The Law Society of Ireland has issued a cautious welcome to the commencement tomorrow (Thursday 1 October 2015) of the Workplace Relations Act 2015, which provides for a range of changes for those seeking resolution to employment law issues.
Maura Connolly, chair of the Law Society’s Employment and Equality Law Committee, said, “We welcome the new legislation insofar as it has simplified and streamlined certain important aspects of the process of seeking redress in employment matters. However, we have concerns about certain aspects of the new Act, and the existing legislation which forms the basis for the claims has not been brought together or streamlined.”
Ms Connolly said that solicitors are concerned about Section 41(13) of the new Act, which provides that initial hearings before an Adjudication Officer “shall be conducted otherwise than in public.”
“The Law Society’s submission called for hearings by Adjudication Officers to be held in public. This advice has not been taken on board. We feel strongly that these first instance hearings should not be held privately. It is a fundamental constitutional principle that justice should be administered in public.”
“There is a significant public benefit in allowing the media to report on these hearings – employees can often be alerted to their rights though media reports of employment cases and it can incentivise employers to adhere to their legal requirements.”
“Take for example an employee with several claims arising from one period of employment – a common occurrence. For example, he may have a complaint that he did not receive a statement of employment, had pay unlawfully deducted, and was subsequently unfairly dismissed without adequate notice. In order to access justice for these complaints, his solicitor has to look to several different pieces of legislation in order to make his claims – the Terms of Employment Act, the Payment of Wages Act, the Unfair Dismissals Acts, and the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts, for example.”
“Each of these claims can now be filed together and submitted to the new Workplace Relations Commission, but will still need to be argued separately under the relevant legislation. Thus, the system remains complex and confusing - a complainant with several valid claims may make mistakes in filing the claim under the correct legislation, making it difficult to reach a just outcome. Conversely, we feel it will still prove time-consuming and costly for an employer to deal with claims which have no substance. Injured parties will need to seek solid legal advice from their solicitor to navigate the system.”