The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) published new procedures on 22nd December 2021 setting out how employment and equality complaints and disputes will be dealt with in future.
1) a person can submit a complaint or dispute using the WRC complaint form. Filling out this form correctly and completely is vitally important, especially ensuring that the complainant’s contact details are accurate and updated if subsequently changed.
2) certain complaints require pre-complaint steps to be taken by the complainant-for example, the National Minimum Wage Act and the Equal Status Act.
3) the time limit for submitting a complaint is 6 months of the alleged contravention that is being complained about. This can be extended to 12 months by the adjudication officers where the complainant can show ‘reasonable cause’ for the delay.
The Adjudication Officer has no jurisdiction to go beyond this 12 month time limit.
4) the WRC will ask the parties to consent to service of documents by email.
5) the WRC can decide a case on the basis of written submissions if both parties agree. This does not happen often, but the parties can request it by email.
6) mediation may be offered to attempt to facilitate the parties themselves to resolve the issues by mediation.
7) all documentation on which a party will be relying should be submitted at least 15 days before the hearing. Parties must copy their documentation to the other side.
This is a big change and may reduce the chance of a party being ambushed at the last minute with a colossal heap of documents and paper, as has been known to happen from time to time. This applies particularly to documentary evidence such as letters, emails, contracts of employment, staff handbooks, outcomes of investigations, and so forth.
An adjudication officer can decide whether to admit documentation within 15 days, or on the day, of the hearing.
Parties are also encouraged to submit a written statement of their case. This would contain a chronology of events and a concise statement of what happened. Parties may refer to case law or the relevant piece of legislation.
A list of witnesses, together with an outline of the evidence to be given by each witness, shall be supplied to the WRC in advance
8) it is a matter for the adjudication officer as to how the hearing itself is conducted. It is noteworthy that WRC hearings are now in public with the parties named in decisions, unless there are ‘special circumstances’ which will allow the adjudication officer to hold the hearing in private. This can be decided by the AO him/herself or pursuant to an application by either party.
9) the AO can draw adverse inferences in certain circumstances-for example, where information has been sought under the Employment Equality Acts and Equal Status Acts and has not been provided.