Workplace Relations Act 2015
The Workplace Relations Act 2015 (WRA) was signed into law by the President on 20th May 2015 with a commencement date of 1st October 2015. The new legislation will radically overhaul the previous system, providing a single gateway for resolving employment complaints and disputes. The previous system for resolving workplace complaints or disputes was inconsistent and overcomplicated. The existence of five separate employment law adjudicatory bodies caused frustration for employers and employees alike. “Forum Shopping” was widespread. It was possible for a single incident to give rise to a number of claims in various fora.
Aims of the Workplace Relations Act 2015
Specific objectives of the WRA include; resolving workplace grievances and disputes as early as possible, promoting maximum compliance with employment law and providing a single authoritative source of information on employment law.
The main reform of the WRA is the introduction of a simple two tier workplace relations structure. The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) will take over the activities of the Labour Relations Commission, Equality Tribunal, National Employment Rights Authority and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal and Labour Court.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal will continue to function until it concludes all cases which are before it at the commencement date of 1st October 2015, after which it will be dissolved.
The position of Director General (DG) of the WRC has been created along with the appointment of officers to deal with complaints and disputes. The DG may refer complaints to a mediation officer where he believes the issue is capable of being resolved without being referred to adjudication. Mediation may take place only where both parties agree to the issue being dealt with by this method. If mediation is unsuccessful, the issue may be referred to adjudication.
Adjudication officers hear claims in private but their decisions will be published on the internet in such a form that the WRC deems suitable. No information will be published which identifies the parties involved. The DG also has the power to deal with some complaints by written submissions only. Either party may object within 42 days to the written submissions procedure.
The WRA provides claims must be lodged within 6 months. This time limit may be extendable to 12 months where reasonable cause is shown.
The WRA also makes amendments to various existing employment laws, for example; The WRA amends the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 to provide; where an employee is absent from work as a result of illness, they will be entitled to accrue annual leave during their sick leave.
Appeals from Workplace Relations Commission
All cases on appeal from WRC will be handled by the Labour Court. Appeals from the Labour Court to the High Court can be brought on a point of law only, within 42 days.
Fixed Payment Notice
The WRC provides for the appointment of inspectors, who are entitled to enter any place of work at any reasonable time provided they are in possession of a warrant or they have the consent of the occupier. Inspectors may inspect or take copies of any books, documents, records or extracts therefrom. Where a WRC inspector believes an employer has committed an offence under the WRA he may issue the employer with a Fixed Payment Notice (FPN). An FPN is not permitted to exceed €2,000, but there is no option for appeal.
WRC inspectors may also issue a Compliance Notice (CN) to an employer instructing them to do, or refrain from doing, a particular activity. Failure to comply with the terms of the CN could potentially expose the employer to a €50,000 fine or imprisonment for up to 3 years. A CN may be appealed by an employer in the Labour Court within 42 days of its service.
The WRA is the answer to a much- needed reform in the employment law sector. The two tier workplace relations structure provides consistency and clarity in what was previously an outdated and frustrating system for resolving workplace disputes in Ireland.
If you require further advice or information in relation to an employment law claim please contact us on:
- Christian Carroll, Partner
For further information please go to: http://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/
Disclaimer: This document is for information purposes only and does not purport to represent legal advice. If you have any queries or would like further information relating to any of the above matters, please refer to the contacts above or your usual contact in Orpen Franks Solicitors LLP.