The Programme provides for a two tier Workplace Relations structure by merging the activities of the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission, the Equality Tribunal and the first instance functions of the Labour Court and the Employment Appeals Tribunal into a new Body of First Instance - the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). The appellate functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal will be incorporated into an expanded Labour Court.
The overall objective of the Workplace Relations Reform Programme is to deliver a world-class workplace relations service and employment rights framework that serves the needs of employers and employees and provides maximum value for money.
The reforms were driven by the need to improve customer service, in light of the acknowledged complexity, backlogs and delays in the resolution of grievances and disputes, provide greater value for taxpayers’ money, in light of current fiscal constraints and rationalise institutions in light of the Government’s public service reform agenda.
Further information regarding the various stages involved in the Reform process is detailed below -
The Workplace Relations Reform Programme delivered a two tier Workplace Relations structure by merging the activities of the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission, the Equality Tribunal and the first instance functions of the Labour Court and the Employment Appeals Tribunal into a new Body of First Instance, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). The appellate functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal is now incorporated into an expanded Labour Court.
The WRC provide a single portal of entry for all employment and equality related information requests, and employment and equality rights complaints and referrals. It also plays a key role in encouraging employers and employees to resolve issues at workplace level thereby reducing the number of cases going forward for inspection or adjudication. This involves early review of the facts and an intervention to seek early resolution as an alternative to a formal hearing or inspection.
All appeals will be heard by an expanded Labour Court. The Labour Court is responsible for all legal and appellate functions previously exercised by the Labour Court and the Employment Appeals Tribunal. It acts as a court of final appeal in relation to decisions made by WRC Adjudicators. The only further appeal is to the High Court on a point of law.
The main deliverables have been:
- The merger of the activities of the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission, the Equality Tribunal and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal into a new Body of First Instance and the early establishment of the latter on an interim, non-statutory basis,
- The incorporation of the appellate functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal into an expanded Labour Court,
- The streamlining, realignment and creation of business processes within the new First Instance Body to meet the requirements of customers and stakeholders, including
- The design and launch of a single complaint form to replace 39 first instance complaint forms. (A single Complaint Form was launched on 3rd January 2012 and is now used for all Complaints lodged through Workplace Relations Customer Services. an e-complaint facility was launched on 30th September, 2013)
- The development of a single portal of entry/contact for all employment and equality related information requests and employment and equality rights complaints, claims and referrals. (Information and Customer Services commenced operations on 3rd January 2012.)
- The establishment of an Early Resolution Service (ERS), which has now been incorporated into the WRC, in order to review all complaints and disputes and seek resolution of the latter as an alternative to a formal hearing or an inspection. (A pilot Early Resolution Unit, which was launched in May 2012, has been evaluated.)
- The redesign of processes and procedures for the management and scheduling of adjudication hearings and the issue and promulgation of associated determinations and decisions.
- The early implementation of shared service arrangements and, in particular, the single corporate services and hearings scheduling units
- The development of a single, customer-focused website. ( An interim website was launched on 3rd January 2012 and a final all-encompassing site was launched in September, 2013, replacing the websites of the five existing Workplace Relations Bodies. The 1st October, 2015 version of the website reflects the new organisational structure and framework)
- The formulation and implementation of proposals in relation to the organisational structure and associated staffing and locations of the new structures. (The Minister published a Blueprint on 5th April 2012 setting out proposals in this regard. Internal consultations have now been completed and a Final Staffing and Structures Plan was finalised in December, 2012)
- The formulation and implementation of proposals in relation to the workplace relations compliance and enforcement model to underpin the new structures and reforms. (The Blueprint published on 5th April 2012 sets out proposals in this regard. The model is now provided for in the Workplace Relations Act, 2015)
- The design and commissioning of a Customer Relationship Management System (CRMS) to support the functions and operations of the Workplace Relations Commission and the expanded Labour Court. Phase I (installation of a CRM Platform and the design and commissioning of a Complaints and Adjudication Solution) was implemented from 1st October, 2015.
- The preparation of legislation to provide for the establishment and functions of the Workplace Relations Commission and the expanded Labour Court and for the legislative changes required to underpin the new structures and processes. The Workplace Relations Act 2015 was enacted in May 2015. The new structures and framework came into effect from 1st October, 2015.
A dedicated Programme Office team was in place to support and drive the Reform Programme. The members of this team were chosen because of their professional, technical and specialist skills. They were seconded, either on a full-time or part-time basis, from their existing roles within the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation to concentrate on delivery of the reform programme.
The Minister undertook a public consultation process that concluded in September 2011. The synthesis of submissions and most of the submissions received in response to that consultation are available here - Summary & Analysis of Reform Submissions October 2011.
There were 67 responses. The responses, overall, demonstrated a strong consensus around the need for reform and the shape that reform should take. The many positive suggestions that emerged from that process have helped to inform the design and delivery of the reform to date. They also influenced the proposals set out in the Blueprint for a World-Class Workplace Relations Service which was published in April 2012.
