The Essential Procedures for Pursuing Your Claim at the WRC (Workplace Relations Commission)

Since the introduction of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 a new system of adjudicating employment complaints and disputes was introduced. The new system is a simpler one and did away with the Rights Commissioner and Employment Appeals Tribunal service and was replaced by a WRC Adjudication in the Workplace Relations Commission.

The Workplace Relations Commission Complaint Form

The starting point for your claim is the WRC complaint form. (You can access the form on this page.)

If you have a complaint about an employment or equality right, or have a grievance under industrial relations legislation you must use the Workplace Relations Commission Complaint Form. (I have previously written an article about how to bring a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission).

The complaint must be made within 6 months of the breach of your right, although the Workplace Relations Commission Adjudicator can extend this time to 12 months where there is reasonable cause shown for the delay. What is reasonable cause will be decided by the Adjudicator.

The WRC will copy all correspondence between the parties who are called the “complainant” and “respondent”. The WRC have a mediation service which will be offered to the parties in suitable cases.

This may simply involve a phone call from the WRC to the parties to see if they can broker a deal between the parties. If the mediator/WRC employee is unsuccessful the case will go ahead for adjudication.

Statements from the Complainant

In a claim for constructive dismissal, or an equality based claim, the complainant must submit a clear statement setting out the details of the complaint.

In all other unfair dismissal cases the respondent is obliged to provide a clear statement within 21 days of the request from WRC.

If this procedure is not complied with the hearing will still go ahead but the adjudication officer may draw an inference(s) from the failure.

In an employment equality case the complainant must set out in detail the facts from which discrimination can be shown or inferred.

In a constructive dismissal case the complainant should set out as much detail as possible on the WRC complaint form, including any grievances raised, investigations carried out etc.

In other unfair dismissal cases the respondent must set out in his statement the facts leading to the dismissal, including any disciplinary hearings, appeals, legal points etc.

Other Employment and Equality Cases

If a respondent intends relying on statutory records in his defence these should be sent to the WRC prior to the hearing. Any other points the respondent wishes to make-for example in relation to a legal point or the wrong employer being named-should be raised within 21 days of receipt of the complaint from the WRC.

WRC Hearing

Both parties will then be contacted with a date for the hearing, and asked to advise of any special requirements they have, for example, an interpreter. A postponement will only be given in exceptional circumstances, and the request must be made in writing to the WRC with an explanation. Consent of the other party would be useful, too.

It is up to the parties to ensure that the WRC has all relevant documentation prior to the hearing and that witnesses, if any, are available for the day.

Conduct of the Hearing

My experience of the way the hearing is held is that it can vary, depending on the particular WRC adjudicator.

Nevertheless, the adjudicator will indicate how he/she wants to conduct it and he/she will

  • Ask questions of any party or witness
  • Allow each party to question the other party and any witness
  • Ensure fair procedures and natural justice

The WRC hearing is in private, so is not open to the public or media.

The written decision is supposed to issue within 28 days of the hearing with the parties and witnesses anonymised.

Appeal and Enforcement

The decision can be appealed within 42 days to the Labour Court and the decision can be enforced through the District Court after 42 days if no appeal is lodged.

 

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2 Surprising Employment Hearing Stories That Should Make You Think Twice About Representation

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Stunned.

I was absolutely flummoxed.

I couldn’t believe my luck.

It was the morning of an EAT hearing and I was there early to speak to my client. My client was the employer and the claim against him was brought by a former employee for constructive dismissal.

Constructive dismissal is a difficult case to win. But on this occasion I was worried because the circumstances which led to the employee walking out and quitting the job did not reflect well on my client.

Far from it.

In fact, I was convinced the employee would receive a great degree of sympathy from the EAT, and would probably win his case.

I had explained this to the client, and suggested settling the case would be a good course of action to embark upon, if we got the chance.

I had told him to bring the cheque book, too, and he was ready to settle it.

We had a figure in mind, and it was correctly based on the financial loss incurred by the employee since leaving the job. He had managed to find a new job but he still had 6 months’ or so of unemployment, and if he was successful this was what he would win, at the very least.

In calculating his financial loss, to which he would be entitled, you disregard any social welfare he would have received during the time out of work.

So, if the lad was on €600 per week and he was out of work for 6 months (26 weeks) his financial loss would be approximately €15,600. (See financial loss calculation in unfair dismissal cases)

Our settlement offer figure was based on this calculation.

I approached the other side and approached the legal professional representing the employee. After introducing myself and exchanging pleasantries I asked him what his client’s loss was, knowing full well what it was, and what his client would take.

I was amazed at the reply, and struggled to keep a straight face. He estimated the loss at around €10,000.

I asked him how he calculated that figure.

He replied that his client had received approximately €5,200 from the Department of Social Protection, and he subtracted this figure from €15,600 and arrived at the €10,000 figure.

I said I would speak to my client, and see could he stretch to this.

