The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation has published its blueprint for the new employment redress regime. The blueprint is being circulated for the purpose of consultation and observation by interested parties.  Comments are invited by 30 April 2012.

This blueprint and follow-up consultation should inform the drafting of the Workplace Relations (Law Reform) Bill 2012 expected to be published in the summer and enacted by the autumn of this year. 

The blueprint provides for the establishment of a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).  The WRC will assume the functions formally carried out by NERA, the Equality Tribunal, the LRC and the EAT (at first instance).  The WRC will essentially be the court of first instance for all statutory employment matters and NERA, the Equality Tribunal, the EAT and the LRC will be wound down.

An appeal from the WRC will be to an expanded Labour Court and to the High Court on a point of law only.

The reasons articulated for the changes are to promote a culture of compliance with employment law; reduce the number of disputes within the workplace and, where they do arise, assist in early resolution; deliver a responsive user-friendly service; deliver value for money for the taxpayer and; reduce costs for employers and employees. 

Table 1 of the blueprint summarises the situation prior to reform and the situation as envisaged following reform – the before and after. So for example, the 5 employment bodies will be reduced to 2; the 5 websites and separate corporate administrative systems will likewise be reduced to one; the 30 first instance complaint forms will be reduced to one; the 20 appeal forms will likewise be reduced to one.

There will be one 6 (12 in exceptional circumstances) month time limit for initiating all complaints. In the same way, the time limits for appeals will be 42 days.  This is intended to apply across the board.

Targets will be set in relation to acknowledging, scheduling and adjudication of complaints.  All decisions at first instance and appeal will be published.  The enforcement mechanism will be changed by the introduction of compliance notices, Labour Court orders and fixed charge notices.

All in all it heralds a more streamlined, more intelligible employment redress system and for that reason alone it is to be welcomed although, as we know, the detail will be in the draft legislation, due out within the next couple of months.

Click here for Blueprint.