The reform of employment rights and industrial relations bodies is a major piece of public service reform and will see the existing five employment rights bodies merged into two bodies:
- The Workplace Relations Commission will deal with all cases at first instance
- The Labour Court will deal with all cases on appeal
The Workplace Relations Act 2015 provides for the following key measures:
- The establishment of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) with a full range of functions formerly carried out by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), including Rights Commissioner Service, the Equality Tribunal, the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA). The Bill will also provide for the Labour Court to be the appellate body to determine, among other matters, appeals against decisions of WRC Adjudication Officers;
- The transfer of all of the current functions of the Labour Relations Commission to the new WRC (including conciliation, workplace mediation and advisory services);
- The dissolution of the Labour Relations Commission;
- The transfer of the functions of the Director of the Equality Tribunal to the Director General of the WRC;
- The transfer of the functions of the Rights Commissioners & the first instance functions of the EAT to adjudication officers of the WRC;
- The transfer of the EAT’s appellate functions into a reconfigured Labour Court;
- Complaints and appeals submitted to the EAT before the commencement date will be disposed of by the EAT. The EAT will be dissolved when it has disposed of all complaints and appeals referred to it before the commencement date;
- The establishment of the Office of Director General of the WRC; appointment of the Director General by the Minister on specified terms of appointment; the statutory powers and functions of the Director General. Mr Kieran Mulvey, current Chief Executive of the Labour Relations Commission, has been appointed Director General Designate of the Workplace Relations Commission by the Minister.
- The establishment of the WRC Board with responsibility for strategy and the annual work programme;
- The early resolution, mediation & adjudication of disputes/complaints under employment & equality (including equal status) legislation;
- The staffing of the WRC by officials from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation;
- A new more transparent system for the appointment of adjudicators of the WRC and Chairmen, Deputy Chairs and Members of the Labour Court;
- The appointment of additional Deputy Chairmen and Members to the Labour Court to facilitate the increased workload of the Court in the new system;
- A more effective and streamlined system for the enforcement of awards from WRC Adjudicators and/or the Labour Court under employment rights legislation via the District Court; provision for an offence for non-compliance with an order of the District Court to enforce a decision of the WRC or Labour Court under employment rights legislation;
- A statutory basis for the use of innovative measures such as Compliance Notices and Fixed Charge Notices to enhance the compliance functions of the WRC;
- Standardised statement of the powers of inspectors under employment & equality legislation;
- Standardisation of certain procedural matters across suite of employment rights/employment equality legislation;
- Necessary and consequential amendments to existing employment, industrial relations, equality and other legislation.
The Labour Court will be retained as a stand-alone statutory body and will be the single appellate body to deal with all appeals from the WRC. The Labour Court will continue to deliver all of its existing services (other than the small number of first instance functions transferring to the WRC) in addition to taking on the appellate functions of the EAT. The Labour Court will be given the necessary additional resources to fulfil this role.
Complaints and appeals submitted to the EAT before the commencement date will be disposed of by the EAT. The EAT will be dissolved when it has disposed of all complaints and appeals referred to it before the commencement date.
Through the better use of technology and shared services, the cost of running these bodies will be reduced through staff reductions, eliminating duplication and centralising administration and case management services. This rationalisation will deliver a much better service to the end users, both employers and employees, and at a reduced cost to the state.
Significant improvement has already been delivered on an
administrative basis, to put in place the technological, structural,
administrative and staffing changes required to underpin the Workplace
Relations Reform Programme. Business processes and associated
technologies have been reconfigured while a single point of contact is
already in place to deal with all aspects of information provision,
complaint receipt, registration, scheduling and case management support
Work is also well advanced on the amalgamation of the Early Resolution Service introduced in May 2012 with the Equality Tribunal’s mediation service. This will meet the objective of ensuring that complaints and disputes are dealt with as close to the workplace as possible and prior to costly intervention.
An e-Complaint Facility, complemented by a single complaint form, currently deals with some 80% of employment rights and equality complaints submitted for adjudication while the single workplace relations website (www.workplacerelations.ie ) and decisions database provide a single source of information for stakeholders and service users. An additional 19 Adjudicators have been selected and trained. They will complement the existing cadre of Rights Commissioners and Equality Officers and are already working to reduce existing backlogs.