Employment rights legislation: inspection and compliance
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) aims to secure compliance with employment rights legislation through inspection and prosecution services. These services were formerly operated by the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). Under the Workplace Relations Act 2015, which came into effect on 1 October 2015, the WRC monitors employment conditions through its Inspection Services to ensure the compliance and enforcement of employment rights legislation.
The WRC's Inspection Services have the power to carry out employment rights compliance inspections in relation to the following legislation:
- Organisation of Working Time Act 1997
- Payment of Wages Act 1991
- Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996
- National Minimum Wage Act 2000
- Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2006
- Redundancy Payments Acts 1967–2014
- Employment Agency Act 1971
- Protection of Employment Act 1977–2007
- Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Acts 1984–2003
- Carer's Leave Act 2001
- Employees (Provision of Information and Consultation) Act 2006
- Employment Permits Acts 2003–2014
Inspectors may enter premises at reasonable times, interview employers and employees, take statements, examine and take copies of records and initiate legal proceedings. If necessary, inspectors may be accompanied by other inspectors or the Gardaí. They may apply to the District Court for search warrants. You can read this employer’s guide to inspections (pdf).
Inspections are either carried out to investigate a specific complaint, or else a team of inspectors may carry out random or targeted inspections in a particular sector of employment. Where an initial inspection of records finds that that there have been breaches of employment law, the Inspection Services may:
- Issue a letter asking the employer to correct this or
- Refer the matter to legal services for prosecution or
- Carry out a further inspection
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 as instructed. If there is no response or an inadequate response to the letter, a second inspection follows together with a warning that any further or new breaches discovered will be sent to legal services to prosecute
An exception to the above procedures occurs where breaches of the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996 are found. These are referred for prosecution after a first inspection.
Inspectors are empowered to work in Joint Investigation Units with the Department of Social Protection and the Revenue Commissioners, and to exchange information with these bodies.
Under the Workplace Relations Act 2015, the WRC has the power under a number of employment laws to bring summary prosecutions against employers who are alleged to be in breach of the law. The Act provides that, where a person is convicted of an offence under it, the court must order that person 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. However, this requirement to pay costs and expenses does not apply to the offence of refusing or failing to pay compensation when ordered to do so by the District Court, when that court is enforcing a decision of an adjudication officer or the Labour Court.
The Act provides for the serving of compliance notices on employers, which is a new procedure. An inspector may serve a compliance notice on an employer if satisfied that a contravention of the relevant legislation has occurred. This notice specifies how that contravention is to be rectified. An employer may appeal against the compliance notice to the Labour Court within 42 days. There is a further appeal from the decision of the Labour Court to the Circuit Court. It is an offence for an employer to fail to comply with a compliance notice.
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 in respect of them. Neither does it prevent 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 Act provides for using fixed payment notices for certain offences, which is also a new procedure. 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:
- Breaches of the obligation on employers to consult representatives of employees and to provide information to them under the Protection of Employment Act 1977 (collective redundancies)
- Failure to provide a statement of wages and deductions from wages under the Payment of Wages Act 1991, or
- Failure 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 apply
If you wish to make a complaint about your employment rights you must use the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie. You can also contact the WRC Information and Customer Service - see 'Where to apply' below.
Where to apply