New Bill To Reform WRC Practice

Published date28 July 2021
subjectMatterEmployment and HR, Unfair/ Wrongful Dismissal, Employee Rights/ Labour Relations
Law FirmDillon Eustace
AuthorMr John Doyle

The Workplace Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2021 (the Bill) has completed the fifth stage of its journey through the Seanad on its way to becoming law.

Background

The Bill was introduced to cure certain defects in the Workplace Relations Commission's (WRC) procedures identified by the Supreme Court in Zalewski v. Adjudication Officer & Ors [2021] IESC 24. In that judgment, the Supreme Court unanimously held that certain sections of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 were inconsistent with the Constitution because they provided for hearings otherwise than in public in circumstances where Adjudication Officers, in performing their functions, were involved in the administration of justice, albeit to a limited extent. You can read more about the Zalewski ruling in our previous briefing here.

Provisions

The Bill provides for certain aspects of the appointment or removal of Adjudication Officers, but of most significance, provides for three major reforms to the WRC's practices.

Once the Bill is enacted, WRC hearings in unfair dismissals claims will be held in public unless an Adjudication Officer determines that there are "special circumstances" which would justify excluding the public. The further implication of the public nature of hearings is that the WRC will, in the absence of special circumstances, no longer anonymise its decisions when publishing its decisions on its website thus introducing a publicity risk for parties. This requirement of public access will also have logistical implications for the WRC in terms of the physical space requirements to accommodate the parties and the public.

The second fundamental change is that Adjudication Officers will be empowered to require a witness to give their evidence on oath or affirmation and to administer the oath or affirmation. The third, related, change is that a witness who knowingly gives false material evidence under oath or affirmation will be...

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