Have you submitted an employment claim to the WRC (Workplace Relations Commission) or Labour Court?
Do not be fooled, as many have, by the ease with which you can submit a claim using the online complaint form, and the promise of an informal procedure. You will probably have read or heard that it is an informal procedure set up to avoid the need to have employees going to civil court to uphold their employment rights.
It is true to say that it is more informal than civil court, particularly the WRC hearing. That does not mean, however, that you will not be confronted by a high powered, expensive, experienced legal team.
Put yourself in the shoes of the employer for a minute.
Consider that the employer could have an award made against him of 2 years’ salary (or 5 years’ salary in protected disclosure cases). Throw into the mix the prospect of bad publicity, damage to reputation/brand, the personal grief associated with the employee getting one over on him, and the legal costs of defending the case and you can easily see why any rational employer would take your case seriously and fight like a tiger to defend his position.
This is the reality and many employees come to me after the hearing and express surprise and how they were taken aback by how the hearing went, the legal submissions by the employer’s legal representative, the technical discussion between adjudicator and opposing legal counsel or solicitor.
A further factor that can intimidate the employee is the submission made by the other side, and which will be delivered to the employee at some point prior to the hearing. There are two major problems I have frequently seen:
- The submission is an enormous document/booklet with case law, appendices, witness statements, legal argument, and who knows what else
- The submission is delivered so late that it is impossible to fully assess and review its contents
Another significant aspect of a WRC hearing is the taking of evidence and the process of cross examination. Cross examination is a skill that requires professional training and years of experience. An employee will be placed under serious pressure and second guess himself with alarming ease when he is subject to cross examination by a skilful legal professional.
Submitting a claim to the WRC or Labour Court is the easy part. Actually, winning that claim when you get a hearing is much more difficult.
Be prepared for anything, particularly a robust defence by the employer who will almost certainly be prepared with a professional legal team.