New work dispute resolution system launches

Lawyers express concern at some elements of the changes

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton.  Photograph: Alan Betson

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

The most fundamental reforms to the State’s industrial relations machinery in 70 years come into effect today.

The five bodies responsible for dealing with disputes in the workplace will be merged into two organisations in a move the Government has argued will provide a better service at less cost to the State, employers and employees.

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton and Minister for Business and Employment Ged Nash will officially launch the new Workplace Relations Commission today.

This body will incorporate the functions of the Labour Relations Commission, the National Employment Rights Authority and the Equality Tribunal, as well as the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal and some first instance functions previously with the Labour Court.

The Labour Court will be established as the court of appeal for decision of the Workplace Relations Commission .

A fourth division has been added to the Labour Court and two additional deputy chairs have been appointed in a restructuring which will see a doubling of its workload.

Full employment

“If we are to deliver full employment in the coming years, we must have modern, flexible workplace relations institutions providing world-class services at low cost to employers and employees,” said Mr Bruton. “The system that was in place to resolve workplace disputes in 2011, which had grown up in a haphazard way over years, was far from that, characterised by forum-shopping, overlapping claims, delays and a high degree of formality.

Concern

However, solicitors have expressed concern that, under the new reforms, initial hearings in employment disputes before an adjudication officer will be held in private. Up to now hearings of the Employment Appeals Tribunal have generally been held in public.

Under the new reforms appeals to the Labour Court will be open to the public.

Maura Connolly, chair of the Law Society’s Employment and Equality Law Committee, said: “We welcome the new legislation insofar as it has simplified and streamlined certain important aspects of the process of seeking redress in employment matters.”

But she said solicitors were worried about provisions which provided that initial hearings before an adjudication officer “shall be conducted otherwise than in public”.