Overhauling the State’s five employment rights bodies – Minister Bruton submits detailed plan to Oireachtas Committee
Process has delivered substantial improvements already – expected to be fully up and running by the beginning of next year
6th July 2012
In advance of bringing legislative proposals to Government to radically reform the State’s five industrial relations and employment rights bodies, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation today [Friday] published a detailed reform plan he has submitted to the Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, for its consideration and discussion next week.
The submission marks the latest stage in the reform process, which the Minister announced less than a year ago, and which is expected to be completed by the beginning of next year. The Minister today published the 80-page document as well as the responses to the consultation process, which he undertook on the Blueprint to Deliver a World-Class Workplace Relations Service document earlier this year.
Minister Bruton announced in July 2011 his intention to reform the State’s five industrial relations and employment rights bodies. He intends to create a single body responsible for dealing with all first instance complaints and a single body responsible for dealing with appeals. Since then he has undertaken two public consultation processes. In keeping with his belief in the need to involve the Oireachtas earlier in the legislative process where possible, he is taking his plan to the Oireachtas Committee before bringing proposals for legislation to Government.
Work has commenced on drafting the legislation; the Minister’s intention is to have legislation enacted in the autumn and the new system fully up and running at the beginning of next year.
- Among the achievements delivered by the process so far are:
- A new single contact portal has replaced the five separate entry points.
- Complaints are now acknowledged, on average, within five working days of receipt. This was previously taking up to eight months in some cases.
- The employer is notified, on average, within five working days of the complaint being lodged thus increasing the possibility of a resolution being reached without the need for a hearing.
- There are now no backlogs for Rights Commissioner hearings. The backlog in 2010 was 142 days
- A Single Complaint Form that deals with over 100 first instance complaints has replaced the 30 forms previously in use.
- A new workplace relations interim website www.workplacerelations.ie is in place.
- Delivery of a pilot Early Resolution Service has commenced.
Among the measures in the plan which the Minister will be bringing to the Oireachtas Committee are:
- A single body of first instance, called the Workplace Relations Commission, to adjudicate on all complaints. All hearings will be heard by a single adjudicator, replacing the three-person tribunals currently in existence in some cases.
- A single route for appeal, to an expanded Labour Court (also incorporating the appeals functions of the EAT).
- A single time limit for first instance complaints, and a single time limit for appeals
- Three month time-limit from complaint to hearing, replacing the current two-year wait in some cases
- 28-day target from hearing to decision
- Reasoned, written decisions of all adjudications will be published
- Better enforcement of awards, including provision for a Determination Order enforceable at civil or criminal law
- Rigorous, best practice, performance reporting arrangements between the new body and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
A series of measures will be put in place to reduce the number of cases which end up at formal hearings:
- An Advisory and Information Service in the WRC to provide enhanced information services, better adherence to codes of practice, template workplace dispute procedures and other measures to help encourage resolution of more disputes in the workplace
- An Early Resolution Service, based on best international practice, including interventions and alternative dispute resolution services to encourage resolution of disputes before formal adjudication
- Improved compliance measures, including the use of Compliance Notices and Fixed Charge Notices
Making the announcement today, Minister Bruton said:
“Reform of the State’s employment rights and industrial relations bodies has two principal goals: to deliver a better service for employers and employees, and to deliver savings for the taxpayer, businesses and workers. To date we have made substantial progress and have delivered real improvements for users of the service.
“Reform is never easy, there will always be opposition from groups whose interests are challenged by the changes. However I am satisfied from the comprehensive consultations I have undertaken with all stakeholders that on the whole this process will continue to bring major improvements to the service for employers, employees and taxpayers.
“I am heartened by the commitment and support that is evident in the delivery of this substantial piece of public sector reform. I look forward to hearing the input of the Oireachtas Committee on these issues, and plan to proceed as quickly as possible to publish and enact legislation and have the new system up and running at the beginning of next year.
“I wish to thank all those who have contributed to the process so far, in particular those who have worked so hard to deliver the progress achieved, including Ger Deering and his team in the Project Office, my officials and the Chief Officers and staff members of the five employment bodies.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
Last year 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 on the Workplace Relations Website at the following link - Summary & Analysis of Responses - 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 to Deliver a World-Class Workplace Relations Service (Blueprint) which the Minister published in April of this year.
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. A total of 32 responses to the document were received. These submissions are available on the Workplace Relations Website in a single document called Blueprint Consultation Responses, May 2012.
In order to facilitate his dialogue with the Committee the Minister has today presented a Policy Document, Legislating for a World-Class Workplace Relations Service to the committee. This sets out in detail the provisions that the Minister believes should be incorporated into the proposed new legislation. He has also made available to the Committee the submissions received in responses to the consultation on the Blueprint to Deliver a World-Class Workplace Relations Service published by him in April this year.
In addition to submitting them to the Committee, the Minister is also publishing both documents in order to provide all interested parties with a detailed outline of the reforms he is now proposing, having considered the responses to the Blueprint.
The WRC will replace the Labour Relations Commission, the National Employment Rights Authority, the Equality Tribunal and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT). The appeals body will constitute the Labour Court incorporating the appeals functions of the EAT.
Last modified: 06/07/2012