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.
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.