We have seen a marked increase in the number of workplace inspections by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) during recent months. Many of the recent inspections have been commenced to assess employers’ compliance with their immigration obligations, but in many cases, their scope has been expanded to ascertain employers’ overall compliance with employment law in general.

Where breaches of employment law are found during the course of an inspection, a WRC Inspector may, depending on the section of legislation involved, issue a Compliance Notice or a Fixed Payment Notice to the employer. In certain cases, the employer may be prosecuted for employment law breaches or for failing to engage in the inspection process.

About WRC Inspections

WRC inspections can take place for a number of reasons. These include:

response to complaints of alleged non-compliance with employment law WRC campaign to focus on a specific sector, or a specific piece of legislation a routine random inspection

In general, an employer will get advance notice of an inspection. However, this is not always the case and a WRC Inspector may call unannounced.

WRC Inspectors have broad powers, including:

  • to enter an employer’s premises
  • to inspect and take copies of any books, documents, or records
  • to retain books, documents or records for as long as the WRC Inspector reasonably requires to carry out his or her function
  • to interview individuals, including employees

WRC inspections will generally involve a series of interviews between the WRC Inspector and the employer and the employer’s employees. The WRC Inspector will also examine certain employment records, including working time records, payroll records, employment contracts and immigration records, to assess whether the employer is compliant with its employment law obligations.

Possible outcomes

Where breaches of legislation are found, a WRC Inspector may, depending on the section of legislation involved:

  1. Issue a contravention report - This is typically the first step where breaches of legislation are found. It gives employers an opportunity to rectify any issues before more serious action is taken. The Report will set out the grounds of the breach, the steps the employer must take to ensure compliance and the time period within which such steps must be taken.
  2. Issue a compliance notice - A Compliance Notice will set out the grounds of the breach, the steps the employer must take to ensure compliance and the time period within which such steps must be taken. If the employer does not rectify the issues, the WRC may initiate prosecution proceedings against the employer.
  3. Issue a fixed payment notice - The employer may be issued with a Fixed Payment Notice of up to €2,000. If the Fixed Payment Notice is not paid within the required time period then the matter can be progressed to the District Court by the WRC.
  4. Prosecution - In certain cases, the WRC may also initiate prosecution proceedings against employers under the Workplace Relations Act 2015. Reasons for issuing proceedings include if the employer fails to cooperate in the inspection process, or if the employer refuses to comply with the law. Where an employer is convicted of an offence, the court will order the employer to pay the WRC the costs and expenses incurred by it in relation to the investigation, detection and prosecution of the offence, unless the court is satisfied that there are special and substantial reasons for not doing this.
  5. Involve third party organisations - In certain cases, the WRC may notify the Department of Social Protection, the Revenue Commissioners or An Garda Síochána of their findings.

Being prepared for an inspection

Employers should carry out checks on all of their employment documents and records to ensure that they are up to date and compliant with relevant legislation. Employers must also take appropriate steps to rectify any issues which may arise during these checks.