Workplace Relations Bill 2014 Set to Deliver Massive Changes in Employment Law and Prosecution of Employment Claims

workplace-relations

The Workplace Relations Bill 2014, when enacted into law, will have a huge impact on how employment rights in Ireland will be protected.

It is expected to become law on 1st October, 2015.

The current confusing situation where you have five workplace relations bodies-the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), the Equality Tribunal, Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) and the Labour Court-will cease.

There will be two bodies for employers, employees, and legal professionals to deal with:
1. The Workplace Relations Commission which will deal with complaints of first instance and
2. The Labour Court which will deal with appeals.

This should be welcomed by employers, employees, representatives of both, and legal professionals as the current situation is confusing, complex and can lead to “forum shopping”. Currently a dispute with a given set of circumstances can lead to the need to bring the different complaints/issues in different fora.

Early Resolution/Mediation Agreements

The bill also provides for a legally binding early resolution or mediation facility. Participation is not obligatory and parties may opt to proceed straight to adjudication, but where it is undertaken it can lead to a legally binding pre-arbitration agreement that could prove less costly.

An important aspect of this mediation agreement is that if an employer offers a settlement but the employee rejects it, the offer cannot be used as an indication of culpability during a later hearing.

Adjudication sessions will be held in private before a single officer who will hear the claims against a broad spectrum of employment law considerations.

The costs involved for both employees and employers in dealing with different complaints arising from the one set of facts is expected to be a thing of the past.

It is hoped that the 2 new bodies will see a speeding up of claims and appeals and a reduction in the current long wait times.

The thrust of this legislation is to expedite claims where possible but clearly there must remain room for appeal: decisions by an adjudicator can be brought to the Labour Court (within 42 days) with full public hearings points of law to the High Court.

Costs cannot be awarded to either side in a dispute as is the situation at the moment. Legal representation is not mandatory but would probably be advisable.

UPDATE 2015

Workplace Relations Act, 2015

The Workplace Relations Act, 2015 was signed into law by the President in May, 2015 and is expected to come into force on 1st October, 2015 when the commencement order is signed by the Minister.

Read or download the Workplace Relations Act, 2015.

NERA-The National Employment Rights Authority: a Checklist for Employers

NERA Ireland

Let’s admit it.

A letter from NERA can send a shiver down the spine of most employers.

NERA (National Employment Rights Authority) is the statutory body appointed to ensure employers compliance with employment legislation in Ireland. It carries out regular inspections to fulfill it’s obligations and ensure compliance by employers.

NERA also has the statutory power to prosecute employers where noncompliance persists or is serious but NERA also provides an information service for employers.

NERA Inspections

NERA inspections must be carried out in compliance with it’s NERA Inspection Procedures Manual and it’s Code of Practice for NERA employees. Generally, but not always, the employer will receive notice form NERA about it’s intention to inspect the records of the employer.

The inspection should take place at the employer’s business premises as employers are obliged by law to keep their employment records there.

The employer can choose to be represented by a solicitor or anyone else in their dealings with NERA and there will be a dedicated inspector assigned to deal with each case.

Generally NERA inspections are carried out

  1. Routinely
  2. After receiving a complaint
  3. As part of a compliance campaign dealing with a new or particular development in an industry or piece of legislation.

In general NERA will not tell you why they are inspecting unless it is a repeat inspection within 6 months of the first one.

The first part of the inspection is an interview with the employer prior to inspection of employers records and/or interviews with member of staff.

Checking on the employer’s compliance with statutory requirements as to the necessary employment records is a key part of the inspection.

Once the inspection is carried out a letter will issue concluding the investigation providing there is no evidence of non-compliance. If there are minor breaches then the Inspector will generally give the employer the opportunity to put things right.

However where there is evidence of underpayment of wages the inspector will calculate the underpayment for three years from date of inspection and seek to have this paid as soon as possible.

NERA can also bring prosecutions in serious or persistent cases of non-compliance and can share it’s information with the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection.

If you feel as an employer that you have been treated unfairly you can bring a complaint to a NERA regional manager who will investigate your complaint.

Employer’s Checklist for NERA Inspections

Below you will find a handy employer’s checklist for a NERA (National Employment Rights Authority) inspection:

  1. Do you have your employer’s registration number with the Revenue Commissioners?
  2. Have you a list of all your employees together with their PPS numbers and addresses?
  3. Have you the dates of commencement of employment for all employees? (And dates of termination if applicable?)
  4. Have you given all your employees a written statement of terms and conditions of employment?
  5. Have you the employees’ job classification?
  6. Have you a record of their annual leave and public holidays taken by each employee?
  7. Have you a record of hours worked for all employees?
  8. Have you a record of all payroll details?
  9. Can you prove that you provide your employees with a written statement of pay?
  10. Have you a record or register of all employees under the age of 18?
  11. Have you employment permits where applicable?
  12. Have you filled out the template letter details that you will receive from NERA advising you of the inspection?

This checklist is not exhaustive and you should consult a solicitor to ensure compliance with all aspects of Irish employment law.