Enforcement of employment law
Who enforces employment law?
Employment conditions are monitored by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to make sure employers are following employment-rights legislation.
If you are an employer, you must make sure that your employment records are up to date and are available for inspection, as required by law.
See the WRC’s guide to inspections (pdf).
This page is written for employers dealing with WRC inspections.
Inspections by the Workplace Relations Commission
The WRC's Inspection Services are responsible for carrying out inspections in workplaces.
Why is my business being inspected?
Inspections can happen for a number of reasons.
- To investigate a specific complaint
- As part of random or targeted inspections in a particular sector of employment
- As part of routine inspections
How will I know if I am due an inspection?
Usually, you will be told beforehand.
If there is a valid reason why the inspection cannot take place on the proposed date, you must contact the inspector as soon as possible to arrange a different date.
In certain situations, the inspector may also call without advance notice. For example, unannounced out of hours inspections to ensure that young people are not working outside the hours allowed.
If necessary, inspectors may be accompanied by other inspectors or the Gardaí. They can also apply to the District Court for search warrants.
What can inspectors do?
Inspectors have powers under the law.
- Enter premises at reasonable times
- Interview employers and employees
- Take statements
- Examine and take copies of records
- Begin legal proceedings
If an initial inspection of records finds that you have breached employment law, the WRC Inspection Services have several options.
- Issue a letter asking you to correct this
- Refer the matter to legal services for prosecution
- Carry out a further inspection
Inspectors can work in Joint Investigation Units with both Revenue and the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. They can also exchange information with these bodies.
Breaches involving unpaid wages
In a case relating to an employee's unpaid wages, you may receive a letter requesting evidence that you as the employer are complying with the law.
If you do not respond or your response is inadequate, the Inspection Services will make a second inspection.
You will receive a warning that any further or new breaches discovered mean you will be prosecuted.
Where breaches of the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996 are found these are referred for prosecution after a first inspection.
Enforcement and penalties
If the WRC find you in breach of employment legislation, they can:
- Start to prosecute you
- Send you a compliance notice to fix the issue
- Fine you with a fixed payment notice
We explain each below.
The WRC can bring summary prosecutions against employers accused of breaking the law.
If you are convicted of an offence, you must pay the WRC the cost of expenses to investigate, detect and prosecute the offence. This is the case unless the court decide there are valid reasons why you do not have to cover these costs.
This is set out in the Workplace Relations Act 2015.
If an inspector finds that you have breached employment legislation, you can receive a compliance notice. The notice sets out how you should fix the issue. It is an offence not to comply with a compliance notice.
You can appeal to the Labour Court against the compliance notice within 42 days. You may make a further appeal to the Labour Court if you are not satisfied with the actions taken by the Circuit Court.
If you receive a compliance notice or there is any other dispute about it, you can still face other consequesnces on top of the compliance notice:
- Employees can take action against you in relation to any alleged breach of employment law
- You can be prosecuted for an offence under employment laws
Compliance notices may be used in relation to breaches of the legislation listed in Schedule 4 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015.
Fixed payment notices
The WRC can use fixed payment notices for certain offences.
Inspectors can issue fixed payment notices for up to €2,000 where they have reasonable cause to believe that a person has committed a relevant offence. The fine must be paid within 42 days.
These offences are:
- Breaching your obligation as the employer to consult with employees representatives and to provide them with information under the Protection of Employment Act 1977 (collective redundancies)
- Failing to provide a statement of wages and deductions from wages under the Payment of Wages Act 1991
- Failing to provide an employee with a statement of the average hourly rate of pay for a pay reference period under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000
Making a complaint
You can make a complaint about an inspection using the online complaint form on workplacerelations.ie or by contacting the WRC - see 'More Information' below.
The WRC also provides an information service to employers where you can find out more about inspections and compliance – see ‘More information’ below.