The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) 2022 annual report shows a 30% increase in demand for mediated settlements.
The WRC's conciliation service settled 88% of disputes before it, mostly away from public view, involving companies such as Aer Lingus, Bus Éireann, Ryanair, Bausch and Lomb, and the public service, leading to the extension of the Building Momentum agreement.
In 2022, the WRC website had 5,544 referrals from Twitter – up 93% from 2021 (2,875 referrals).
A further 3,474 referrals were referred to the WRC website from LinkedIn – an increase of 78% from 2021 (1,947 referrals).
The body recovered €1.4 million in unpaid wages, and made 5,820 inspection visits, many pre-Christmas and in relation to the distribution of tips and gratuities.
These inspection visits detected over 5,700 specific contraventions of legislation.
Of the 12,780 specific complaints received:
- 3,363 (26%) related to pay,
- 1,851 (14%) related to discrimination, equality and equal status – up 16% on 2021,
- 1,518 (12%) related to unfair dismissal – down 10% on 2021,
- Terms and conditions of employment accounted for 1,222 (10%) up 26% on 2021.
A total of 4,253 hearings were heard by the adjudication service in 2022 – a 28% increase on the 3,320 held in 2021.
The contribution of Director General Liam Kelly, who retired in March 2023, was acknowledged by Neale Richmond (Minister of State for Employment Affairs and Retail Business), who welcomed the report.
The adjudication division continues to receive groups of complaints (multiples) where the same respondent has been cited.
Of the 6,263 complaint applications received last year, almost one-fifth (1,163) related to multiples, and they account for 45% of current live complaints.
Higher courts test cases
The WRC often identifies key test cases, with many before the higher courts in terms of appeals and/or points of law, and awaiting progression.
A manual multiple-complaint form creates a significant amount of administrative work, and the WRC encourages the use of the electronic online complaint form.
Following the judgment of the Supreme Court in Zalewski, hearings are taking longer, given the requirement for the affirmation of evidence on oath, cross-examination, and adjournments.
Almost 2,000 (1,968) decisions or recommendations issued in 2022 – an increase of 419 (27%) on 2021.
While equal status referrals were down 12%, there were sizable increases based on membership of the Traveller community (+146%) with 150 referrals, and 56% more referrals based on race. A total of 157 referrals under disability represented a 57% decrease on 2021.
Chair Dr David Begg said: “The WRC is in the relationship business. Specifically, we try to resolve problems in a way that preserves positive relationships between employers and employees in the workplace.
“That is why restoring face-to-face engagement in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic was a critical imperative achieved in 2022.”
The WRC’s information line dealt with almost 60,000 calls in 2022 – an increase on 2019’s 55,000 calls.
The WRC broadened its service model to deliver mediation by default and in-person in unfair-dismissal complaints. It also began a six-month pilot 'late-request' mediation service.
A regional office was opened in Cork city, in addition to offices in Carlow, Cork, Dublin, Ennis and Sligo.
A new case-management system for conciliation services was developed and rolled out.
The WRC’s budget for 2022 totalled €15,696,000, with 213 permanent employees.