Introduction

The Workplace Relations Commission ("WRC") recently published its Work Programme for 2019 setting out key goals and programmes for the coming year ranging from advisory to adjudication services. This briefing focuses on workplace inspections.

Inspections

The WRC has set a target of 5,000 inspections (including 2,500 unannounced workplace visits) during 2019. This is in line with 2018 activity levels.

In addition to inspections across all sectors, the inspection and enforcement division will undertake targeted inspections campaigns either on its own or in conjunction with other enforcement agencies in particular sectors including equine, fisheries, nail bars, car washes and professional sectors.

Powers of a WRC Inspector

An inspector is not required to notify an employer prior to entering and inspecting premises which he or she reasonably believes have been used in connection with employment of persons or where he or she reasonably believes relevant records or documents are kept.

There is an important exception in relation to homes/dwellings which requires an inspector to either obtain the occupier's consent or seek a warrant from the District Court prior to entry.

A WRC inspector may be accompanied by members of An Garda Síochána in carrying out an inspection.

When conducting an inspection, an inspector may:

  1. examine, take copies of, or remove for a period of time books and records of the employer;
  2. require any person at the premises to produce books and records or provide assistance for the purposes of carrying out his or her functions;
  3. require an individual whom he or she believes to be an employee or an employer to answer questions; and
  4. examine an individual whom he or she believes to be an employee or an employer under caution, details of which examination may later be given in evidence.

It is a criminal offence to interfere with an inspector exercising his or her powers under the Workplace Relations Act 2015 (the "2015 Act") or where a person fails or refuses to comply with certain of an inspector's requests (such as failure to provide information or to answer questions) or provides false or misleading information.

If found guilty of a summary offence under the 2015 Act, an individual is liable to a Class A fine (€5,000) or imprisonment of up to 6 months or both. Conviction on indictment may result in a fine not exceeding €50,000 or imprisonment for a period of up to 3 years or both.

Where a corporate entity is guilty of an offence, a director, manager, secretary or other officer of that entity shall also be guilty of the same offence where it can be shown that the offence was committed with the individual's consent or connivance.

Publication of Employment Law Guide

The WRC intends to publish a comprehensive employment law guide which it hopes will increase compliance with employment law and be of particular assistance to SMEs and Start Up employers who may not have a formal HR function within their organisation. The WRC intends to use this guide as a spring board to publish more targeted guides for particular sectors of the economy, stakeholders and influencers of workplace relations.