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Individual worker rights cases trending upwards at Labour Court
SIPTU members in GoSafe, which operate speed cameras, protesting outside Dáil last November at the company’s refusal to accept a Labour Court recommendation Pic: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

18 Jun 2020 / employment Print

Individual Labour Court cases trending upwards

The Labour Court heard 1,182 appeals or referrals in 2019, a 1.1% increase, with 1,139 hearings scheduled at 11 locations, its annual report shows.

A total of 887 cases were completed and 342 resolved before hearing.

Industrial relations referrals under the Industrial Relations Acts 1946-2015 increased from 399 in 2018 to 479 in 2019, or a 20.1% increase.

The number of cases completed in 2019 was up 70.1% on the preceding year (from 253 to 432).

A further 116 cases were withdrawn by parties during 2019, up 110.9% from 55 in 2018.


Employment rights case referrals decreased by 8.7% from 770 in 2018 to 703 in 2019.

And 226 cases were withdrawn by parties during 2019, up from 165 in 2018 (36.9%).

In 2019, the proportion of referrals to the court which were employment-rights based was 60% – a change from 2015 when industrial relations and employment rights disputes stood at almost exactly 50:50.

The Labour Court expects the rising trend in employment rights cases will continue to grow into the future.


These generally affect single individuals while collective disputes can involve very significant numbers of workers in a single referral.

The number of cases completed in 2019 was up 6.8% on the preceding year (from 426 to 455).

Additionally, 226 cases were withdrawn by parties during 2019, up from 165 in 2018 (36.9%).

Of the 703 employment rights appeals received by the Court during 2019, 55.2% (388) were in respect of appeals under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1997-2017, Employment Equality Acts 1998-2012 and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

During 2019 the Labour Court received three applications to approve collective agreements under the latter act.

The Labour Court has a €2.8m annual spend and has been sitting in virtual court rooms since the start of June.

Chairman Kevin Foley thanked the legal profession for its input in setting up the virtual court rooms which came into operation on 2 June.

Restore capacity

A limited number of court rooms at the Lansdowne House, Dublin 4 building will return to operational use in July 2020.

“The Court is anxious to restore a capacity, however limited, to hear appeals in a physical court-room as soon as possible,” said Kevin Foley “and to that end we are working extremely hard to deliver best practice compliance with Return to Work Safely protocols.”

The Labour Court holds key statutory functions in industrial relations dispute resolution and separate functions in employers/employee disputes under employment law.

This statutory framework means that the Labour Court is unique in the context of State-funded arrangements and it draws on high-level expertise in employment law.

Dispute activity

The vast majority of its recommendations are accepted voluntarily with a very low level of appeal to the High Court on points of law or judicial review.

The reports points to a low level of dispute activity in the economy generally in 2019.

There was a total of nine industrial disputes in progress in 2019 involving 42,656 workers, whereas 1,814 workers were involved in ten industrial disputes in 2018. 

Trade Union pay claims were made against the background of the relative improvement in the economy generally, the report says, and its approach of the Court was to recommend increases in pay where this was justified and sustainable.

Rates of pay

The Industrial Relations Acts 1946-2015 make provision for a system of Joint Labour Committees (JLCs), to set statutory minimum rates of pay and conditions of employment in particular sectors.

During 2019, 11 JLC meetings were held: four for contract cleaning, one for hairdressing and six for the security industry. 

In August 2019, the Labour Court agreed that it immediately cease maintaining a register of apprentice hairdressers.

Language schools

An application was made by the Minister of State for Trade, Employment, Business, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection to establish a JLC for the English language schools sector. 

The Labour Court also hosted the European Association of Labour Court Judges (EALCJ) conference in Dublin on 6 - 8 June last year.


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