Pilot Early Resolution Service
The Labour Relations Commission is offering a new pilot Early Resolution Service (ERS) to employers and employees to assist them in resolving issues in dispute without the need for a formal adjudication or inspection. The aim is to find a solution that is acceptable to both parties that will assist in the avoidance of time, stress and costs without the need for a formal adjudication hearing or inspection. This is a conciliation/mediation type service which will be provided by Case Resolution Officers. Agreement to use the service is entirely voluntary.
Currently all claims/referrals to the Rights Commissioner Service, to the EAT, or to NERA, are centrally logged in a Central Portal Unit. It is the intention during the pilot phase of ERS to offer an early intervention in a representative selection of these claims/referrals. When the pilot scheme gets underway cases will be forwarded to the ERS and cases considered suitable for early intervention will be allocated to a Case Resolution Officer. Where the parties decline to use the service or where the attempt at settlement is unsuccessful within an agreed period of time, the claim/referral will be forwarded to the relevant service to arrange a formal hearing or inspection.
The Case Resolution Officer will:
- Contact the claimant in the first instance. Explain the early resolution process leading, hopefully, to agreement by both sides to become involved.
- Help establish the facts at issue and discuss the options open.
- Help each party to understand how the other side views the case and explore with them how it might be resolved without a formal hearing/inspection.
- Explore the issues involved and try to help settle differences in a way that is acceptable to all parties concerned but will not impose solutions.
- Discuss any proposals that either side has for a settlement.
The Case Resolution officer will not:
- Represent either the employer or the employee, take sides or help either side prepare their case.
- Give legal advice.
- Give an explicit opinion on the merits of a claim or advise on tactics, or how to win at a formal hearing.
- Make a judgement on the case, or the likely outcome of a formal hearing/inspection.
- Advise on whether or not to accept any proposals for settlement.
- Pressurise people to settle or abandon a case.
Key features of the Service:
- The service is confidential.
- Information will not be passed to other parties without your agreement.
- What you say during discussions with the Case Resolution Officer cannot be used or referenced as evidence at a hearing.
- The service is independent.
- It is entirely separate from the Rights Commissioner Service, the EAT and NERA and if a settlement is not reached, a claim/referral can still be pursued.
- The service does not delay the EAT, Rights Commissioner or Inspection processes.
- The service is free.
Why use the Early Resolution Service?
- Saves time and money. Preparing or responding to a formal hearing can take a great deal of time, and could have associated representational costs.
- Minimises stress. Almost everyone finds the process of pursuing or defending a case difficult, and appearing at a formal hearing can be a stressful experience.
- Quick Solution. Cases can be dealt with in a few telephone calls or in exceptional cases via tripartite meetings with agreed settlements implemented very soon afterwards.
- Win-Win Outcome. In a formal hearing situation one party usually loses and even the ‘winner’ will not always get what he or she wants from the process. The singular advantage of the ERS is that it can achieve a “win-win” situation if the parties wish to reach a settlement.
- Control. Settlements are reached by agreement on terms that suit the parties. Innovative and creative solutions are possible which will allow the parties to reach a settlement that meets their particular needs.
- Avoids Formality. Although any of EAT or Rights Commissioner hearing processes are somewhat less ‘formal ’ and legalistic than most court processes they contain standard procedures with which most people are unfamiliar and uncomfortable.
Updates on the new pilot Early Resolution Service will be published in our future Ezines so stay tuned.
Source: The Labour Relations Commission
Following on from updates we have been providing on Minister Bruton’s intention to reform the third-party employment law process, this month has seen the Minister announce the elimination of waiting times for a hearing with the Rights Commissioner service. This is quite an achievement, considering that the wait time was 142 days at its peak in 2012. With the announcement, the plans for reform appear to be on track to establish a two-tier workplace relations commission by the end of 2012. Watch this space!