The Workplace Relations Act will commence on the 1st October 2015.
The aim of the Act is to try and deliver a service which is easy to use, independent and cost effective.
It is hoped that it will be able to deal with the backlogs which currently exist in the hearing of employment disputes and to ensure redress and enforcement within a reasonable period.
Previously, there were five organisations overlapping but which were separate and to which different rules applied. It was often the case that claims could be referred to the wrong organisation and when the error was discovered the claimant found themselves statute barred. It was often the case that a single set of facts could lead to several claims initiated and running at the same time which of course would lead to increased time and costs for all involved.
The new act will provide for the Workplace Relations Commission to deal with all cases at first instance and the Labour Court will deal with all cases on appeal.
Delays were often excessive. For example, an Employment Equality claim filed in 2008 was only heard in 2011, and the decision was not given until June 2015. This type of delay is not acceptable and it is very difficult for any employee or employer to have impending litigation hanging over them and to move on while they await a decision.
Indeed, there is apparently a backlog of 1000 cases to be cleared even after the Workplace Relations Act comes into effect in October. Therefore, the new system faces an uphill battle even before it begins.
The excessive delays might encourage parties to try and think about settlement where possible and identify if some type of agreement could be reached which could be in the interests of all parties. We would encourage parties to try and seek to come to an agreement with the other party where appropriate. Very often, parties may find that they are happier with the outcome as they feel that they themselves participated in the process and had a say in the outcome.
The Workplace Relations Early Resolution Service provides early intervention in the case of complaints under employment legislation. The aim of early resolution is to avoid the necessity for a formal hearing or inspection in situations where the complaint is adjudged as having the potential for being resolved reasonably easily, in a non-confrontational manner, by seeking a mutually acceptable agreement between the parties. Certain complaints are identified as appropriate for early resolution and they are given the opportunity to participate. This does not prevent parties proceeding to a full hearing of the matter if the early resolution does not work out.
If you would like any more information about the new legislation or any employment related queries, please do not hesitate to contact me on (01) 6797930 or katie[at]brophysolicitors.ie and I will be happy to assist.