Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment
Workplace Relations Commission
143. To ask the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the supports that have been provided to enable the Workplace Relations Commission to function at the optimum level during the Covid-19 pandemic given the importance of its work and the cases that it is dealing with; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [43817/20]
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is an independent statutory office under the aegis of my Department. The WRC plays a vital role in Irish society in delivering fair and compliant workplaces and the non-discriminatory delivery of services. The services of the WRC are key in maintaining industrial relations stability, mediating and adjudicating in individual disputes, raising awareness of and improving industrial and employment relations generally, promoting, monitoring and enforcing compliance with employment standards and providing recourse for people who feel they have been discriminated against in the delivery of services or employment.
The support of my Department has been central in the development of the WRC since its establishment and in responding to the challenges posed by Covid-19 during 2020. The WRC, like so many other private and public sector organisations, has been required to prioritise its resources and to pivot its various service delivery models to deal with what are unprecedented circumstances. The WRC Information Service quickly and successfully transitioned to providing its telephone service remotely. To end of November, it has dealt with some 51,000 such calls, on a par with 2019, while WRC activity in the area of collective disputes has remained active throughout the pandemic. The WRC Inspectorate has carried out 6,875 site visits which combined Covid-19 and employments rights monitoring with €1,588,000 unpaid wages recovered.
Following a consultation process with its stakeholders, the WRC published a framework of service delivery for the resolution of individual complaints during the period of Covid-19 by way of Mediation, Written Procedure and virtual hearings. In this regard my Department has furnished the WRC with ICT licences to facilitate remote hearings and has also designated the WRC, through SI 359 of 2020, as a designated body to conduct remote hearings in accordance with section 31, Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020.
The commitment and dedication demonstrated by the staff of the WRC in response to the challenges presented by the Covid-19 emergency are commendable. My Department will continue to work closely with the WRC in the areas of ICT support, staff resources, legislative requirements and funding to ensure that it is adequately supported to fulfil its important role.