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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
The Labour Relations Commission
Tom Johnson House
Tel:+353 (0)1 613 6700
Locall:1890 220 227 (outside 01 area)
Fax:+353 (0)1 613 6701
Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation
Opening Hours: Mon. to Fri. 9.30am to 5pm
Tel: (059) 917 8990
Locall: 1890 80 80 90
If you have a question relating to this topic you can contact the Citizens Information Phone Service on 0761 07 4000 (Monday to Friday, 9am to 8pm) or you can visit your local Citizens Information Centre.