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ROI Newsletter – December 2021


Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) annual report January-December 2020

The WRC annual report was published on 20 December 2021.

In the period a total of 1,401 cases encompassing 3,059 complaints were the subject of published decisions.

Whilst the WRC received a total of 8,103 cases in 2020, not all of these reached the adjudication stage due to various reasons including settlement, withdrawal, mediation etc.

The WRC report focuses on the 1,401 cases that were the subject of published decisions.

Key findings in the report:

Awards Made:

  • A total of €5,152,152.37 was awarded by the WRC in 2020
  • The average award was €5,117.42
  • There were approximately 181 successful complaints where a non-monetary award was made — in other words, a “Course of Action” was directed or recommended.

Complaint Breakdown:

  • Most complaints were made under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1977, with 577 complaints
  • This was followed by 454 complaints under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977
  • There were 354 disputes under the Industrial Relations Act 1969.

Party Representation:

  • 1,305 parties (47%) had third party representation
  • 1,255 parties (45%) were self-represented
    • 716 (57%) Complainants
    • 539 (43%) Respondents

2021 – a review

Code of Practice on Workplace Bullying

Effective from 23 December 2020, throughout the course of 2021 employers have been required to manage bullying complaints in accordance with the provisions of the Code.

The Code provides for a three-stage process of resolution:

  • The initial informal stage at which the aim is to resolve the allegation of bullying informally by agreement between the individuals through an informal discussion with the appropriate manager;
  • The secondary informal stage that can be invoked if the initial informal process is unsuccessful or unsuitable in light of the nature of the complaint. At the second stage the employer nominates a separate individual to deal with the complaint on behalf of the organisation. An investigation is carried out (still in an informal manner) and examples of bullying behaviour are put to the alleged bully who has the opportunity to respond;
  • The formal process that includes 2 steps – a formal complaint and a formal investigation.  Any investigation should be conducted in line with terms of reference, which establishes the scope, timeframe and confidentiality of the investigation. 

Whilst the Code undoubtedly reinforces the message that employers must take bullying complaints seriously, in practice the introduction of a secondary informal stage has led many employers to form the view the process is now overly complex.

The Code of Practice on the Right to Disconnect

April 2021

The Right to Disconnect refers to an employee’s right to be able to disengage from work and refrain from engaging in work-related electronic communications, such as emails, telephone calls or other messages, outside normal working hours.

The Right to Disconnect has three main elements:

  1.  i)  the right of an employee to not routinely perform work outside normal working hours;
  2.  ii)  the right to not be penalised for refusing to attend to work matters outside of normal working hours; and

iii)  the duty to respect another person’s right to disconnect (e.g. by not routinely emailing or calling outside normal working hours).

While failure by an employer to follow the Code is not an offence in itself, the Code is now admissible in evidence in proceedings before a Court, the Labour Court or the WRC. In practice most complaints are likely to be made under the Organisation of Working Time Act, for example, alleging a breach of the 48 hour work week, or in more serious cases as a constructive dismissal claim.

The Gender Pay Gap Information Act 2021

July 2021

The Act requires public and private sector organisations (initially those with 250+ employees, but extending over time to organisations with 50+ employees) to analyse, explain and publish certain information on pay differences between male and female employees and information on any measures taken (or proposed to be taken) to eliminate or reduce such differences.

In October we reported that the enabling Regulations were anticipated imminently, however it now appears these will not be in place until some point next year.

Sick Leave Bill 2021

November 2021

As we reported last month, the Irish government is introducing a limited entitlement to statutory sick pay for employees. The new law is not now expected to take effect before Summer 2022 due to the level of operational detail yet to be addressed.

New Covid-19 measures

The following new COVID-19 measures were announced on 16 November 2021:

  • Everyone should work from home unless it is necessary for them to attend their workplace. The guidance prior to this was to have a phased and cautious return for “specific business requirements”. This changed with effect from midnight 18 November 2021
  • Household close contacts who are fully vaccinated and showing no symptoms must restrict their movements until they have 3 negative antigen test results within 5 days
  • All on-licenced premises will close at midnight, with all customers having to vacate at that time no matter what type of event is taking place
  • Covid-19 passes, based on vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 are required for cinemas and theatres.

New Construction Industry Sectoral Employment Order

On 17 November 2021 a sectoral employment order regarding the construction industry was made – the Sectoral Employment Order (Construction Sector) 2021.

The Order will come into operation on 1 February 2022. The Order amends Sectoral Employment Order (Construction Sector) 2019.

The Order schedules new minimum pay rates for workers in the construction sector. It also amends rates for pension and sick pay schemes.

The new rates will apply in the sector from 1 February 2022 to 31 January 2023.