Almost €2m in unpaid wages recovered by Workplace Relations Commission in 2023

There were more than 1,000 breaches last year with most issues relating to organisation of working time and on terms and conditions

Almost €2 million in unpaid wages was retrieved for workers following interventions by the Workplace Relations Commission last year.

The figure is up almost a third on last year and twice what it was in 2021 although that had been the lowest figure recorded since the WRC assumed responsibility for the role in 2015.

In all, €1.95 million was recovered from employers who had failed to pay people properly for work done. The food services sector accounted for more than a quarter – €565,409 – with €385,200 recovered from retailers and €172,495 from employers in the professional services sector. The bar trade produced the next highest figure with €159,077 with the hotel and construction sectors also featuring prominently.

The figures were provided to Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise and Employment Louise O’Reilly in response to a Dáil question to Minister for Employment Simon Coveney.


Over the course of the year, there were more than 1,000 breaches uncovered in relation to the payment of wages but the areas in which there were most commonly issues were the organisation of working time and in respect of people’s terms and conditions. Issues relating to the protection of young workers were also involved in more than 500 cases.

Asked about the figures in relation to payments, Ms O’Reilly said “the withholding of wages is a disgusting act. Unfortunately, this practice has been rampant across workplaces for decades with nearly €22 million in withheld wages returned to workers since 2011.

“The withholding of wages is particularly rampant in sectors where young people, women and migrant workers are highly employed – the food, drink, hotel, and retail sectors. These four sectors accounted for 62 per cent of all wages withheld last year – over €1.2 million.

“There is an old saying: ‘Always pay what you owe and always ask for what you’re owed’, and I am sure these employers wouldn’t be shy in letting a customer, or business, know if they owed them money.”

Neil McDonnell of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association welcomed the successful outcomes achieved in so many cases.

“We fully back the work of the WRC in this area,” he said. Those employers guilty of infringements are engaging in unfair competition with the ones that are compliant.”

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Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone

Emmet Malone is Work Correspondent at The Irish Times