Workplace Relations Commission Annual Report 2022September 2023
On 9 May 2023, the Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”) published its eighth annual report (the “Report”). The Report outlines the challenges faced by the WRC in 2022 and the ways in which the WRC preserved good working relationships and restored face-to-face engagement post Covid-19.
Information, Inspection and Enforcement
The WRC Information and Customer Service Unit handled up to 60,000 enquiries regarding employment, equality, or labour relations. This represents an 11% increase from the WRC’s call volume of 55,000 in 2021. Over 4 million people visited the WRC website, a 23% increase from 2021.
According to the Report, over 3,900 inspection cases were resolved in 2022. The WRC Inspectorate conducted almost 6,000 employment rights inspection visits, finding more than 5,700 specific contraventions of legislation.
In 2022, the Adjudication Division received a total of 6,263 complaint applications, which comprised of 12,790 individual complaints, an increase of 4.5% from 2021. It is worth noting that almost a fifth of these complaints related to multiples complaints (groups of complaints where the same respondent has been cited).
Of the 12,790 specific complaints received:
- 3,363 related to pay.
- 1,851 related to discrimination, equality and equal status (an increase of 16% from 2021).
- 1,518 related to unfair dismissal (a decrease of 10% from 2021).
- 1,222 related to terms and conditions of employment (an increase of 26% from 2021).
Since Covid-19, the WRC held both in-person and remote hearings, with an average of 70% being in-person hearings and 30% conducted remotely. 4,253 adjudication hearings were held in total in 2022, a 28% increase from the 3,320 hearings held the previous year. Hearings scheduled or offered to parties increased by 22% compared with 2021.
Following the decision in Zalewski , hearings are being held for longer than anticipated given the requirement for the affirmation of evidence on oath, cross-examination and adjournments. This affects the number of hearings that can be concluded or resolved on any particular hearing day, in terms of the adjudication officers’ availability.
In 2022, 1,968 decisions and recommendations were issued, an increase of 419 (27%) compared with 2021.
The WRC was notified of 310 decisions issued by the Labour Court in 2022 relating to appeals of WRC Adjudication Officers’ decisions and/or recommendations. Osarahh f these, some 166 were upheld, 70 were amended or varied, 68 were overturned while the remainder failed to be considered. These outcomes are broadly in line with previous years.
The WRC believes that face-to-face communication is the most effective and efficient method of resolving disputes between parties involved. As a result, the WRC’s Conciliation Service received 555 requests for conciliation in 2022 which required some 744 conciliation conferences to be held. A resolution rate of 88% was achieved, most of which were resolved out of the public eye, but some resolutions were obtained in the public domain. The WRC’s settlement proposals were accepted by the parties in organisations such as Ryanair, Aer Lingus, Bus Eireann, Bausch and Lomb, Zenith Oil, Themo King, and school secretaries. Separately, with regards to the pay terms and extension of the “Building Momentum” public service agreement, the Conciliation Division was effective in facilitating crucial discussions between the Government and the Public Service trade unions.
A total of 61 cases were referred to the Labour Court for a recommendation under Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1990 where a resolution was not possible at conciliation.
Overall, in 2022 there was a 31% increase in parties willing to engage in mediation.
The WRC expanded the scope of its service model by delivering mediation of unfair dismissal complaints on an in-person basis by default of agreement between the parties. In circumstances where face-to-face mediation may be provided, the Mediation Service review identified a potential rise in both participation rates and settlement rates in instances involving unfair dismissal accusations.
The Commission launched a six-month pilot project in September 2022 offering a “late request” mediation service. In practice, this means that if mediation is unsuccessful the adjudication hearing will proceed as scheduled. This avoids further delaying the process while minimising the time and resource effect on the Commission associated with delaying and rescheduling a new hearing date. It also offers a prompt service to both parties. Early in 2023, a review of the operation and outcomes of the new Late Request Mediation pilot was to be carried out. According to preliminary data, 25% of the cases in which “late request” mediation was requested were settled before the adjudication hearing.
Overall in 2022, the Legal Division represented the WRC in 14 High Court matters, three Circuit Court challenges and other matters throughout the year. The WRC was successful in the majority of judicial reviews.
The Legal Division assisted the WRC in preparing for a number of new legal rights that will take effect in the future, such as those under the Payment of Wages (Tips and Gratuities) Act 2022, the Gender Pay Gap Information Regulations 2022, the Sick Leave Act 2022, the Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Act 2022, the European Union (Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions) Regulations 2022, the Maritime Area Planning Act 2021, and new Employment Regulation Orders in relation to childcare and early years sectors. The Legal Division also advised on the legislation implementing the EU Work-Life Balance Directive 2019/1158, the ability to request remote working, new employment permits legislation, and the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022 which prohibits recording of remote hearings.
In relation to the Protected Disclosures Acts 2014-2022 the Legal Division led a cross team working group to devise new policies and procedures to ensure readiness for the amended Act, and compliance with the heightened obligations on public bodies from 1 January 2023.
In February 2022, Mr Justice Simons delivered a decision in Burke awarding costs in favour of the WRC to reflect the extent of its participation in the litigation following the dismissal of the underlying judicial review in November 2021, in which the WRC policy post-Zalewski’s decision was upheld as lawful.
The Report highlights a 30% increase in demand for mediated settlements in WRC disputes and a significant increase of successfully resolved face-to-face mediations. This reflects the rise in popularity of mediation and the willingness to engage in mediation in Ireland.
Furthermore, the Report demonstrates that the WRC is getting back to normality post Covid-19 with the majority of cases being heard in-person rather than remote hearings which was the norm pre March 2020.
 Zalewski v. Adjudication Officer and WRC, Ireland and the Attorney General  IESC 24
 Ammi Burke v. An Adjudication Officer, Workplace Relations Commission and Ors.  IEHC 45
 Ibid.Download PDF