What Every Employer Needs to Know About WRC Workplace Inspections

Read Time: 3 mins

Written by Michelle McDonagh

What will I learn about WRC Workplace Inspections from this article?

  • Purpose of WRC Workplace Inspections
  • What is a WRC Compliance Notice?
  • What is WRC Fixed Payment Notice?
  • Information on how the WRC Can Share Information on ‘Rogue’ Employers with Certain Bodies
  • How Employers Can Be WRC Inspection/Audit Ready

Purpose of WRC Workplace Inspections

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) operate inspection services (formerly operated by NERA) to monitor employment conditions ensuring the compliance and enforcement of employment rights legislation. They also carry out inspections and gather information in relation to other employment laws. For example, employees or interested parties may ask for an inspection in relation to the protection of young people in employment. In order to promote higher levels of compliance with employment and equality law, employers can be penalised with ‘on the spot fines’ (with the possibility of imprisonment) for breaches of employment law:

What is a WRC Compliance Notice?

Where a WRC inspector is satisfied that an employer has contravened specified sections of employment legislation in the Unfair Dismissals Act; Payment of Wages Act; Maternity Protection Act; Terms of Employment (Information) Act; Organisation of Working Time Act; Carer’s Leave Act; or Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act, they may issue the employer with a Compliance Notice.

The Compliance Notice is essentially a direction from an inspector to an employer to do or refrain from doing certain things. If an employer believes they are compliant with the relevant legislation, they may appeal the Compliance Notice to the Labour Court.  Failure to comply with a Compliance Notice will be an offence and on indictment may result in a fine of up to €50,000 or imprisonment for up to 3 years for the employer concerned.

What is a WRC Fixed Payment Notice?

Where a WRC inspector has reasonable grounds for believing that an employer has committed an offence under the Protection of Employment Act; Payment of Wages Act; or National Minimum Wage Act, they may issue the employer with a fine or “Fixed Payment Notice” which may not exceed €2,000.

This, in some respects, could be viewed as a plea-bargain; if the employer agrees to pay the Fixed Payment Notice within 42 days the WRC will not prosecute the relevant offence.  There is no option to appeal a Fixed Payment Notice. If an employer disputes it, they would simply not pay it and defend the resulting prosecution.

The WRC Can Share Information on ‘Rogue’ Employers with Certain Bodies

The Workplace Relations Act 2015 allows for increased sharing of information on employers who are in breach of employment law between various state agencies. This would allow the WRC to potentially share PPS numbers, ERN numbers and any other relevant information regarding non-compliant employers with the Revenue Commissioners, the Gardaí, the Director of Corporate Enforcement, the Health and Safety Authority, the Pensions Ombudsman and HIQA, among others.

The WRC can also contact any public contracting authority which awards public works contracts and inform that body of a breach by a contractor (or sub-contractor) of any relevant legislative provision. This may exclude certain employers from being considered for certain public tenders or may result in payments under an existing contract with a public body being withheld pending compliance with the relevant law.

How Employers Can Be WRC Inspection/Audit Ready

Employers should ensure they are always audit-ready by keeping their HR records (personnel files, working time and payroll details) in the format advised by the WRC. Once a system is established by a HR specialist, it is much easier for employers to maintain the records themselves for all starters and leavers. This takes the fear out of the fact that 60% of inspections are unannounced.

If you would like to arrange Aspire HR to conduct a proactive HR health check in your business giving you peace of mind, please email us now at michelle@aspirehr.ie

©Aspire HR. This document is intended to be a general guide only.

You can read the WRC’s own Guide to Inspections here.