Employment Law Update

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Employment law, but not as we know it

For a number of years now there has been considerable talks at government levels and by civil servants in overhauling the current system dealing with employment law disputes. Employment law, as a specific body of law, is still relatively new and continues to grow. The vast majority of governing legislation in Ireland has only been enacted since the 1970’s, brought about on foot of the civil rights movements. This legislation has been often been published on a piecemeal basis in order to protect rights as they emerge whether this at a national or European level.

Every time a new law was enacted to protect an employee’s right, they’re had to be a forum in order to bring a claim where there is a dispute about that specific right. In most employment cases, there is usually a number of different rights which have been infringed at any one time and in any one case. This can result, and still does result, in various different claims being brought to various different bodies for the one set of facts. For example, a scenario where an individual claims that they were dismissed without notice could result in a claim being brought to either the (a) rights commissioner or (b) to the employment appeals tribunal for unfair dismissal or (c); a claim to the labour relations commissioner for a dispute under the industrial relations Acts, 1964; (d) a claim to to the rights commissioner for the breach of holiday under the Organisation of working time, 1997; (e) a claim to the employment appeals tribunal under the minimum notice act 1977 in respect of not having been provided with the notice or pay thereof and/or: (f) a claim to the rights commissioner for not being provided with a contract of employment under the terms of information employment act 1994; (g) and if there wasn’t paid any wages which are outstanding he or she could potentially bring a claim under the rights commissioner the payment of wages act, 1991 and finally (h) if they were discriminated against they could also have a claim to the Equality Tribunal under the Employment Equality Acts.

You could therefore have three separate dates where you are to appear before one of these bodies in order to argue the exact same claim. What is worse is that there are varying different times within which you actually have your dispute heard. You can normally obtain a hearing date in the rights Commissioner within 2 to 3 months of the claim having been lodged, sometimes earlier. At the moment, outside of Dublin in any event, you’re sometimes waiting up to 18 months before you get a hearing date in the employment appeals Tribunal. This is just the hearing date. The case may be adjourned and, even after it has been fully dealt with it, it could be a number of months before the decision is actually provided to you. Once a position of employment has terminated or are there is an issue that needs to be resolved, both employers and employees want to have the matter resolved one way or another. This delay and claims, not to mention the over-complicated myriad of laws that need to be applied in any particular case for lawyers, meant there was a problem that needed to be repaired.

The solution to these issues apparently comes in the form of the Workplace Relations Bill, 2014, which is due to be enacted soon. When put into practice, the employment appeals Tribunal, the Equality tribunal, the Labour relations commission and the National employment rights authority all comprised in one particular body’s/organisation which will be known as the workplace relations commission.

In its current format, every individual claim will now be brought to the one-stop-shop of the workplace relations commission (WRC) of which there will be a single adjudicator to hear the case. Any decision can be be appealed to a new revamped Labour Court. A claims to the High Court on a point of law still be allowed.

There is a greater emphasis on the parties engaging in mediation which is already operating on a trial basis and can be used to great effect where the dispute is relatively minor and there is a willingness to resolve the issue by both parties.

Cases before the WRC will be in private whereas cases before the Labour Court will be held in public and with published decisions.

Ensuring an employer is not entitled to flout its financial muscle against an employee is still covered for by ensuring costs will still be borne by each side and the losing party will not have to pay the costs of the other.

In short, the new system should be welcomed as it will invariably result in a reduction in repeat claims and unnecessary additional costs and should provide for a more streamlined mechanism of lodging and having complaints heard. This can only lead to stronger employment law practices, procedures and policies developing which should contribute greatly to the discipline of employment law.

If you have any questions or queries in respect of any employment matter, whether you are an employer or employee, please do not hesitate to contact us at any of our contact details, including our contact number at 074 – 9725105 or you can drop us an email at info@mcintyreobrien.ie and we’ll be happy to address all and any of your queries, questions or cases.