How is the Workplace Relations Commission managing during Covid-19

Ordinarily, complaints and disputes referred to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) are mainly dealt by face-to-face mediation and adjudication. Due to Covid-19 restrictions the WRC has issued a Revised Matrix for Dealing with Complaints. They now consist of a mixture of written procedures, telephone mediation, remote virtual hearings and in line with health guidelines are providing a limited number of face-to-face hearings in their premises.

 

Adjudication Hearings 

The WRC conducted remote hearings initially on a pilot basis and have since been asking parties and representatives to be positively prepared to deal with their complaint via remote hearings. The WRC are targeting cases such as the Organisation of Working Time breaches, disputes around pay and other Industrial Relations issues.   

In recent weeks, Adjudication Hearings have been conducted in the WRC offices at a reduced capacity. Priority has been afforded to cases that required a reconvening of a previously adjourned hearing. The have made the following adjustments to their practice to eliminate risk of contracting the virus during an attendance.  

  • Starting times are staggered to reduce the possibility of congestion.  
  • There is an allocated time slot of 2.5 hours in hearing rooms which are all sanitised, cleaned and ventilated after each hearing.  
  • The WRC has drafted a protocol for parties/representatives when attending the hearing.  

Conciliation Meetings 
The service of the WRC conciliation is a voluntary process to resolve workplace disputes between employers and employees.  It can usually involve a series of meetings in an office or conference space whereby both parties are required to be engaged with the conciliator and with each other in an attempt to resolve their differences. Conciliation referrals continued to be submitted online via email at conciliation@workplacerelations.ie . Some virtual and remote conciliation engagements have taken place during this period of Covid-19 if both parties agree to it.

 

Mediation 
To avail of the mediation service, an employer must complete the online complaint form. The WRC will contact the respondent to confirm their attendance and to see if they are willing to engage in mediation. If both parties agree to mediation, they will be contacted by the WRC to discuss a mutually convenient date and approach to be taken (I.e. Telephone or Face-to-face, subject to public health guidelines).

 

The Mediation Service is offering mediation in suitable cases, including: 

  • Complaints that were received over the past 2 months 
  • Parties whose hearings were postponed because of Covid-19 or other reasons and are awaiting an alternative hearing date 
  • Parties that previously declined the offer of mediation will be offered the option again 

Since 10th August, the Mediation Service returned to limited face-to-face mediation in the WRC premises (subject to public health guidelines).

 

On-site Inspections 
While on-site inspections and site visits were ceased according to the Government’s guidance, limited on-site inspections and visits have recommenced. They are currently working through complaints, inspections and matters arising remotely where possible. In addition to implementing compliance with employment rights, the WRC is supporting the Health and Safety Authority in ensuring conformity to the Return to Work Safely Protocol.

 

If you have concerns about compliance with employment rights legislation, or WRC inspections and would like further advice, please contact Emma at SFA on 01 605 1668 or at emma.crowley@sfa.ie or visit the SFA website to access our resources

 

 

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