The Workplace Relations Commission (the “WRC”) has recently published its 2020 Annual Report. Some key highlights are set out below.

Awards Made:

  • A total of €5,152,152.37 was awarded by the WRC in 2020.
  • The overall 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 the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 with 454 complaints; and
  • Then the Industrial Relations Act,1969 with 354 disputes.

Party Representation:

  • 1,305 parties (47%) had third party representation.
  • 1,255 parties (45%) were self-represented — 716 (57%) complainants and 539 (43%) respondents.

Pre-Adjudication Mediations

In 2020, the WRC witnessed,120 interventions taking place with 1,609 advancing to the mediation stage and of these, 582 progressed to full mediation. In light of Covid-19, 85% of these mediations were carried out via telephone, 14% were face-to-face and the remainder virtually. Over 40% of the cases did not require adjudication at the conclusion.


8,103 complaint applications encompassing 18,969 individual complaints were received by the WRC in 2020, a decrease of 2.5% and 9.4% respectively compared to 2019. The main types of complaints were as follows:

  • pay issues (4,117);
  • unfair dismissal (3,894);
  • hours of work (3,150)
  • redundancy (647- 6 times more than in 2019);
  • discrimination/equality & equal status (1,331- the lowest number recorded in any one year since establishment of the WRC); and
  • agency working (219).

In 2020, there was a six-fold increase in the number of redundancy complaints made compared to 2019. The WRC recorded the lowest number of complaints made in any one year under discrimination/equality & equal status in 2020, being 1,331 and a decrease of 27% compared to 2019.


Following on from the appointment of external adjudication officers in 2019, the WRC saw the highest number of adjudication case hearings held in the first two months of 2020 since the establishment of the WRC. In May 2020, as a result of public health measures, the WRC began scheduling virtual hearings from July 2020. The uptake for virtual hearings on the required consent of the parties was 18%. As a result, only 1,889 adjudication hearings were held in 2020. This is over 50% less than those held in 2019. There was over 2,000 ‘lost’ hearings in 2020 as a result of Covid-19.

S.I. 359/2020 came into force in September 2020 and the WRC has scheduled on average 100 virtual hearings a week going forward.


A total of 1,629 decisions were issued in 2020, which is a decrease of 46% compared to 2019. This is due to a result of the considerable decrease in the number of hearings.

In 2020, the WRC was notified of 208 Labour Court decisions in relation to appeals from the WRC. Of the decisions made, 110 were upheld, 51 varied, 39 were overturned and 8 failed.


The WRC carried out 7,700 inspections in 2020 (of which over 5,202 were unannounced).

The Return to Work Safely Protocol (RWSP) was published in May 2020 and supported employers and employees in putting measures in place to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the workplace. In 2020, the WRC carried out 5,202 inspections under this protocol and 87% of employers were complying with the protocol.

Notable decisions

There were a number of notable decisions in 2020, for example a case taken under the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 which held that employers must exercise due diligence to ensure employees avail of annual leave [1]. This case also highlighted that employers, must accurately convey to employees in a timely manner if their accumulated annual leave will lapse

Another decision of note is an unfair dismissal case taken under the Unfair Dismissal Act, 1977 [2]. This case demonstrated that even in cases where the sanction of dismissal is deemed appropriate, the procedural standards of fairness under Industrial Relations Act, 1990 must be met. In particular, the operations manager was involved in both the investigation and decision-making.

The full WRC report can be viewed here.

Please contact Bláthnaid Evans ( and/or Amy McNicholas ( of our Employment & Corporate Immigration team on 01 639 3000 should you require any employment law advice.