Adjudication of employment rights disputes and complaints
Under the Workplace Relations Act 2015, the adjudication service (formerly the Rights Commissioner Service) operates as part of the Workplace Relations Commission. Adjudication officers 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 redundancy, unfair dismissal, minimum notice, minimum wage, hours of work and leave.
The list of legislation under which complaints may be referred for adjudication is in Schedule 5 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015.
A complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (see 'How to apply' below) may be made by the person directly affected, that is, the direct complainant or, in some cases, by a specified person acting on behalf of the direct complainant. A specified person is a person who is named in the relevant employment law as being entitled to present a complaint or refer a dispute
Before an employee makes a complaint they should inform their employer that they intend to contact the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). Where the complaint is about a statutory entitlement they should try and resolve the matter locally before applying to the WRC.
A complaint is made to the Director General of the WRC initially. The Director General may refer it to a mediation officer if it is considered that the complaint can be resolved without being referred to an adjudicator and if neither party objects to it being dealt with through mediation.
If the complaint is not dealt with through mediation or if the mediation is not successful, it is referred to an adjudication officer. The adjudication officer generally conducts an inquiry. The Director General may decide to deal with the complaint by written submissions only, unless either party objects within 42 days of being informed. More information about the procedures in the investigation of employment and equality complaints (pdf) is available on workplacerelations.ie.
At the inquiry both parties have an opportunity to be heard and present any relevant evidence. The hearings are held in private. The person who is making the complaint may be accompanied and represented at the hearing by:
- A trade union official or an official of a body which represents the interests of employers
- A practising barrister or practising solicitor
- In the case of a complainant who is aged under 18 a parent or guardian (as well as one of the people already listed)
- Any other person with the permission of the adjudication officer
WRC have information about what happens at an adjudication hearing.
The adjudication officer makes a decision in accordance with the relevant law and the decision is given to the parties in writing. At this stage, either party may appeal this decision – see below.
Decisions by adjudication officers will be published on the internet without identifying the parties.
Enforcement of the adjudication officer’s decision
The employer has 56 days in which to carry out the decision of the adjudication officer. If the employer fails to do so, the employee, the WRC, the employee’s trade union or excepted body (an excepted body is a body that represents the interests of a particular group of workers) may apply to the District Court for an order directing the employer to do so. In general, the District Court must make the order. If the decision was to reinstate or re-engage the employee, the District Court may substitute an order to pay compensation of up to 104 weeks’ pay calculated in accordance with the rules under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977–2015.
In all cases involving compensation, the District Court may also order interest to be paid. It is an offence to fail to comply with an order directing an employer to pay such compensation to an employee unless the employer can show, on the balance of probabilities that they were unable to comply with the order due to financial circumstances.
Appealing an adjudicator’s decision to the Labour Court
A decision of an adjudicator may be appealed to the Labour Court within 42 days. This time limit can be extended if the Labour Court is satisfied that there were exceptional circumstances causing the delay.
How to apply
A complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission 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 6 months if there was "reasonable cause for the delay". The online complaint form is available on workplacerelations.ie.
For further information on your employment rights contact the Workplace
Relations Commission's Information
and Customer Services - see 'Where to apply' below.
Where to apply