The Irish Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard
Bruton recently announced plans to restructure the current system
of employment law enforcement in Ireland. In essence the
Minister's intention is to streamline the current system which
currently comprises various industrial relations and employment
rights bodies into an integrated two tier structure.
The bodies of first instance dealing with employment and
industrial relations disputes in Ireland currently comprise of the
Labour Court, the Labour Relations Commission, Rights
Commissioners, NERA, the Equality Tribunal and the Employment
Appeals Tribunal. In addition there are over thirty pieces of
legislation dealing with industrial relations and employment
Many criticisms have been levelled at the current system. There are
currently many inconsistencies between bodies regarding the degree
of formality of hearings and rules of evidence. There are also
excessive delays for hearings and little case management. One of
the most notable problems with the current system arises in cases
where the same set of facts can give rise to multiple claims. Often
such claims must be processed through a number of the different
bodies which leads to duplication and higher costs. Another notable
fault in the current system is that there is no provision for
mediation other than in Equality Acts.
The new two tier structure proposed by the Minister looks to
build on the strengths of the current bodies and merge all of their
functions into a lower and upper tier. The upper tier will have an
appellate function or "interpretive character". It will
be the court of final appeal unless a party wishes to appeal to the
High Court on a point of law.
The Minister has listed his objectives for the proposed reforms as
Resolution of grievances and disputes as close to the workplace
as possible and as early a possible after they arise.
A simple and efficient institutional structure offering:
High quality customer service, including a single authoritative
source of information and a single entry point for claims;
Minimal scope for "forum shopping" and a system which
respects differences between categories/types of cases but not to
the point where they are an overriding influence on structure.
Minimising the number of cases that present for resolution at
formal hearings through active case progression and an increased
range of interventions.
Various bodies have been asked to make submissions on how best
to achieve these objectives, including the Irish Law Society, and
the Minister envisages a relatively short consultation phase before
the implementation of the proposed reforms takes place.
For some time now practitioners have spoken about the need for
widespread reform of employment rights and industrial relations
structures and procedures in Ireland. While we are awaiting
confirmation of sign off on the reforms proposed by the Minister it
does appear that it is imminent and this meaningful move towards
significant reform will be warmly welcomed by practitioners,
employers and employees alike.
This information is for guidance purposes only. It does not
constitute legal or professional advice. Professional or legal
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This briefing is correct as at 6 October 2011.
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In the case of Norman and others v National Audit Office UKEAT/0276/14, the Employment Appeal Tribunal ("EAT") confirmed that flexibility clauses in employment contracts which seek to give employers the right to make unilateral changes to the contract’s terms will be interpreted restrictively against employers.