The Irish National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) is a statutory body appointed to ensure employers’ compliance with employment legislation in Ireland. Since the Workplace Relations Act 2015 came into effect on 1 October 2015, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) monitors employment conditions through its inspection services.
Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation very well recognised the need for reform when he said:
Five redress or enforcement bodies, 35 different forms to launch proceedings, different time limits, different routes of appeal, a system that is too complex and requires professional help to negotiate it and a system overloaded by problems arising from the economic crisis. (Bruton, as cited in Brady, 2011)
The proposed reforms are designed to encourage the early resolution of work place disputes while minimising the involvement of legal advisors and to introduce a single complaint forum for all disputes and are to impact the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the Labour Relations Commission, the Rights Commissioner Service, the Labour Court, the Equality Tribunal and NERA. It is proposed to consolidate the existing employment institutions into two, one body of first instance and the other an Appeal body.
Streamlining disputes into one complaints body of first instance together with one appellant body will very likely remove much of the existing confusion. The WRC will subsume the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), NERA and the Equality Tribunal. The WRC will also hear first instance complaints under the Unfair Dismissals Acts that currently come before the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) because one party objects to a hearing by a Rights Commissioner. The WRC is to provide an ‘adjudication service’ for hearing such first instance complaints which will work in a similar way to how Rights Commissioners operate, though with changes as for instance that their decisions will be published online but without identifying the parties to avoid permanent damage to the relationship between the parties.
The Labour Court will remain in existence but with an additional division to deal with the increased number of complaints due to the abolition of the EAT. The Early Resolution Service – a quasi-mediation service conducted over the telephone – will also facilitate a timely resolution to the increased numbers of complaints.
Acknowledging that the LRC is of significant importance to structure of industrial relations in Ireland the LRC will remain in place conciliating disputes prior involvement of the Court.