Services Offered by the Workplace Relations Commission - Binding Nature and Enforcement of Decisions

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is an independent, statutory body which was established on 1 October 2015 under the Workplace Relations Act 2015.

Among the core services provided by the WRC are the provision of mediation, conciliation, adjudication, and advisory services in respect of employment related complaints or disputes as well as carrying out workplace inspections to examine and determine an organisation’s compliance with Employment Legislation.

Complaints to the WRC in respect of Employment Rights, Employment Equality or Equal Status are made using the prescribed complaint form which can be completed and submitted on-line, and any number of complaints can be submitted using the same form.

WRC Mediation Service

The WRC offer their mediation service both in respect of Employment Rights and Unequal Treatment and Discrimination claims, and also in respect of Internal Workplace disputes/conflicts or grievances.

In the case of a complaint in relation to Employment Rights the complainant can indicate on the originating complaint form their willingness to avail of the WRC’s Mediation Service.  If appropriate, the case will be considered by the WRC’s Mediation Service who will contact the complainant and the respondent with a view to resolving the matters in dispute without the necessity to proceed to a formal adjudication hearing.

Applications for workplace mediation are made by using an online mediation referral form and require all parties to be agreeable to resolve the issue by way of a mediation process.

The WRC appointed Mediation Officer will arrange to host the mediation by telephone or face to face and/or by video conference. The Mediation Officer remains impartial in relation to the issues in dispute and the process is confidential.

Any recommendation of the Mediation Officer himself/herself is not binding on either of the parties in dispute, however if and when an acceptable agreement is reached by the parties and reduced to writing (usually recorded by the Mediation Officer) and signed by the parties it is a legally binding agreement that is enforceable by way of application to Court.

WRC Conciliation Service

Conciliation is a voluntary and confidential free public process provided by the WRC which can be availed of by employers and employees requiring assistance in reaching settlement of a dispute, typically relating to employee pay and conditions, changes in work practices or ownership.

Where all parties agree to engage in a conciliation process (participation is entirely voluntary) a neutral and impartial third party (known as an Industrial Relations Officer) is assigned by the WRC to assist the parties in resolving the industrial relations differences.

The Industrial Relations Officer may make recommendations or proposals in relation to the issues in dispute but the conciliation process is designed to be informal and non-legalistic where solutions are reached by consensus only and the process is confidential.

If agreement is not reached at the conclusion of a conciliation process the parties can agree to refer the matter to the Labour Court where the matter will be heard and the Labour Court will issue a recommendation.  This is a recommendation only and is not binding on either of the parties.

WRC Adjudication Service

Where a party does not wish to avail of a mediation process or their complaint is not suitable to be dealt with through mediation or where mediation has not been successful the matter will be referred to adjudication to be heard by an Adjudication Officer.

At the adjudication hearing the Adjudication Officer will grant both parties an opportunity to be heard and to present any relevant evidence, to ask and respond to questions in respect of the complaint(s) made and the response(s) thereto. Adjudication hearings are held in private.

The Adjudication Officer will make a decision on the matter complained of in accordance with the relevant law, and notification in writing of his/her decision will be provided to each of the parties.

Either party may, within a period of 42 days from the date of the decision, appeal the Adjudication Officer’s decision to the Labour Court but unless so appealed the decision of the Adjudication Officer is legally binding on both parties.

Where the respondent/employer fails to act in accordance with the Adjudication Officer’s decision the complainant/employee can, on expiry of 56 days from the date of the decision, apply directly (or seek assistance from the WRC in applying) to the District Court for an order directing compliance.

WRC Inspections

The WRC may carry out a Workplace Inspection as a matter of routine, on the basis of a statutory obligation to carry out such an inspection, as part of a general compliance campaign, or, in response to a complaint of non-compliance by an employer with employment law.

Any party obstructing such an inspection or who fails or refuses to comply with any request made or questions asked by the assigned Inspector (or accompanying party) will be guilty of an offence. 

Where breaches of employment legislation are found to have occurred an Inspector may issue a Compliance Notice or Fixed Payment Notice and if any of the breaches amount to an offence the employer may be criminally prosecuted.

WRC Advisory Service

The WRC Advisory Service provides a confidential free advisory service designed to assist organisations and engage with employers and employees (and their unions) with implementation of good policies, procedures, and practices in the workplace.

The WRC Advisory Service does not provide legal advice or information or advice on employment rights issues.

The members of the WRC Advisory Service, although always impartial, can also facilitate dispute resolution where an organisation does not have the appropriate negotiating arrangements in place.  Being an advisory service only, any advice, proposals or recommendation provided as part of the WRC Advisory Service are not legally binding in nature.  

For further information please contact Bríd McCoy (Partner), or your usual AMOSS contact.