Workplace Relations Reform Act 2015 | A Snapshot
Radical Changes from 1 October 2015
Employers and employees should be aware of the radical changes to come into force on 1 October 2015, which will alter the existing framework for the processing and resolution of complaints under employment and industrial relations law.
Out with the “old” and in with the “new”!
The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) and Labour Relations Commission (LRC) will be dissolved and the functions currently fulfilled by the Rights Commissioner Service, the Equality Tribunal, EAT, NERA and the LRC will be amalgamated into a single body to be known as the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).
The WRC will deal with all complaints in the first instance with the option of an automatic appeal to the Labour Court. The WRC hearing will be in private and the Labour Court hearing in public.
The Act places emphasis on an early and binding resolution of disputes and an Early Resolution Service will be offered by the WRC for appropriate cases.
The Act consolidates the inspectorate powers of Labour/NERA Inspectors and provides them with extensive powers to include powers of entry and inspection. Two new compliance measures have been introduced, a Fixed Payment Notice (€2,000 on the spot fine) and a Compliance Notice which, if not complied with, can lead to criminal prosecution.
Industrial Relation Disputes
The existing functions of the LRC for IR disputes will continue under the auspices of the WRC.
Changes to annual leave entitlements on sick leave
Employees who are absent from work on sick leave will be entitled to accrue annual leave.
Potential Introduction of Fees
While there is nothing specific as yet in the Act, there is provision for the introduction of fees payable by claimants in making an application. The introduction in the UK of fees to commence a claim for breach of employment right has resulted in an 81% reduction in claims.
Anticipated Challenges and Benefits:
- All claims will be heard in first instance by the WRC in private by a single adjudicator
- Potential lack of transparency and breach of a right to a fair hearing at first instance
- Both parties will get 2 bites of the cherry first at the WRC and then automatically if appealed to Labour Court, which may result in an increase in costs
- Power to order discovery is reserved to the Adjudication Officer
- United single channel system for all complaints – one complaint form
- Single route for appeals and time frames expedited for hearings and decisions
- Enforcement within 56 days of decision in District Court
- Process to oust vexatious and frivolous complaints