Updated rules clarify procedures for service users.
On 21 January 2019, the Labour Court Rules 2019 (the 2019 Rules) came into effect, revoking and replacing the Labour Court (Employment Rights Enactments) Rules 2016 and Labour Court Provisional (Part VI) Rules 1946.
Clarified and updated procedures
The 2019 Rules largely clarify the procedure for service users of the Labour Court, with some minor procedural changes, and pave the way for a digitalised system. The 2019 Rules confirm pre-existing rules dealing with various matters including:
- Lodging of notices of appeal and information contained in such notices.
- Lodging of submissions and information contained in such submissions.
- Case management conferences.
- The withdrawal of appeals.
- Procedures at hearings.
Practitioners and parties to proceedings in the Labour Court should be aware of the following main changes, as summarised by Ciara Lennon and Emmet Whelan of ByrneWallace.
Changes to the procedure for lodging written submissions
There remains a distinction between the rules that apply to Unfair Dismissal and Employment Equality Appeals, on the one hand, and all other appeals, on the other.
In Unfair Dismissal and Employment Equality appeals, parties are now required to lodge five hard copies of their written submissions to the Labour Court and send one copy to the other party (Rule 8). This is a practice which the Labour Court had requested of parties prior to the 2019 Rules, which is now formalised in Rule 8. The timescale for exchange of submissions has not changed:
- The Appellant is required to lodge submissions three weeks from the date on which the notice of appeal is delivered.
- The Respondent is to reply within three weeks of the date on which the Appellant's submission was sent to the Respondent.
For appeals under all other employment enactments, parties are required to provide the Labour Court with five hard copies of their submissions not later than ten working days before the hearing (Rule 22). This is an increase from the seven working days provided for in the 2016 Rules. There is also a requirement to furnish the other party with a copy of any written submission not later than ten working days before the hearing, and to confirm the exchange of submissions to the Court. Once the digitalisation programme is completed, on a date yet to be announced, the Labour Court will receive submissions electronically.
The requirement for Witness Statements
The 2019 Rules also expand upon the information to be included in written submissions. The most notable change is the requirement in Rule 9 and Rule 25 for written submissions to include a summary of the evidence each witness is expected to give, in the form of "a witness statement". The 2019 Rules clarify that it is sufficient for a witness statement to contain a synopsis of the evidence, rather than a verbatim account of what the witness will say at the hearing. However, the statement should contain precise dates, or date ranges, on which events and/or incidents occurred. The 2019 Rules include an example of a brief witness statement (comprising four sentences) that would "at a minimum" be acceptable to the Labour Court.
Other changes to note
The Rules also formally confirm that, where parties intend to engage the services of a stenographer, they must notify both the Labour Court and the other side in advance of the hearing (Rule 47). The 2019 Rules also set out a detailed procedure for witness summons under Section 21 of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 (Rule 45).
This article originally appeared in the March 2019 Law Society eZine. For more information, or to subscribe, see eNewsletters.