knowledge management, quality assurance and strategic planning. The Workplace Relations Commission Annual Report 2020 is available at Annual Report 2020.pdf (workplacerelations.ie) and as Gaeilge at Tuarascail Bhliantuil 2020.pdf (workplacerelations.ie)