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Rights Commissioner Service

Information

The Rights Commissioner Service operates as part of Labour Relations Commission. Rights Commissioners are independent in the performance of their duties.They investigate disputes, grievances and claims that individuals or small groups of workers make under employment legislation including the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977–2007, the Maternity Protection Acts 1994 and 2004, the Payment of Wages Act 1991, the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, the Terms of Employment (Information) Acts 1994–2012, the Protection of Young Persons (Employment) Act 1996, the Industrial Relations Acts 1946–2012, the Adoptive Leave Acts 1995 and 2005, the Parental Leave Acts 1998 and 2006, the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001, the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Acts 2005 and 2010.

Streamlining of employment rights enforcement

Since 4 January 2012 there is a single point of contact and a new online complaint form (available by selecting ‘Make a complaint in relation to employment rights’ on workplacerelations.ie).

On 6 July 2012 the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation published a policy document detailing his proposed legislative provisions for a new workplace relations service. A Workplace Relations Commission will bring together the existing services of the Labour Relations Commission, Rights Commissioner Service, Equality Tribunal, the National Employment Rights Authority and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal. The Labour Court will be the single appeal body for all workplace relations appeals, including those currently heard by the Employment Appeals Tribunal.

Rules

An employee (or any trade union that the employee belongs to, with the consent of the employee) can present a complaint to a Rights Commissioner (see 'How to apply' below).

Before you make a complaint you should inform your employer that you intend to contact the Rights Commissioner Service. Where the complaint is about a statutory entitlement you should try and resolve the matter locally before applying to the Rights Commissioner Service.

When a complaint is made to the Rights Commissioner Service, it will allocate the case to one of the commissioners. The hearings are informal and are held in private, except for hearings under the Payment of Wages Act, which are held in public, unless the Rights Commissioner decides otherwise. In practice, however, members of the public do not attend such hearings.

In Dublin, hearings take place in the Labour Relations Commission but hearings are held in other parts of the country as the need arises. The Rights Commissioner may ask both sides to supply him/her with a brief outline of their case prior to the hearing. At the hearing, the Commissioner will ask each party to present their case and may ask questions. The parties will also be allowed to comment on the other party's submission and to ask questions regarding it. Each side may bring witnesses to the hearing. The Rights Commissioner may also speak to each party separately and explore the possibility of reaching a settlement of the dispute.

Depending on the legislation the Rights Commissioner issues a recommendation or a decision. All recommendations and decisions are binding on the parties unless they have been made under the Industrial Relations Acts 1969-2001. If an agreed settlement is not possible, the Rights Commissioner will issue a recommendation on the dispute.

This will be posted out to the parties within a few weeks of the hearing. At this stage, either party may appeal this recommendation - see below.

Rights Commissioner or Employment Appeals Tribunal?

Under the unfair dismissals legislation, the employee or the employer may object to the Rights Commissioner hearing. If this happens, the case can be referred to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT). Likewise under the Industrial Relations Acts, an employee may seek a Rights Commissioner hearing, but if the employer objects, the employee would have to refer the matter to the Labour Court.

Essentially, the Rights Commissioner Service aims to offer the parties a quick and informal method of dealing with a dispute. In such cases where the employee has a choice as to the route that can be followed, some of the factors to take into consideration would be:

  • How great is the amount of compensation that the employee might expect? For potentially larger awards, it may be best to by-pass the Rights Commissioner stage and apply direct to the EAT. This is because a Rights Commissioner recommendation for a large amount of compensation is almost certainly going to be appealed by the employer to the EAT anyway. Also in such cases the chances of getting a reasonable agreed settlement at the Rights Commissioner stage are unlikely. On the other hand, if an employee's loss is small, then the Rights Commissioner service may offer the best prospects of an early resolution of the dispute.
  • If the employee is seeking reinstatement, the chances of achieving this may be greater at a Rights Commissioner hearing, which takes place relatively soon after the dismissal. By the time an EAT hearing takes place (approximately 6 months after the application), an employer will probably strenuously resist the remedy of reinstatement if only on the grounds that the employee has been replaced. Although this would not be an absolute bar to reinstatement, the EAT will take note of such practical difficulties, especially in a firm with few employees.
  • Bringing the case to the Rights Commissioner initially may help to identify the main issues in the case. This may be of benefit to an applicant in preparing for a subsequent EAT hearing. Of course, the employer may equally benefit.
  • The EAT can compel the attendance of witnesses, who will be sworn in and may be cross-examined. A Rights Commissioner hearing by contrast is much more informal. Parties may bring persons along to speak in support of their cases, but the Rights Commissioner cannot compel the attendance of such persons. At the hearing, there is no swearing in nor is there formal cross-examination. This contrast between the two hearings may be an important factor in a person's decision as to whether to take the Rights Commissioner or the EAT route. For example, if the dismissed employee wishes to have a current employee attend, such an employee may be very reluctant to attend a Rights Commissioner hearing of his/her own accord. An obvious reason for this would be fear of losing the job or at least suffering adversely in the job as a consequence of such attendance. On the other hand, an order for attendance from the EAT gives the employee no choice but to attend.
  • Given the more informal nature of a Rights Commissioner hearing, the need for legal representation may be less likely than at the EAT.

Appealing a Rights Commissioner’s decision or recommendation

Depending on the legislation a recommendation or a decision of a Rights Commissioner may be appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal or the Labour Court and there are different time limits within which an appeal must be made. For example, under the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 an employee or employer can appeal the recommendation of a Rights Commissioner to the Labour Court. However under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 an appeal against a Rights Commissioner decision should be made to the Employment Appeals Tribunal. In both instances the appeal should be made within 6 weeks of the parties receiving the decision or recommendation.

How to apply

A written notice of complaint must be presented within 6 months of the date of the alleged breach of the Act. The time limit for submitting a complaint may be extended by a further 12 months if the Rights Commissioner is satisfied that the failure to present the complaint within the normal 6-month period was due to reasonable cause.

There is more information on the Rights Commissioner Service website. The new online complaint form is available by selecting ‘Make a complaint in relation to employment rights’ on workplacerelations.ie.

For further information on your employment rights contact Workplace Relations Customer Services - see 'Where to apply' below.

Where to apply

Rights Commissioner Service

The Labour Relations Commission
Tom Johnson House
Haddington Road
Dublin 4
Ireland

Tel:+353 (0)1 613 6700
Locall:1890 220 227 (outside 01 area)
Fax:+353 (0)1 613 6701
Email: rightscomm@lrc.ie

Workplace Relations Customer Services

Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
O'Brien Road
Carlow
Ireland

Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 1890 80 80 90
Homepage: http://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/

Page updated: 11 March 2014

Language

Gaeilge

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    This describes how employees are protected under the unfairs dismissals legislation: who is covered, who is excluded and how to make a claim for unfair dismissal.

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