Ireland: The Workplace Relations Act 2015 - A New Dawn?

Last Updated: 1 October 2015
Article by John Doyle


The much-debated Workplace Relations Act, 2015 ("the Act") which comes into operation on 1 October 2015 will apply to employment legislation and equal treatment legislation and provides for the resolution, mediation and adjudication of employment disputes and complaints. The Act contains a number of novel provisions and it will be interesting to see how it operates in practice. The Act will wipe away the existing dispute resolution infrastructure of the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Equality Tribunal and replace them with a new Workplace Relations Commission ("the Commission" or "the WRC"). The Labour Court will hear any appeals from the Commission.

The Act creates a number of offences and provides that where an employee is employed by a corporate entity, a prosecution may be brought against a director, manager, secretary or other officer where the offence is committed with their consent or connivance. As to sanctions, in addition to any fine, a convicted person will have to pay the Commission's costs and expenses unless there are special and substantial reasons.

The Commission

Under the Act, the Commission is given a wide role in promoting good workplace relations, providing guidance, doing research, and providing advice and information. The Chief Executive of the WRC will be called the "Director General" ("DG") and will hold office for an initial term of 5 years (with a maximum of up to 10 years) and will report to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation ("the Minister"). The Commission may furnish draft Codes of Practice to the Minister (except in respect of the Employment Equality Act 1998) and, once approved, a Code of Practice will be admissible in any proceedings.

The DG may appoint Inspectors and those who already hold such position at the date of commencement of the Act will automatically continue in office. Inspectors will have a warrant of appointment which they must produce for inspection, if requested. They will have their usual wide powers to enter work premises, take copy documents and require information from the person in charge. Entry to a dwelling, however, will require consent or a warrant to be issued by the District Court.

It will be an offence to obstruct an Inspector or to fail or refuse to answer questions. Other than in respect of a charge of obstructing an Inspector or failure to comply with an Inspector's requirements, statements and/or admissions made will not be admissible in proceedings for an offence under the Act.

Where an Inspector is satisfied that a contravention of a relevant statutory provision has taken place, he may serve a Compliance Notice on the employer which will state the grounds upon which it is issued, require the employer to do or refrain from doing a certain act(s) by a set date and inform the employer about the appeal process. In appropriate circumstances, an Inspector must furnish the employer with a notice confirming that the employer has complied with a Compliance Notice. An employer may appeal to the Labour Court, which, on appeal, can affirm the Compliance Notice or withdraw it, with or without directions to the employer. The employer may further appeal the Labour Court's decision to the Circuit Court. It should be noted that failure to comply with a Compliance Notice is an offence under the Act.

One of the more contentious provisions of the Act is one which allows certain information to be disclosed (e.g. employer's registration number, employee's PPS number). Information regarding the possible commission of an offence may be disclosed to the Commission and the Commission may in turn pass on this information to an "official body" (which includes: Gardaí, Revenue, ODCE, Health & Safety and a list of other official bodies).

Of relevance to large scale procurement projects is the fact that the Commission may disclose to a "Public Contracting Authority" that an employer has contravened an employment enactment and the Commission may require a Public Contracting Authority to disclose contraventions to it.

The Commission will be obliged to co-operate with official bodies such as the Gardaí and the Revenue Commissioners, which includes sharing information (unless such disclosure is prohibited by law).

In certain circumstances, an Inspector will be able to issue a fixed payment notice for up to _2,000 and the employer will have 42 days to pay. If the employer pays the fine then no prosecution can be brought.

Complaints and Disputes

The "Claimant" or a "Specified Person" (which, essentially, is anyone who would previously have been entitled to present a complaint and/or dispute under the old system) on their behalf may make a complaint, in writing, and the DG must then refer it to an Adjudication Officer unless he determines that it should go to mediation.

If the DG does determine that a matter should go to mediation, the Act allows him to appoint Mediation Officers and to refer a dispute to mediation unless a party objects. If there is no such objection, a private "mediation conference" will be held and if the dispute is settled then there will be a signed, binding agreement, a copy of which will be sent to the DG. It should be noted that mediation communications are confidential and that the terms of a mediated settlement cannot be disclosed except in enforcement proceedings. If the dispute is not settled at mediation, however, the matter will then go forward for adjudication.

Adjudication Officers ("AOs") are appointed by the Minister. However, any Rights Commissioner or an Equality Officer holding such position at the date of commencement of the Act will automatically be appointed as an AO.

The AO will inquire into the complaint, allow parties to be heard and present relevant evidence and will then issue a written decision. Proceedings before an AO will be held in private. However, their decisions will be published by the WRC on the internet (without identifying the parties). This latter aspect is likely to be seen to benefit both employees and employers, alike.

Time Limit

The general time limit for making a complaint will be 6 months from the alleged contravention in each particular case, but this period may be extended by a further 6 months if there is "reasonable cause".

An interesting provision of the Act is that an AO will have the power to dismiss a claim if he considers it frivolous or vexatious. The affected party could then appeal to the Labour Court, which can either affirm or annul the AO's decision.

Enforcement of an Adjudication Officer's Decision

A party may appeal an AO's decision to the Labour Court, in writing, within 42 days. This time limit can be extended in exceptional circumstances. Proceedings before the Labour Court will be in public unless there are special circumstances, and its decisions shall be published "as it thinks fit". Additionally, the Labour Court may refer a question of law to the High Court whose determination will be final.

If the employer fails to comply with a Labour Court decision within 42 days it can be enforced in the District Court. In such a case, the District Court will not hear the employer and it can award Courts Act interest. Again, a party before the Labour Court can appeal a Labour Court decision to the High Court on a point of law and the High Court's decision will be final.

If an employer does not comply with an AO's decision within 56 days, and if the employer has not appealed it to the Labour Court, then the District Court, again without hearing the employer, must make an order directing the employer to comply with the decision. Where the AO's decision is to order re-instatement or re-engagement, the District Court may substitute an award of compensation of up to 104 weeks' remuneration. The District Court may award Courts Act interest to be paid on any award of compensation, between 42 days after the AO's decision and the District Court Order.

Disposal of Complaints by Written Submission

A novel provision of the Act will allow the DG or the Labour Court to notify the parties of an intention to deal with a matter by written submissions only but if a party objects to this then the DG or Labour Court cannot do so.

The DG or the Labour Court will be permitted to strike out complaints or appeals if they have not been pursued within the previous year. In such circumstances, the parties will be notified and the proceedings will not continue any further. It is not yet clear what the party can do to pursue its claim once lodged, and it must be anticipated that the power will be used sparingly. The implementation of this provision will be keenly watched.

One provision of the Act which is likely to be seen as controversial is that it will be an offence not to pay compensation unless the employer can show that, on the balance of probabilities, it was unable to pay due to its financial circumstances. The penalty on summary conviction is a Class A fine and/or 3 months imprisonment.


The Act has been a long time coming. There were promises of radical reform of employment law but consolidation of the law has not been delivered and practitioners will still be left contending with a complex web of employment law statutes. What is to happen is the replacement of the current system of dealing with claims and the hope is that the process will be streamlined and will become more efficient. Whether the Act is a new dawn or a false dawn remains to be seen.

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.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

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