2016 was an interesting year for Irish employment law. We look at the significant efficiencies achieved by the Workplace Relations Commission during its first full year in operation. We outline key legislative developments including the introduction of paternity leave, legislation relating to spent convictions and the increase to the national minimum wage. We also look at the first injunction granted by the Circuit Court under the Protected Disclosures Act 2014.
THE WORKPLACE RELATIONS COMMISSION ("WRC") - ONE YEAR ON
In December 2016, the WRC published its 2016 Progress Report (the "Report"), outlining the progress made by the WRC during its first 12 months in operation. In particular, the Report highlighted the following:
WRC's Information Officers dealt with over 62,000 telephone calls, over one-third (35%) of which concerned work permits. The next most popular topic was working time (15%), with only 6% of telephone queries relating to unfair dismissal claims. The average waiting time for hearing disputes has been reduced to 3-4 months and decisions are being issued within an average of 6-8 weeks. The backlog of legacy employment equality cases has been significantly reduced. Mediation was offered by the WRC in 1,119 cases, and in roughly 50% of these, both parties agreed to take part. 1124 referrals were received by the WRC Conciliation Service, 163 of which were referred to the Labour Court. High profile cases during the review period involved Irish Life, Irish Rail, Tesco, the Central Mental Hospital, Irish Water and AIB. The Inspection Services concluded 5,221 inspections, and held that 2,050 employers were in breach of employment legislation. 13 Fixed Payment notices were issued to employers. KEY LEGISLATIVE DEVELOPMENTS
The Paternity Leave and Benefit Act 2016 ("PLBA") was signed into law on 2 August 2016, creating a new legal right to paternity leave in Ireland. Under the PLBA, paternity leave must be taken within 26 weeks of the birth/placement of the child. The commencement of the Spent Convictions Act 2016 (the "SCA") and the National Vetting Bureau Acts 2012 - 2016 (the "NVBA") represented a significant legal development in Ireland. Under the SCA, where a person aged 18 years or older was convicted of an offence and seven years have passed, the conviction can be regarded as "spent" where the sentence imposed was for 12 months or less, the conviction was not for a sexual offence or for an offence which was tried in...