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History and Development of the Court

History and Development of the Labour Court

The Labour Court was established in 1946 (following the enactment of the Industrial Relations Act, 1946). Its main functions were to adjudicate in trade disputes and to provide a conciliation service. Other functions given to the Court included the establishment of Joint Labour Committees and the registration of employment agreements and Joint Industrial Councils.

There have been many changes to its structure and functions since then, following amendments to the Industrial Relations Act in 1969 to 2015 and the enactments of:

Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974

Employment Equality Act, 1977

Pensions Act, 1990

Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997

Employment Equality Act, 1998

National Minimum Wage Act, 2000

Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act, 2001

Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act, 2003,Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005

Workplace Relations Act 2015

An equality service was added in 1975 to deal with equal pay - and later, equal treatment - cases. In 1991, this service, and the conciliation service of the Labour Court were transferred to the newly established Labour Relations Commission. In 1999, the equality service was transferred from the Labour Relations Commission to the newly formed Equality Authority and Office of the Director of Equality Investigations (the Equality Tribunal), (under the auspices of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform) under the Employment Equality Act, 1998.

The Labour Court retained its other functions under equality legislation, including the hearing of appeals and investigating complaints of dismissal under the Employment Equality and Pensions Acts (appeals under the equality provisions of the Pensions Act, 1990 are heard by the Labour Court).

The Court acquired additional functions in 1997, 2000, 2001 and 2003 under the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997, the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000, the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act, 2001, the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act, 2003 and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 respectively. In 1999, the Court's remit under equality legislation was broadened by the coming into operation of the Employment Equality Act, 1998.

The Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 gave the Court responsibility for processing applications for approval of working time agreements as well as an appellate and enforcement function in relation to Rights Commissioners' decisions under that Act.

The Employment Equality Act, 1998 extended the Courts functions in relation to equality matters to reflect the widening of the scope of equality legislation.

The National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 gave the Labour Court an appellate and enforcement role in relation to recommendations of Rights Commissioners under that Act, as well as empowering the Court to exempt employers, in certain circumstances and for a maximum of 12 months, from the scope of the Act.

The Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act, 2001 gave the Court an appellate and enforcement role in relation to decisions of Rights Commissioners under the Act; and responsibility for processing of applications for approval of collective agreements concerning casual part-time employees under the Act.

The Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act, 2003 gave the Court an appellate and enforcement role in relation to decisions of Rights Commissioners under the Act.

The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 gave the Court an appellate and enforcement role in relation to decisions of Rights Commissioners under the Act.

The enactment of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 provides that the Court is now sole appellate body for Adjudication Officer’s decisions of the Workplace Relations Commission.