Facing a WRC claim? Here's what employers can do

Moira Grassick - Chief Operating Officer

February 16 2023

First published: February 16th 2023
Last updated: February 16th 2023

Facing a WRC claim? Here's what employers can do

Receiving a WRC claim from a disgruntled employee can be a stressful scenario for business owners.

If one of your employees feels aggrieved about a certain aspect of their employment, they may have a right to lodge a claim in the Workplace Relations Commission.

In many cases, you will know what the claim relates to as generally a claim is preceded by internal efforts to resolve the issue.

It’s also possible however that the employee’s complaint will come as a surprise if the subject matter of the claim has not been first considered in the workplace.

This blog post aims to give you a better understanding of what to expect and some advice around deciding on the best strategy for reaching a resolution that’s in the best interests of all parties.

What is the Workplace Relations Commission?

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) was established on 1 October 2015.

The WRC amalgamated a number of bodies into one forum for the resolution of employment disputes. There were five different bodies prior to the establishment of the WRC and long delays in resolving employment disputes were becoming unworkable.

As of October 2015, the WRC seeks to resolve employment claims in the first instance and the Labour Court hears any appeals from the WRC.

What does the claim relate to?

When you receive correspondence from the WRC, the first thing to do is to carefully review the details and identify the nature of the claim. The WRC deals with a wide range of employment disputes including but not limited to:

  • employment equality/discrimination
  • terms and conditions of employment/contracts
  • non-payment of wages
  • grievance and disciplinary procedures
  • unfair dismissals
  • constructive dismissals
  • redundancy

It’s important to carefully examine the details of the claim as this will inform your defence strategy.

Is the claim statute-barred?

There are also different time limits to consider depending on the nature of the claim.

In general, employees must present their claims to the WRC within 6 months of the incident, with a possible extension to 12 months where the employee can show reasonable cause for a delay in lodging the claim.

In many cases, an employee will not have lodged their claim in good time and will have lost their locus standi to enforce their employment rights.

What dispute resolution procedure is proposed?

The employee may have elected for mediation as their preferred method for resolving the complaint. If the WRC do not consider the claim to be suitable for mediation, you will be notified that the claim will be handled by the WRC Adjudication Service.

You will receive details of the hearing date for the matter along with details of where the hearing will take place. Adjudication Officers hear claims in a slightly more informal setting than a hearing in a civil court.

Both sides will nevertheless have an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses.

Gathering information

There is no subpoena or discovery process in the WRC and employees consequently tend to make Subject Access Requests under Data Protection legislation to help gather evidence around their claim.

In general, you will also be required to lodge a Submission or defence to a claim. Employees may also lodge Submissions in advance of the hearing.

It’s important to know the law and legal principles under which the employee is seeking to enforce their rights.

Your Submissions should clearly set out your defence, the facts of the case and consideration of any legal issues affecting your case.

Will the hearing be held in private?

WRC hearings were held in private until a 2021 Supreme Court decision in the case of Zalewski v. Adjudication Officer and WRC, Ireland and the Attorney General.

The Supreme Court held that WRC Adjudication Officers are engaged in the administration of justice and the practice of holding hearings in private was unconstitutional.

It follows that WRC hearings concerning employment or equality rights are now held in public and details of your business may go on public record.

Evidence under oath

In the Zalewski decision, the Supreme Court also ordered the WRC to allow evidence to be given under oath. This means that witnesses called to give evidence at WRC hearings could potentially face prosecution for giving false evidence.

Should you defend or seek to settle?

The WRC aims to set hearing dates within a short time frame so one of the first things to do when you receive WRC correspondence is decide whether there is any merit in the employee’s claim. You should decide at an early stage whether you intend to defend or settle the claim.

This decision will be informed by a number of factors. You will need to consider the strength of the employee’s case, the strength of your intended line of defence as well as the implications of taking part and making submissions in a public hearing.

For most employers, this decision can only be made after consulting with an employment law expert.

Get expert advice on defending WRC claims from Peninsula

As an employer, you need to follow the right steps to resolve workplace disputes.

That way you'll be able to reach settlements that benefit everyone or defend your position if that’s what the circumstances demand.

If you don’t know where to start with a WRC claim, Peninsula offers expert employment litigation representation.

Want more information about Litigation Representation? Call us on 1800 719 216.

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