Shannon Chamber HR is a dedicated HR and Employment Law Support Service for members of Shannon Chamber provided in partnership with Adare Human Resource Management, experts in Employment Law, Industrial Relations, Human Resources and Health & Safety at preferential rates.
Following the publication of the Workplace Relations Commission’s Annual Report for 2020 last week, Derek McKay, Managing Director at Adare Human Resource Management highlights some of the key findings and trends.
In total, there were 8,103 complaints received by the WRC in 2020, a decrease of 2.5% on 2019 when 8,309 were received. These encompassed a total of 18,969 individual complaints, again down on 20,939 in 2019. And, while these were down on 2019, they were still higher than any of the other previous years.
Of the complaints received, 4,117 related to pay; 3,894 related to redundancy, a six-fold increase on 2019, and 3,150 were to do with hours of work.
There was a notable decrease in the number of complaints relating to Discrimination/Equality & Equal Statue. Down 27% to 1,331, this was the lowest number of complaints in this category received in any one year since the establishment of the WRC. Complaints about working hours also fell between 2019 and 2020.
In terms of calls to the WRC information line, it dealt with 53,000 in 2020, again slightly down on 2019 when it received 55,000. However, in terms of the types of calls they received, there was an increase in the number of people looking for information on redundancies. While not unexpected given the impact of the health crisis, this trend is likely to continue into 2022.
According to the report, demand for Conciliation declined briefly during the initial stages of the Covid-19 crisis but returned to more normal levels towards the end of 2020. The WRC received just under 690 requests for conciliation services, down from 1,202 last year, that required 735 conciliation conferences.
Pay was the main reason for conciliation, accounting for 39% of requests received, up on last year’s 34%. Industrial Relations issues such as changes to conditions of employment, new technologies, union management agreements productivity, outsourcing accounted for a quarter (25%) of requests and 22% for issues around Organisational Structure such as shift work, staffing, restructuring, rosters, hours of work and change in work practices.
Resolution success rates were still high despite the challenges of remote hearings and continued to be in the high 80% range. Given parties are not in the same room, it can prove difficult to understand the relationships involved and the potential for settlement.
Health & Safety inspections
Just over 7,680 inspections were carried out to ensure compliance with employment law and the Return-to-Work Protocols associated with public health restrictions, of which 5,202 were unannounced. Of these, 1,760 were found to be in breach and 81 were convicted in summary proceedings, down from 125 in 2019. The sectors with the most convictions were fishing, meat processing and agriculture.
Also, as a result of inspections carried out, over €1.6m was recovered in unpaid wages.
As Organisations begin to emerge from the pandemic, we believe there will be more activity in terms of complaints and calls to the WRC. Certainly, the expectation is that as Government financial supports finish up, there will be an increase in the number of redundancies, so we would expect to see that particular trend to continue to increase. And, as remote hearings, as well as the recent ruling by the Supreme Court on hearings having to be in public, we may see more activity on this front as well, providing indications that next year will be a challenging one for the WRC.
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