Section 44(4) of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 (the "Act") which provides for the appeal of decisions of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to the Labour Court, was recently considered in the context of a refusal by the Labour Court to hear an appeal due to a missed deadline.

Background

This particular case involved a WRC decision against Ms Josephine Kenny's claim of unfair dismissal dated 28 April 2016.

Ms Kenny issued an appeal against the Adjudication Officer's decision by notice received by the Labour Court on 9 June 2016. Section 44(3) of the Act provides that an appeal "shall be given to the Labour Court not later than 42 days from the date of the decision concerned". The Labour Court concluded it had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal as the appeal should have been received by them one day earlier, i.e. 8 June 2016. The claimant informed the Labour Court that she had engaged the services of and was advised on the appeal by the Citizens Information Service in Co. Longford (CIS). The claimant noted that the reason for not meeting the deadline was that it was assumed that the timeframe for appeal was "post" the original decision and not "from" the date of the original decision.

The law

Under Section 44(3) of the Act an appeal of a WRC decision to the Labour Court should be made not later than 42 days from the date of the decision. Section 44(4) provides that this 42 day limit can only be extended "due to the existence of exceptional circumstances". When calculating the 42 days, it is important to note that the date of the decision must be counted as "day one".

Decision

It was deemed that the miscalculation of the appeal's deadline did not amount to "exceptional circumstances" as per section 44(4) of the Act. The Labour Court noted that the miscalculation of time in this case was "akin to a misinterpretation of the statutory provisions". Accordingly, the Labour Court held that it had no jurisdiction to hear the appeal.

Comment

The case highlights the fact that the Labour Court will not allow ignorance as to the timeframe to be relied upon to amount to "exceptional circumstances" when a party is seeking an extension of time in order to lodge an appeal. This strict interpretation of the statutory provisions serves as a warning to practitioners as to the importance of calculating the correct amount of time for filing an appeal against the decision of the WRC.