The Workplace Relations Commission’s annual report for 2020 highlights pay as one of the big issues raised by employees throughout the pandemic.
Businesses were faced with unprecedented challenges in the past year and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has been privy to many of them. It published its annual report for 2020 today (26 April), highlighting pay as the top subject for conciliations and complaints.
Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English, TD, said the WRC “acted quickly to adapt its services” during the pandemic and successfully recovered €1.7m in unpaid wages for employees in 2020.
The WRC dealt with 53,000 calls to its information line throughout the year, a slight decrease on the 55,000 calls it reported in 2019. There was an increase in the number of people looking for information on redundancies during this period.
It carried out more than 7,500 inspections to ensure compliance with employment law and helped the Health and Safety Authority monitor the Return to Work Safely protocol. According to the WRC, it found 1,760 employers were in breach of employment law last year and 81 were convicted in summary proceedings, down from 125 in 2019. The sectors with the most convictions were fishing, meat processing and agriculture.
The highest number of conciliations were linked to pay (39pc), with 22pc related to organisation structure, such as shift work, staffing and hours of work. A further 25pc were based on industrial relations issues, including new technologies, productivity and outsourcing. Others had to do with redundancy (5pc), pension (2pc) types of leave (3pc) and benefits, such as sick pay, expenses and bonuses (4pc).
Pay was also the subject of the highest number of complaints made to the WRC last year (4,117), followed by redundancy (3,894) and hours of work (3,150). Redundancy complaints saw a six-fold increase from 2019.
Complaints relating to discrimination, equality and equal status dropped by 27pc from 2019. The WRC said that the number – 1,331 – was the lowest it had seen in any one year since the commission launched. Complaints about working hours also fell between 2019 and 2020.
“Last year was very challenging for everyone and no less so for the WRC,” said Liam Kelly, director general of the WRC. “But in that time the WRC, working with its stakeholders and using the IT platforms now familiar to everyone, successfully reshaped 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.
“[The WRC] 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.”
Updated, 1.15pm, 26 April 2021: A previous headline on this piece stated that 39pc of WRC complaints last year were about pay. This was changed to clarify that 39pc of conciliations were related to pay. Around 22pc of complaints made to the WRC last year were about pay.