The Workplace Relations Commission ("WRC") has published its 2016 Progress Report and Commentary. The report outlines the progress made by the WRC during its first six months and gives some insight into the types of cases being dealt with and how it operates practice.
The WRC Information and Customer Service dealt with over 31,000 calls during its first six months. The report indicates employment permit queries were far and away the most popular type of query, accounting for 31% of the total queries received. Working time queries were second in line (17%), with queries on unfair dismissal accounting for only 5% of the calls. 71% of the total inquiries were made by employees working in a range of different industries and sectors.
The WRC Conciliation Service received a total of 523 referrals in the six-month report period, of which 79 disputes were then referred to the Labour Court. The report notes the Conciliation Service assisted in a broad range of HSE industrial relations disputes. It also facilitated engagements between companies and employees, and/or their representatives, across the entire transport industry - including aviation, bus, train and tram services
In the private sector, the Conciliation Service was particularly involved in resolving issues around company restructuring in an increasingly competitive economy. High profile cases involved Irish Life, Irish Rail, Irish Water and Tesco.
The report shows that mediation was offered by the WRC in 620 cases, and in roughly 50% of these, both parties agreed to take part. Interestingly, there were only 16 direct requests for mediation in the six-month report period.
Typical issues included interpersonal workplace relationships, equality mediations, and grievance and disciplinary matters.
The Adjudication Service has received a mixed response from practitioners, with concerns raised around administrative difficulties, late notifications and inconsistency in how hearings are being conducted. Some Adjudication Officers favour an informal approach akin to the old Rights Commissioner hearings, while others adopt a more formal structure, similar to how EAT hearings are conducted. The report acknowledges that the service has faced many challenges, some of which are being addressed.
In terms of positive steps, the report highlights:
A significant reduction in waiting times, for both hearings and determinations. The average waiting time...