Naturally my client was delighted because we had just saved approximately €5,000, and settled the case in about 5 minutes flat. It was a stroke of good luck for my client, because he was ready to pay €15,000.

Unfortunately for the employee his representative made a costly mistake in calculating his financial loss. I can only presume that the representative did not do much employment law in his daily work.

 

Some months later I was involved in another case-this time at the WRC (Workplace Relations Commission)-and acting for the employer again. On the other side were the employee and her solicitor.

The employee had a number of complaints against my client, her former employer.

I instructed counsel in this case and we were fully prepared to fight the case and each and every claim in the complaint. However, we also had a preliminary argument before the hearing commenced at all.

This was that the complaint was made outside the 6 months’ time limit provided, and therefore the WRC adjudicator simply did not have jurisdiction to hear the case.

When the Adjudicator walked in to deal with the case he said he had a few questions to ask of the complainant and her solicitor.

He immediately honed in on the time limit question and decided, without any submission from our side, that he simply did not have jurisdiction to hear the claim as it was out of time.

That was it. It was over, and the case was thrown out in a matter of a minute.

 

Conclusion

You have a number of choices when it comes to bringing a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

You can run the case yourself, or you can get a HR person to represent you.

Or you can get a solicitor, or a solicitor who does quite a bit of employment law.

3 Critical Things to Consider Before Bringing an Employment Claim to the Workplace Relations Commission

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Feeling hard done by?

Are you being treated unfairly or unlawfully?

Thinking about bringing a claim to the WRC?

There are 3 important things you need to think about before lodging your claim.

Are you interested in knowing what they are?

Let’s take a look.

1.      The Chances of Success

The most important thing you need to think about is how strong your claim is, and what is the likelihood of winning.

It can be a stressful enough course of action to embark upon, and many people try to avoid conflict at all costs. Throw into the mix the fact that your employer or former employer will be there to defend your claim and perhaps give a different version of events from yours, and it will deter many people from bringing the claim.

This should not be enough to prevent you, although this is entirely a decision for you.

But what you do need is an objective, professional assessment of your case before making any difficult decision to plough ahead for put the matter behind you and forget about it.

2.      The Cost of Bringing your Claim

When you bring a clam to the WRC or Labour Court each party pays their own costs. This is unlike going to Court where the loser pays the winning side’s costs along with his own: “winner takes all”.

You need to factor in this cost if you are getting professional legal representation, which is strongly recommended.

The legal fees will take into account the complexity of your case, the amount of time it will take to prepare for the hearing, the amount of time for the hearing itself-which will be heavily influenced by the number of witnesses-, and perhaps an appeal.

You need to weigh up this cost, and the potential payoff.

 

3.      The Potential Payoff

There is a wide range of potential claims you can bring to the WRC, with widely varying compensation and redress if you are successful.

For an unfair dismissal the maximum you can be awarded is 2 years’ salary. However, if your claim is based on the employer’s failure to give you a written contract the maximum that can be awarded is 4 weeks’ remuneration.

So, you need to weigh up this cost/benefit analysis carefully.

Conclusion

Leaving aside the factors discussed above there is another one: the psychological benefit and relief of getting to put your side of the story and stand up for yourself and your rights. For many people this benefit outweighs any financial considerations.

Ultimately, the decision is yours.

All The Claims That Can Be Brought to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC)

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Are you an employer? Employee?

Are you confused about the employment related claims that can be brought to the WRC?

If an employee wants to bring an employment related complaint or claim to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), he/she must fill out a standard form available on their website.

There are 15 options for complaint on their complaint form (although the complaint form says there are 16).

We have recently written articles about each one of those complaints. Here they are:

How to Enforce a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Decision

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Have you succeeded in your claim at the Workplace Relations Commission?

If so, the employer has 56 days to carry out the decision. If he fails to do so you can apply to the District Court for a Court order forcing the employer to carry out the WRC decision.

If your decision was for reinstatement or re-engagement the District Court can substitute its own order and award you up to 104 weeks’ pay.

The District Court also has the power to award interest to be paid to you.

It is an offence to fail to comply with the District Court order unless the employer can show, on the balance of probabilities, that it is simply unable to pay due to financial circumstances.

Appealing the Adjudicator’s Decision

If you are unhappy with the decision of the WRC Adjudicator you can appeal the decision to the Labour Court within 42 days. Labour Court hearings are in public, unlike the WRC hearing which is private.

Here are the relevant sections of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015:

Section 43 Workplace Relations Act, 2015-enforcement of decision of adjudication officer

Appeal to Labour Court from decision of adjudication officer-section 44

Enforcement of decision of Labour Court-section 45
Part 4 of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 deals with complaints and disputes.

How to Enforce a Decision from the Employment Appeals Tribunal

There are different routes for you to take, depending on which act your claim was under.

Here’s a handy chart produced by the WRC showing you where to go.