26th April 2021
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) today published its sixth Annual Report.
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.
Liam Kelly, Director General of the WRC said, “Last year was very challenging for everyone and no less so for the WRC. But in that time the WRC, working with its stakeholders, and using the IT platforms now familiar to everyone, successfully re-shaped its adjudication service to a position where it is now scheduling hearings at a level that is over a third higher than were scheduled before Covid, provided an uninterrupted information service, continued to mediate and conciliate disputes, monitored and enforced compliance with employment standards and assisted in the safe opening of work for staff and public generally.”
Mr. Kelly concluded by saying the difficulties presented are undiminished but thanked the Minister, the Department and the WRC stakeholders for their support over the period.
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.
WRC Inspection Division:
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)
NOTES TO EDITOR
Workplace Relations Commission
The Workplace Relations Commission was established on 1 October 2015.
The main functions of the WRC are to:
- Promote the improvement and maintenance of good workplace relations.
- Promote and encourage compliance with relevant employment, equality and equal status legislation.
- Provide guidance in relation to compliance with Codes of Practice.
- Conduct reviews of, and monitor developments in, workplace relations generally.
- Conduct or commission relevant research and provide advice, information and the findings of research to Joint Labour Committees and Joint Industrial Councils.
- Advise the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment on the application of, and compliance with, relevant legislation.
- Provide information to the public in relation to employment legislation, (other than the Employment Equality Act).
With a wide workforce of just under 200 staff, supplemented by over 40 external adjudicators, and with offices in Dublin, Carlow, Cork, Ennis and Sligo, the WRC’s mission is to deliver high-quality service nationally, free of charge, which is
- speedy, user-friendly, independent, effective, impartial and cost-effective,
- provides variable means of dispute resolution, redress and effective enforcement, and
- improves workplace relations generally
Supreme Court Decision in Zalewski, April 2021:
The Supreme Court issued its judgement in the case on the 6 April 2021. The Department and the WRC are considering the Supreme Court’s judgement and any necessary actions arising from it.
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