Streamlining the State’s Industrial Relations Machinery
In the coalition’s programme for government a commitment was given to reform the state’s employment rights and Industrial Relations Procedures. The National Employment Rights Authority, the Labour Relations Commission, the Equality Tribunal and the Employment Appeals Tribunal will be drawn together to form a single body to deal with complaints of first instance relating to employment.
Separately, the functions of the Labour Court and appeal functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal will be drawn together to form a single body responsible for hearing all appeals relating to decisions of the new first instance body.
A new employment rights website, www.workplacerelations.ie, was launched in January of this year on an interim basis. It provides information on employment, equality and industrial relations legislation. The site also contains a single complaint form (replacing 30 existing complaint forms) which can be used for all first instance individual complaints and referrals to the Rights Commissioner Service, the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the National Employment Rights Authority, Equality Tribunal, and the Labour Court.
There is widespread support from both employer groups and trade unions for the Minister’s proposal to introduce a single source of employment rights information. There is widespread recognition of the benefit of merging the web based services of all five employment rights bodies into one web based authority on employment rights.
The reforms are driven by the need to reduce complexity, backlogs and delays in the resolution of grievances and disputes. They should also provide greater value for taxpayers’ money, in light of current fiscal constraints and rationalise institutions in light of the Government’s public service reform agenda.
A Workplace Relations Project Office has been established within the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation to manage the Reform Programme. This reform agenda, under the stewardship of the Project Office, is gaining momentum and most employer bodies and trade unions are supportive of the concept of a single authoritative source of employment rights information. It is important that the website operates in line with “best practice” and is subject to some key guiding principles such as:
- The information available must be accurate and kept updated;
- The information must not suggest additional obligations or entitlements beyond the rights and obligations provided by current employment rights legislation;
- A clear distinction needs to be made between statutory employment rights and industrial relations issues;
- The separate nature of the roles and functions of inspection, mediation, adjudication and enforcement needs to be respected and maintained.