Enforcement of employment rights legislation

Introduction

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Inspection Services monitor employment conditions to ensure compliance with and enforcement of employment legislation.

Employers should make sure that they have up-to-date employment records available to be inspected, as required by law. See WRC’s guide to inspections (pdf).

WRC inspections

The WRC's Inspection Services carry out inspections to check and ensure compliance with employment rights legislation.

An inspection can be to investigate a specific complaint, or a team of inspectors can make random or targeted inspections in a particular sector of employment. If necessary, inspectors may be accompanied by other inspectors or the Gardaí. They can apply to the District Court for search warrants.

Inspectors can:

  • Enter premises at reasonable times
  • Interview employers and employees
  • Take statements
  • Examine and take copies of records
  • Initiate legal proceedings

If an initial inspection of records finds that an employer has breached employment law, the Inspection Services can:

  • Issue a letter asking the employer to correct this
  • Refer the matter to legal services for prosecution
  • Carry out a further inspection

Inspectors can work in Joint Investigation Units with the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and the Revenue Commissioners, and can exchange information with these bodies.

Breaches relating to unpaid wages

In the case of unpaid wages due to an employee, a letter is then sent requesting evidence that the employer is complying with the law. If there is no response or an inadequate response to this letter, the Inspection Services will make a second inspection.A warning will be issued to the employer that any further or new breaches discovered will be sent to legal services to prosecute.

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

Where evidence of non-compliance with employment rights legislation is found, the WRC can initiate prosecutions, compliance notices or fixed payment notices against the employer.

Prosecutions

Under the Workplace Relations Act 2015, the WRC has the power to bring summary prosecutions against employers who are alleged to be in breach of the law.

If a person is convicted of an offence, the court will order the person to pay the WRC the costs and expenses they incurred investigating, detecting and prosecuting the offence, unless the court is satisfied that there are special and substantial reasons for not doing this.

Compliance notices

An inspector can serve a compliance notice on an employer if they are satisfied that the employer has broken the relevant legislation. It is an offence for an employer to fail to comply with a compliance notice.

The notice sets out how the issue should be rectified. An employer can appeal to the Labour Court against the compliance notice within 42 days. There is a further appeal from the decision of the Labour Court to the Circuit Court.

The existence of a compliance notice or any dispute about it does not prevent:

  • Employees from taking action in relation to any alleged breach of employment law about them
  • Any prosecution 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 may issue fixed payment notices for amounts 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. The relevant offences are:

  • Breaching the employer’s obligation 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

How to make a complaint

You can make a complaint about an inspection using the online complaint form on workplacerelations.ie or by contacting the WRC - see 'Where to apply' below.

The WRC also provides an information service to employers where you can find out more about inspections and compliance – see ‘Where to apply’ below.

Where to apply

Workplace Relations Commission - Information and Customer Service

O'Brien Road
Carlow
R93 E920

Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 1pm, 2pm to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 0818 80 80 90
Page edited: 2 November 2021