The strategic aims of the new Workplace Relations Commission include an independent, effective and impartial workplace relations service, a more workable means of redress within a reasonable timeframe and an overall reduction in costs. The new Workplace Relations Commission is also anticipated to be more centralised, in terms of maintaining a database of case information, the end result bring a better service for both Employers and Employees and much more streamlined, simplified process.
Minister Bruton stated in relation to the initiation of the Workplace Relations Commission that the "Reform of the State’s employment rights and industrial relations bodies has two principal goals: to deliver a better service for employers and employees, and to deliver savings for the taxpayer, businesses and workers. We have seen major progress in these areas already, and the formal establishment of the WRC will see further gains. The announcement we are making today is a further important step towards the final delivery of this important reform".
The Workplace Relations Act 2015 provides for the following key measures:
- The establishment of the Workplace Relations Commission, which will see the functions of the Labour Relations Commission, Rights Commissioner Service, the Equality Tribunal, the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) combined. In addition to this the Labour Court will be reconfigured in order to hear appeals.
- The establishment of the Office of Director General of the WRC.
- The establishment of the WRC Board with responsibility for strategic objectives and the annual work programme.
- A new emphasis on early resolution, mediation & adjudication of complaints under employment & equality legislation.
- Employees of the WRC consisting of individuals from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.
- A more transparent system for the appointment of adjudicators of the WRC and Chairman, Deputy Chairs and members of the Labour Court.
- The appointment of additional Deputy Chairmen and Members to the Labour Court to facilitate the increased volume of complaints in the new system.
- A statutory basis for the use of innovative measures such as Compliance Notices and Fixed Charge Notices to enhance the compliance functions of the WRC.
- A standardised statement of the powers of inspectors under employment & equality legislation.
- A standardised system where procedural matters across suite of employment rights/employment equality legislation will be put in place.
- The amalgamation of Forfás into the Department of Jobs.
- 35 County/City Enterprise Boards have now been dissolved and replaced with 31 Local Enterprise Offices.
- The National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority have been merged to create the Consumer and Competition Protection Commission.
- Transport and enterprise bodies in the Shannon region have been restructured, and Enterprise Ireland and IDA have taken on the enterprise support functions previously exercised by Shannon Development in the area.
The coming months are likely to see an increase in the pace of change including finalisation of regulations concerning critical procedures, the introduction of a Customer Relationships Management System in the place of an ICT system in order to support complaints and also the introduction of adjudication management structures.
The previous system faced criticism in terms of the overlapping of the five employment rights bodies, its complex claims procedure, its lack of consistency and most notably the excessive timeframes both Complainants and Employers faced in terms of advancing a claim.
Employers should note complaints and appeals submitted to the Employment Appeals Tribunal before the commencement date of the Workplace Relations Commission will be dealt with by the Employment Appeals Tribunal. The Employment Appeals Tribunal will be dissolved when it has heard of complaints and appeals referred to it before the commencement date of 1st October 2015.
Annual Leave on Sick Leave
An amendment to the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 is to come into effect which will allow Employees on sick leave to accrue annual leave during such absence.
This new legislation contained within the Workplace Relations Bill 2014 is expected to be enacted on 1st October or earlier.