€3m in unpaid wages recovered by work relations body in 2018

Over €3m in unpaid wages was recovered last year by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The health, nursing and childcare sector accounted for the largest amount in wages recovered, at €824,216, according to the WRC’s 2918 report.

The wholesale and retail sector accounted for some €731,351, followed by food and drink where €472,824 was recouped.

Minister of state for business Pat Breen welcomed the WRC’s success in recovering €3.1m in unpaid wages last year, an increase of 75% on 2017.

As the economy continues to do well, we must ensure that those in work are paid what they are due and the WRC is playing a significant role in the pursuit of this objective,” said Mr Breen.

There were 4,050 days lost to industrial relations disputes involving 1,184 workers last year, the lowest since 2012.

In 2017, there were 50,191 days lost due to disputes involving 9,456 workers.

However, over the year there were 1,062 requests made to the WRC for conciliation talks — a 13% increase on 2017.

There were 1,145 meetings held during the year and an 87% resolution rate was achieved.

Many of the issues dealt with at conciliation last year related to pay (37%) and human resources or industrial relations issues (32%).

One in five of the issues dealt with were about organisational issues such as work practices, resourcing levels, staffing and shift work.

Redundancies accounted for 4% of the issues as did holidays and other forms of leave while 3% were about pension matters.

There were 139 cases referred to the Labour Court for a recommendation because a resolution was not possible at conciliation.

There was a significant increase in the uptake of pre-adjudication mediation last year, with 1,844 interventions taking place.

There were 603 face-to-face mediations, a 206% increase on 2017, and a further 1,241 were dealt with by telephone, a 70% increase on the previous year.

In almost two-thirds of cases (64%) where parties engaged with mediation, the matter was resolved.

The WRC received 15,451 individual complaints last year, a 10% increase on the previous year.

Most of the complaints were about pay (4,311), while 2,156 were about unfair dismissal and 2,138 about discrimination and equality. There were 2,026 complaints regarding hours of work.

While still relatively small in number (31) complaints received under protected disclosure legislation have increased by 140% on 2016.

The WRC found an emerging trend last year was multiple similar complaints. In the case of one employer, this amounted to more than 350 identical complaints.

In most cases following engagement with the parties the matters were redirected to the mediation service where a resolution common to all individuals was achieved without the need for adjudication.

There were 5,312 adjudication hearings held last year, a 22% increase compared to 2017 and an increase of 34% on 2016.

A total of 2,964 decisions were issued last year, a 32% increase on the 2,247 issued in 2017 and an increase of 60% on 2016.

Last year, 5,753 inspections were completed of which 60% were unannounced, a 20% rise on 2017.

Just under 45% of all employers inspected by the WRC were found to be in breach of employment legislation to some degree.

Sectors with breach rates higher than 60% included electrical, fisheries, food and drink, hair and beauty, transport, wholesale and retail with the highest being the equine sector at 84%.

Failure to keep adequate employment records continues to be the most common breach of employment legislation.

The WRC issued 120 compliance notices to employers last year. Most were in relation to annual leave, public holiday entitlement and payment in respect of work carried out on a Sunday. Some were issued under the Payment of Wages Act.

Nine notices were appealed ot the Labour Court. An employer who does not comply with the terms of a notice may be guilty of an offence and 42 employers were prosecuted for this last year.

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