Introduction of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC)
What is the Workplace Relations Commissions?
As of the 1st October 2015, the newly formed Workplace Relations Commission is now the first port of call for employment claims. The previous situation where we had five bodies dealing with employment issues has changed. The Labour Relations Commission (LRC), the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), the Equality Tribunal, Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) and the Labour Court have been subsumed into the Workplace Relations Commission.The new structure has only two bodies for employers, employees and legal profession to deal with:
- The Workplace Relations Commission which will deal with complaints of first instance and
- The labour court which will deal with appeals
Why has the system changed?
The reform was necessary as the old system had become outdated and arduous for employee, employer and representatives alike. Previously if an employee had multiple claims they would be heard separately by each of the regulatory bodies however under the new system all claims made by an employee can be heard by the WRC, resulting in a speedier process for all parties involved.
What does this mean for Employers?
The following are the key points for employers to take from the reform process:
- All employment claims lodged on or after 01 October 2015 will be heard by the WRC
- Any claims lodged to the EAT prior to 01 October 2015 will still be heard by the EAT under the old system.
- Any claims lodged to the LRC or Equality Tribunal, whether before or after 01 October 2015, will now be heard by the WRC.
- There will be no right of appeal to the Circuit Court under the new system. If any party wishes to appeal a Labour Court decision then it will be to the High Court on a point of law only.
- WRC hearings will not be conducted in public and decisions published online will not disclose the names of the employer or employee. Labour Court hearings, party names, and decisions will be made public however.
- Under the new system, the WRC or Labour Court can request that certain claims be heard by means of written submission only. However, neither party will be obliged to agree to this request.
- All employment claims under the new system must be taken within 6 months of the alleged incident. If the employee has failed to do so then the deadline may be extended to 12 months where the employee had a reasonable cause for the delay.
- If an employer fails to comply with a decision to award compensation then this will be deemed an offence which, on summary conviction, can result in a fine up to €5000 or imprisonment up to 6 months, or both.
The new system places a heavy focus on mediation. If the WRC feels that a claim can be resolved by mediation, and the employer and employee agree, then it will be referred to a mediation officer. Any resolution reached through mediation will be legally binding.