WRC Inspections - What Happens?

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 16 February 2023
Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite
Issues covered: WRC Inspections

The Inspection and Enforcement Services of the WRC conduct inspections of employment records to ensure employers are fully compliant with employment law in the State. The process involves, but is not confined to, examining all employee records, along with conducting interviews with both the employer and the employees. 

The WRC Inspectors visit places of employment to carry out these functions. Such visits may be announced or unannounced and their objective is to verify employer compliance with the relevant employment law and if necessary, to enforce compliance with the law. Compliance may include redress for the employees concerned in the form of payment of any unpaid wages arising from breaches detected.

From time to time, in more serious instances, WRC inspections may also take place in tandem with An Garda Síochána and other regulatory bodies such as officers of the Department of Social Protection and the Revenue Commissioners.

Workplace Relations Commission Inspectors are appointed by the Director General, with the consent of the Minister, and they exercise such powers as are conferred upon them by the Workplace Relations Act 2015.

A WRC inspector may contact employers by phone, email or written correspondence and visit the workplace to review all employment records. As outlined above, the process involves interviews and file reviews to verify the accuracy of the records. In general WRC inspectors will work with the employer to achieve compliance during the inspection process.

Generally, the WRC does not outline a reason as to why an inspection is due to take place.  The inspection may take place as a result of a complaint received of alleged breach of relevant employment legislation or it may be a routine inspection.  In limited circumstances, a WRC inspector may inform an employer that a complaint has been lodged where: 

  • there is a repeat inspection within six months of the first inspection due to an additional complaint received by the WRC,


  • an inspection due to a request to enforce a decision or determination of an employment rights body

Throughout 2021, all WRC Inspectors carried out onsite inspections to ensure compliance with the protocols and safe workplace practices. These protocols included The National Return to Work Safely Protocol and the subsequent Work Safely Protocol. These Protocols were published to support employers and employees returning to their traditional workplace.

In total WRC inspectors concluded 4,432 workplace inspections which included some 3,400 covid sites out in tandem to ensure compliance with Covid protocols. Out of the 4,432 cases completed in 2021, 2,722 inspections (61%) were unannounced and 57 joint inspections were carried out with An Garda Síochána and other regulatory bodies of the State. Out of the 4,432 WRC inspections, 1,249 Employers breached employment law obligations and €964,281 unpaid wages were recovered. 

A WRC inspection activity is generally focused on sectors where the risk of non-compliance has been identified, where previous noncompliance was detected, through intelligence or information provided by other bodies or persons (including other State bodies) or in response to complaints received regarding alleged non-compliance by specific employers.

Food Service Activities Sector                                                                                       

The WRC inspection activity has been ongoing in Food Service Activities sector for the past few years. The 763 inspections of 2021, 263 (34%) detected breaches of employment law and recovered €145,609 in outstanding wages. In 2020, 1,536 inspections were carried out and 492 (32%) employees were found to be in breach of employment law.

Wholesale & Retail Trade Sector                                                                                 

Inspection activity is also ongoing within the wholesale & retail trade sector. In 2021, the WRC conducted 2,414 inspections in this sector and the average breach of employees was 599 (25%). There was also €456,856 in outstanding wages. There were 3,942 inspections carried out in in 2020, and 645 (16%) were in breach of employment law.

After the inspection, the inspector will meet with the employer after the documentation has been reviewed and employees have been interviewed.  The inspector will outline to the employer the preliminary findings which he/she has identified. 

A written report will be issued to employers notifying them of any breaches detected in the course of an inspection. In most instances, the breaches are rectified by the employer within an agreed timeframe and the inspection is concluded. Where breaches are not rectified within a reasonable timeframe, an Inspector may issue a Compliance Notice specifying the action to be taken and a specified date for completion of those actions. An employer who does not comply with the obligations under such a notice may be guilty of an offence. An Inspector can also issue a compliance notice, directing an employer to do something or to refrain from doing something for certain other contraventions.

For example, where an employer fails or refuses to provide employees with a written statement of wages and deductions, an Inspector may issue a Fixed Payment Notice. A statutory fine of €1,500 applies. An employer who does not pay the fine may face summary prosecution and may be guilty of an offence. In general, over 97% of inspections conclude without recourse to the courts.

This article is correct at 16/02/2023

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Caroline Reidy
The HR Suite

The main content of this article was provided by Caroline Reidy. Contact telephone number is +353 66 710 2887 / +353 86 775 2064 or email info@thehrsuite.com

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