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

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.

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