The Blueprint document set out, in considerable detail, how it is proposed to reform the workplace relations structures and processes. The Minister published the Blueprint in order to provide a further opportunity for consultation and was happy to have received 32 responses to the document. All of the submissions are available here in a single document called Blueprint Consultation Responses , May 2012. They include many supportive, useful and constructive suggestions and comments. Some expressed concerns in relation to a number of proposals including the role of the Registrar of the Workplace Relations Commission; whether first instance hearings should be in private or public; whether there should be a charge for any services; access to an appeal process and enforcement measures. All contributions made received careful consideration and helped to inform the finalisation of the Workplace Relations Act 2015.
The Workplace Relations Act 2015 provides, along the lines set out in the Policy Document, Legislating for a World-Class Workplace Relations Service , for the establishment of a statutory Workplace Relations Commission with a full range of functions formerly carried out by NERA, the Equality Tribunal, the LRC and the EAT (first instance functions). It also provides for the Labour Court to be the appellate body to determine appeals against decisions of Workplace Relations Commission Adjudicators.
In addition, the 2015 Act provides for the orderly winding down of NERA, the Equality Tribunal, the EAT, the LRC; the standardisation of certain procedural matters (limitation periods; the length of the period within which a first instance adjudicator’s decision may be appealed, etc.) across the full range of employment rights legislation; a new more effective and efficient process for the judicial enforcement of awards made under employment rights legislation; the transfer of the information, inspection, enforcement and licensing functions previously performed by NERA to the WRC and enhanced measures for the enforcement of employment rights legislation.
The Reform Programme has delivered a two tier Workplace Relations structure by merging the activities of the National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission, the Equality Tribunal and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Labour Court into a new Body of First Instance, the Workplace Relations Commission. The appellate functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal have been incorporated into an expanded Labour Court.
Implementation highlights include:-
- A dedicated Programme Office, staffed by personnel of the Department, was put in place in September, 2011 to drive delivery of the reforms.
- A single contact portal (now the WRC's Information and Customer Services) was established in January, 2012 to receive and register all workplace relations complaints and deal with all workplace relations enquiries,
- Changes have also been made to the way that unfair dismissal and multiple complaints are handled,
- The post-registration functions associated with the management of Rights Commissioner, Labour Court and Equality Tribunal first instance complaints were transferred to a new shared services unit with effect from September, 2014. The Post-Registration Unit was subsumed by the WRC from 1st October, 2015.
- an interim workplace relations website was launched in January, 2012. The final website was launched on 30th September, 2013 and replaced the interim website and the websites of the five Workplace Relations Bodies. The 1st October 2015 release of the website reflects the new organizational structure and framework.
- an interactive single complaint form, replacing 39 forms previously in use, was made available online in January, 2012. Second and third releases of the form were launched in March and July 2012 respectively. Release IV of the form and an e-complaint submission facility, was launched on 30th September, 2013. The latest release was published on 1st October, 2015 and reflects the new legislative regime and framework. Some 80% of complainants are now using the e-complaint facility.
- A Blueprint for Reform of Workplace Relations Services was published on 5th April, 2012. This set out how the reforms would be achieved and provided a further opportunity for interested parties to contribute comments and feedback on the future design and operation of the State’s workplace relations structures
- A Pilot Early Resolution Service commenced operations in May, 2012. This Service, which has now been subsumed into the WRC's Mediation Services, provides early intervention in the case of complaints presented to the Workplace Relations Bodies with a view to resolving issues without recourse to an adjudication hearing or inspection.
- A single, fully-searchable Determinations/Decisions Database, which holds over 32,000 decisions issued by the Employment Appeals Tribunal, Labour Court and Equality Tribunal, was launched on 30th September. From 1st October, 2015 this database will also hold decisions issued by WRC Adjudication Officers.
- Business Process Reviews of the operations and activities of the Workplace Relations Bodies were undertaken throughout 2012 and 2013 in order to underpin the new legislative framework and inform the design of ICT solutions.
- The Staffing and Organisational Structures for the Workplace Relations Commission and Labour Court were agreed in December, 2012 and were implemented in full from 1st October, 2015.
- A CRMS (Customer Relationship Management Solution) technology platform for workplace relations has been implemented. The first business application to be deployed on the CRMS platform, which supports complaints and adjudication operations, went live on Establishment Day for the Workplace Relations Commission (1st October, 2015).
- Work has commenced on the rationalisation of hearing venues. Hearing facilities in State buildings in Dublin, Carlow (interim arrangements) and Sligo have been put in place. The objective is to have a fixed number of regional venues in State premises.
- The transfer of the Equality Tribunal to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation was approved by the Government on 18th December, 2012 with the transfer having taken place on 1st January, 2013.
- The open competition for the selection of Adjudication Officers for the Workplace Relations Commission was completed in December, 2014. These Adjudicators completed NCI-accredited training in March, 2015 and became available to complaints and disputes from 1st October, 2015.
- An additional Division of the Labour Court was created and two new Deputy Chairs were appointed.