The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation yesterday, 30 July 2014, published the Workplace Relations Bill (the “Bill”). The key reforms proposed in the Bill are as follows:
- The establishment of a new Workplace Relations Commission (the “WRC”) as an umbrella body to amalgamate the existing services of the Labour Relations Commission, the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), the Equality Tribunal and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal, with general responsibility for the promotion and improvement of industrial and employment relations;
- The creation of a new two-tier workplace relations structure, comprising of the WRC, which will deal with workplace complaints in the first instance, and an expanded and reconfigured Labour Court, which will deal with all cases on appeal from the WRC;
- The dissolution of the Labour Relations Commission and the Employment Appeals Tribunal following their disposal of all legacy first instance complaints and appeals referred to them prior to the establishment of the WRC;
- Claims at first instance will be heard by a single Adjudication Officer of the WRC sitting in private and every decision of the Adjudication Officer shall be published;
- Decisions of the Labour Court, on appeal of a decision of an Adjudication Officer, may be appealed on a point of law only to the High Court;
- The transfer of all of the existing functions of the Labour Relations Commission (including industrial relations conciliation, advisory services and workplace mediation) to the WRC;
- The appointment of a new position of Director General of the WRC who shall bear responsibility for the overall management and operations of the WRC;
- The implementation of an Early Resolution Service and a mediation service to facilitate the early resolution of disputes, allowing parties to enter into legally binding and enforceable agreements;
- The standardisation of limitation periods for the referral of a dispute under employment legislation to six months, extendable to twelve months where “reasonable cause” is shown;
- Increased powers in the inspectorate functions of the WRC, including the introduction of two new compliance measures - a Compliance Notice and a Fixed Payment Notice, to promote higher levels of compliance amongst employers with employment legislation; and
- New procedures for the enforcement of awards of an Adjudication Officer or the Labour Court through the District Court.
It is anticipated that enactment of this legislation will take place before the end of 2014 with the new workplace relations system commencing in January 2015.