Workplace disputes during COVID-19
Under the Workplace Relations Act 2015, the mediation and adjudication services operate as part of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC). Ordinarily, complaints and disputes referred to the WRC are mainly dealt with by face-to-face mediation and adjudication.
Following consultation with stakeholders, the WRC has set out revised guidelines for delivering its services in line with the Government’s Roadmap for reopening of society and businesses. The guidelines are in its Revised Matrix for Dealing with Complaint (pdf).
Since 15 June 2020, the WRC is writing to parties about complaints received and selecting cases best suited for written proceedings or virtual hearings. From 10 August some face to face hearings will be offered, subject to public health guidelines.
You can read more general information about employment rights enforcement in the section of our website covering Enforcement and redress.
Mediation by phone
The Mediation Service is offering mediation in suitable cases, including:
- Complaints that were received over the past 2 months
- Parties whose hearings have been postponed as a result of Covid19 or other reasons and are awaiting an alternative hearing date
- Parties that previously declined the offer of mediation will be offered the option again
The mediation service is currently being offered by phone only. From 10 August 2020 the Mediation Service will return to providing limited face-to-face mediation in the WRC premises (subject to public health guidelines).
Written procedure process
The WRC will review complaints and identify those that are suitable for the written procedure process. Suitable complaints include:
- Cases not suitable for mediation, or
- Where mediation is not successful
Parties must agree to dealing with the complaint by written procedure and can object within 42 days of being informed.
The WRC protocol includes detailed guidelines for investigating complaints by written procedure – see Appendix 2 of the Protocol (pdf).
Following a successful 2 week pilot in May 2020, virtual hearings will be offered to parties. Selected remote hearings are scheduled from 13 July 2020.
The WRC will carry out an initial screening of complaints to decide if they are suitable for a virtual hearing. Parties selected for virtual hearing procedure will be notified by email.
The WRC will schedule suitable cases for virtual hearings. Initially, the following complaints will be targeted:
- Organisation of Working Time complaints, which includes disputes about holiday pay, pay for public holidays and breaks and rest periods
- Disputes about pay
- Industrial relations issues
The WRC protocol includes detailed guidelines for investigating complaints by virtual hearing – see Appendix 3 of the Protocol (pdf). The guidelines cover practical arrangements around device and broadband requirements, submitting documentation, confirmation of attendees to be present and other general rules around conduct.
Face-to-face mediation and adjudication hearings were postponed from 13 March 2020. In line with latest government announcements, face-to-face hearings will be re-introduced from 10 August. The WRC will send out notifications from the 20 July. Face-to-face hearing will be offered for those cases that are not suitable under the alternative options – phone mediation, written procedure or virtual hearing.
Hearings will take place in large meeting rooms in line with Government and HSE advice. See guidance note for visitors in face-to-face Hearings in WRC Offices. The WRC protocol also has initial proposals – see Appendix 4 of the Protocol (pdf).
How to make a complaint
You must use the online complaint form available on workplacerelations.ie.
You can read this list of frequently asked questions about making a complaint.
You can apply for mediation using the online mediation referral form available on workplacerelations.ie.
You can read full details of the changes in the WRC protocol on Revised Matrix for Dealing with Complaints (pdf).
You can get more general information about employment rights enforcement in the section of our website covering Enforcement and redress.
If you need information about employment law and your employment rights you can contact Workplace Relations Commission's Information and Customer Service.