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Workplace Relations Commission complaints rise 44% as typical case length now exceeds 8 months

In the first 10 months of the year, the WRC held over 4,000 adjudication hearings.

Image: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE NUMBER OF complaints made to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) rose 44% this year, with the organisation aiming to take a number of actions to reduce its backlog next year. 

The WRC is the statutory body that provides mediation and conciliation services, as well as adjudication for disputes and grievances made under employment legislation. 

In the 10 months to 31 October, there were 4,141 adjudication hearings held by the WRC. In all of 2018, 5,312 hearings were held. 

In figures released to Solidarity-PBP TD Bríd Smith via parliamentary question, Minister for Business Heather Humphreys said that while nine in 10 cases last year went from receipt of complaint to a decision within six months, the median length of time for decisions this year is 8.2 months.

“Factors impacting processing times include postponements being sought, delays in the parties making submissions to the WRC or the parties may have attempted to mediate the dispute,” she said. 

In many cases, an adjudicator is allocated a number of hearings that day. If one or both of the parties seeks a late postponement then it delays the process further.

Humphreys said to try and improve processing times, the WRC was aiming to introduce a pilot procedure to smooth the process for arranging postponements.

“Another factor impacting processing times is the volume of complaints received by the WRC for adjudication,” she said. “This year to end of October 2019, the WRC received a 44% increase in specific complaints in comparison to the same period last year.”

According to the minister, one of the key aims for the WRC next year is to reduce the median time for processing applications by an additional two weeks on this year. It also wants to ensure a “smooth transition of An Garda Síochána to access the services of the WRC”.

Garda members were previously unable to access the industrial relations mechanisms related to other workers, but the government has amended legislation to allow them to engaged with the WRC and Labour Court mechanisms. 

According to further statistics released by Humphreys, waiting times at the Labour Court also increased this year. 

In 2018, the average time for cases to reach hearing was 12 weeks in industrial relations cases and 19 weeks in employment rights cases.

In the year to October, the average time here was 17 weeks and 26 weeks, respectively. 

The average time taken for the court to issue its decision or recommendations in 2018 was two weeks. This rose to three weeks in 2019. 

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Sean Murray

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