Ireland: Ireland's New Workplace Relations Commission – Lessons Learned To Date

Last Updated: 17 December 2015
Article by Bryan Dunne, Brian Buggy and Deirdre Cummins

1 October 2015 marked the commencement of the most important reform to employment dispute resolution procedures in Ireland with the introduction of the new workplace relations system under the Workplace Relations Act 2015 (the “2015 Act”).  As the new system is now in operation for just over ten weeks, it is an opportune time to consider the principal lessons learned since its introduction.

Under the new system, all claims submitted on or after 1 October 2015 are now heard at first instance by an Adjudication Officer of the Workplace Relations Commission (“WRC”).  Appeals of decisions of the Adjudication Officer will be heard by a reconfigured Labour Court.

Procedures setting out the practices of the WRC and the requirements on the parties to a dispute at first instance (the “Procedures”) were published in October 2015.  The Labour Court also recently published rules relating to the processes to be followed in appeals against a decision of an Adjudication Officer (the “Labour Court Rules”), which include timelines for furnishing written submissions in advance of the hearing.  

Reduction in waiting periods

Under the old system, claims to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) often took over 72 weeks to be listed for hearing.  In our experience, cases are now being set down for hearing before an Adjudication Officer within approximately 6 - 12 weeks from the date the case is referred to the Adjudication Officer, which marks a substantial improvement and delivers on one of the Minister’s main objectives of radically reducing the waiting time for hearings.

Preliminary issues

Preliminary issues, such as whether the claim has been brought within the appropriate time limit, may now be raised by way of a written statement to the WRC within 21 days of the date on which the complaint form is sent to the respondent, rather than at the actual hearing of the complaint, as was the practice under the old system.  Accordingly, such issues are now being dealt with more efficiently and respondents are spared the cost of preparing a defence to the substantive claim unnecessarily.  Under the Labour Court Rules, the Labour Court has a broad discretion, on appeal, to give a preliminary ruling on any aspect of a case referred to it where it is satisfied that time and expense may be saved by doing so.  As the first appeals under the new Labour Court only started in the last two weeks (which are primarily dealing with appeals of Rights Commissioner decisions issued pre- 1 October), we have not seen the Labour Court exercise this discretion yet.  

Furnishing of information

All relevant information must be sent to the WRC prior to the hearing.  In employment equality cases and constructive dismissal cases, the Procedures now require a complainant to give as much detail as possible at the time of lodging the complaint form, including the facts, the link between the ground(s) cited and the alleged discrimination, and, where appropriate, any legal points the complainant may wish to make. Many complainants appear to be engaging legal representation to assist with completing such complaint forms, as discrimination claims, in particular, can be technical.  While the Procedures state that a failure on the part of the complainant to give such a statement may give rise to the dismissal of the claim by the WRC for non-pursuit, we have not yet seen a case being dismissed for this reason in practice. In any event, the power of the WRC to dismiss a complaint in such undefined circumstances is likely to be problematic, especially given that this power is not provided for in the 2015 Act.

In all other unfair dismissal cases, the respondent must furnish a statement (by email, where possible) of the facts and its defence within 21 days of the request of the WRC (extendable in “exceptional circumstances” only), including any legal points the respondent may wish to make.  Contrary to the practice frequently adopted under the old system, the Procedures state that a mere statement denying the claim will not suffice and could impact on the defence of the matter.  It is not clear, however, to what extent this is enforceable by the WRC in the absence of a statutory requirement to produce a statement of defence, and we have not yet seen any decisions addressing this.


Under the Procedures, all requests for adjournments must be made in writing as soon as possible to the WRC, giving details of the reason for the request together with all relevant documentation.  In practice, Adjudication Officers have stated that such requests should be received in writing at least one week before the hearing date.  In respect of equality claims (specifically, and for no obvious reasons), our experience to date is that before an Adjudication Officer, there is no longer an opportunity to withdraw a claim with liberty to re-enter pending settlement, which is how matters were usually addressed to protect employees where terms are agreed. It now appears that the only means of facilitating a settlement is to adjourn the hearing for a defined period of time in order to allow a settlement to be reached between the parties. In practice, it may mean basically the same result.

Evidence: Witnesses

Each party will be asked in advance to provide a list of persons they propose to bring as witnesses and, even more significantly, the purpose of a particular witness.  However, in practice we have seen some differences in how the WRC approach this. In an equality claim we appeared in, the notification of hearing from the Adjudication Officer applied this requirement strictly. In a separate TUPE claim, no such request was received. It has also been our experience that parties are not prevented from calling another witness, even if the witness was not named in advance.  On appeal, the Labour Court Rules impose a further obligation on the respondent to provide to the Labour Court not only the details of witnesses, but also a summary of their expected evidence, no later than seven days before the hearing.  This will require advanced preparation for that at an earlier stage than before.


The Labour Court is still only dealing with appeals referred post- 1 October of Rights Commissioner decisions issued pre- 1 October; no appeal of any Adjudication Officer’s decision has been heard yet.   Appeals from the Labour Court to the High Court are now on a point of law only.  Prior case law concerning High Court appeals on points of law under the fixed-term workers legislation indicates that legal arguments not presented before the Labour Court cannot be advanced on appeal to the High Court. It remains to be seen whether practice will be followed.  Employers are therefore advised to specifically and formally object to any errors in law arising during the hearing so there can be no argument that one is accepting them.  In addition, as there is no administrative support in place in a hearing before an Adjudication Officer, a record must be kept by both parties involved, in particular to record the legal arguments, which may subsequently be relied upon in an appeal.  


The WRC Procedures and the Labour Court Rules provide some guidance to employers and employees in dealing with disputes at first instance and on appeal, and the practices to date also give us some insight into how the new system will operate.  However, it is still too early to identify any discernible trends. Although the Procedures state that a failure by either party to adhere to them may have implications for the processing or defence of a complaint, this is unlikely to be enforceable given that the Procedures do not yet have statutory effect. We will continue to review and provide updates as the new system progress. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions