The Workplace Relations Act 2015 came into effect on the 1 October 2015. It transforms the manner in which employment and equality disputes are dealt with. The Act is seen as one of the biggest reforms in employment law history.

The Act aims to reduce the duplication of claims, encourage early resolution of complaints through mediation and reduce time delays in cases being heard.

The implementation of the Act sees the abolition of the Employment Appeals Tribunal, equality officers and rights commissioners and creates a new body known as the Workplace Relations Commission.

The Act sets out new procedures and guideline for dealing with employment disputes.

  1. The complaint is lodged with the Workplace Relations Commission. It must be referred within six months of the alleged contravention with an extension of up to 12 months where “reasonable cause” for the delay is demonstrated. All material received from one party must be copied to the other. Detailed statements must be prepared and submitted to the WRC.
  2. This complaint is referred to the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission for review.
  3. The Director General may refer the matter to mediation to resolve matters informally. 
  4. If unsuccessful, the matter is referred to an “adjudication officer” who are made up of former rights commissioners, equality officers, human resource professionals, lawyers, and industrial relations experts. 
  5. The Act provides that hearings will be heard “otherwise than in public”. Adjudication officers will investigate a complaint, carry out a hearing and issue their decision. Adjudication officers have the discretion for the matter to be dealt with by written submissions only without the need for a hearing. They will also have the power to dismiss a complaint for being frivolous or vexatious. 
  6. If either party are unhappy with the decision of the adjudication officer, there is a right of appeal to in writing to the Labour Court with one final right of appeal to the High Court on a point of law.

It will be interesting to see how the new system will work in practice and hopefully it will give rise to greater efficiencies to be benefit of all parties concerned.