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The Workplace Relations Act 2015

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The final phase of the reform of the State’s employment law bodies or what is now to be known as the Workplace Relations Structures came into effect on the 1st of October 2015.

The aim of the Act is to streamline the workplace dispute bodies and procedures.

The Workplace Relations Act 2015 introduces new structures and a framework pursuant to which the work previously carried out by five separate bodies, The National Employment Rights Authority, The Labour Relations Commission, The Equality Tribunal, and in the first instance the Employment Appeals Tribunal and Labour Court have been condensed into two new bodies.

The first of these is the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), which will deal with all employment and workplace claims and disputes, with a right of appeal to an expanded Labour Court. Amongst the main objectives has been the simplification of the process by establishing a single authority, dispute resolution forum and informal service. Another aim which will be welcomed by both employers and employees alike is to reduce the timelines for hearings to a reasonable length.

Both Employers and Employees should note the principle changes that have now come into effect as follows:-

  • Existing claims i.e. claims initiated before the 1st of October 2015 will continue to be dealt with under the old regime with long delays likely to continue for unfair dismissal and equality claims
  • All new claims from the 1st of October 2015 including employment appeals, and Employment Equality Tribunal matters as well as matters formally processed through the Rights Commissioners service will be initiated using the Workplace Relations Complaint Form available on their website and processed by the new Workplace Relations Commission. The expectation is that all matters will now be processed expeditiously with greatly reduced waiting times, and through one forum
  • All claims will be heard in the first instance by the newly appointed Adjudication Officers, which must again be a welcome development
  • The 2015 Act, contains provisions to encourage mediation, where possible
  • Hearings will be more in the way of investigations than akin to a Court with no requirement to take evidence on oath
  • There will be a right of appeal to the Labour Court in all cases and appeal hearings like those of the Adjudication Officers will be held in private.

Whilst all of these changes are welcomed by employers, employees and those working in employment law and industrial relations, there is a concern that because of the level of complexity of the law in this area with such a diversity of legislation and case law that there will be a flood of appeals to the Labour Court.

For more information contact Marc Fitzgibbon, Partner.