As we know the Labour Court has been given a massive remit under the Workplace Relations Act 2015.  Since 1 October 2015 it now deals with all employment law appeals as well as continuing its industrial relations dispute resolution service. It continues to be a challenge for the Labour Court to demonstrate that it can handle the extra burden but the Court is ready to meet that challenge. This is clear from the foreword to the 2015 Annual Report written by Mr. Kevin Duffy, Chairman of the Labour Court. Mr. Duffy states:

"The most important event affecting the court during the year under review was undoubtedly the passing into law of the Workplace Relations Act 2015, which was commenced by Ministerial Order on 1st October 2015. This Act will result in profound change in the Court’s caseload and in the profile of cases with which it deals. That will arise from the designation of the Court as the sole appellate tribunal in all equality and employment rights cases dealt with at first instance by Adjudication Officers of the Workplace Relations Commission."

Undoubtedly the Court had an extremely busy 2015 and Mr. Duffy summarises the hard work as follows:

"Members of the Court undertook extensive training so as to familiarise themselves with the legislation in respect of which appellate jurisdiction will in future be exercised by the Court. New procedures have also been developed to ensure that the expanded caseload of the Court is effectively managed so as to ensure that cases are programmed and decisions issued within a predetermined timeframe. New procedural rules were prepared, adopted and put in place in relation to the filing of submissions by parties and the timeframe within which they are to be filed."

So how busy was the Labour Court in 2015? The figures speak for themselves: 

  • 810 referrals were received
  • 613 hearings took place
  • 518 Recommendations / Determinations / Decisions / Orders were issued
  • 110 cases  were investigated that were settled prior to or at a hearing
  • 1 Collective Agreement was registered under the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997
  • average timescale for hearings in Dublin is now 13 weeks 
  • outside Dublin it is 16 weeks
  • a target of issuing recommendations within 3 weeks of the hearing in Industrial Relations cases and within 6 weeks in employment rights cases

That is a very busy year for a relatively small team! 2016 will only be busier. The number of cases that it is likely to receive in 2016 will be, at least, double the number received in 2015. It is estimated that in 2016 and beyond up to 75% of cases will involve appeals from the decision of an Adjudication Officer under various other employment rights enactments, with 25% of cases involving the investigation of trade disputes.

So far so good for the Labour Court. Not so good for the overall Workplace Relations Commission which seems to be going through a variety of teething problems and complaints from users. Let's hope the good administration of the Labour Court can ultimately reach out to other areas of the service - so that the original aim of a world class service can be achieved.