Workplace Relations Act 2015 (the “2015 Act”) – Key Points to Note
The 2015 Act commenced on 1 October 2015. Its aim is to provide for the streamlining of mechanisms and making it more user friendly by creating a simpler two tier structure, with the WRC dealing with complaints in the first instance and the Labour Court dealing with all cases on appeal from the WRC.
The key reforms are as follows:
- It provides for the amalgamation of the functions which were fulfilled by the Rights Commissioner Service, the Equality Tribunal, the Employment Appeals Tribunal, NERA and the Labour Relations Commission into a single new body to be known as the Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”). It also provides for the transfer of all of the industrial relations functions of the Labour Relations Commission to the new WRC.
- The LRC and EAT will be dissolved once they have disposed of all legacy matters before them prior to the establishment of the WRC.
- At first instance all claims, including matters referred under the Industrial Relations Acts, will be heard by an Adjudication Officer of the WRC.
- There is a single point of appeal of a decision of an Adjudication Officer to the Labour Court. There is only one further appeal after a Labour Court decision – this is to the High Court on a point of law only.
- All decisions (following a standard format and giving reasons for a decision) will be published on the internet which provides greater transparency in respect of decisions and awards. Decisions of the Adjudication Officer will have the names of the parties anonymised and decisions of the Labour Court will publish the names of the parties.
- Aside from Section 86(1) (which provides for the accrual of annual leave entitlements while on sick leave) the 2015 Act does not create any additional substantive employment rights for employees or impose any additional obligations for employer – the primary purpose of the 2015 Act is the standardisation and streamlining of procedures.
- It provides for an early resolution/mediation service to allow parties to resolve a dispute at an early stage, previously this mechanism only existed for Equality matters.
- It provides that, if the parties consent, the matter can be dealt with by written submissions only, which may lead to a saving of time and cost for the parties.
- It provides one port of call to institute all complaints – to the WRC – this is particularly helpful where there are multiple claims and can help ensure that they are all heard by the same Adjudication Officer.
- It provides for the standardisation of time limits for (1) making claims to the WRC, being 6 months with a maximum extension of a further 6 months where ‘reasonable cause’ is shown, and (2) appeals of a first instance decision to the Labour Court, being 42 days, which can be extended by the Labour Court in exceptional circumstances.
- It creates new enforcement provisions of the decision of the Adjudication Officer and the Labour Court through the District Court, which is simpler and less expensive than the previous enforcement procedure through the Circuit Court.
- It provides additional tools for inspectors of the WRC to assist in promoting compliance by employers, being (1) issuing a Compliance Notice or (2) a Fixed Payment Notice.
In effect the 2015 Act provides for a more user friendly, less complex, streamlined system, with fewer institutions and a consolidation of the redress procedures, which should speed up the progression of cases through the WRC, with a cost and time saving for both employer and employees.
This article is a general summary on the subject and is not intended to be a thorough review or a statement of the law. Specific legal advice should be sought on a case by case basis.