How We Operate
To ensure that cases are processed with a minimum of delay, the Court operates in 4 separate Divisions, although certain issues may require a meeting of the full Court. A Division is made up of the Chairman or a Deputy Chairman, an Employers' Member and a Workers' Member. Hearings are held in Dublin and at several venues throughout the country.
How the Labour Court Works
The Labour Court deals with disputes under
• industrial relations
• hears all appeals of Adjudication Officer’s decisions of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in all disputes arising under industrial relations and employment rights enactments
Court of Last Resort
The role of the Labour Court in dispute resolution is to act as a court of last resort. In other words, local dispute resolution arrangements in the company or organisation, and the other dispute resolution machinery of the State should have been fully utilised before a case comes before the Labour Court.
The Labour Court investigates disputes by requiring the parties to a dispute to provide it with written submissions of their positions in relation to the dispute, and, subsequently, by holding hearings which both parties attend. The hearings are usually held in public, unless one of the parties requests a private hearing. All appeals under employment appeal enactments are conducted in public subject to the right of the Court to conduct part of the hearing in private in exceptional circumstances.
In most cases the Labour Court deals with disputes which are referred to it (the ways in which a dispute can be referred to the Court are described below); occasionally though, the Labour Court will intervene in an industrial relations dispute and invite the parties to come before it.
Referral methods (6): ways in which a case can be referred to the Labour Court:
- WRC Referral (industrial relations dispute) - the parties to the dispute have availed of the conciliation services of the WRC, but have failed to reach agreement - in this case the WRC, at the request of the parties, refers the case to the Labour Court; or
- WRC Waiver (industrial relations dispute) - the WRC has waived its conciliation function in the dispute; or
- Labour Court Intervention (industrial relations dispute) - the Court determines that exceptional circumstances prevail in the dispute and, following consultation with the WRC, invites the parties to the dispute to avail of its services; or
- Ministerial (industrial relations dispute) - the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation refers a dispute to the Court; or
- Direct Referral - Advance acceptance of Recommendation (industrial relations dispute) – this is where a worker, or workers, in a trade dispute, or a trade union on his/her/their behalf, or all the parties, agree in advance to accept the Labour Court’s recommendation. They can bring their case direct to the Labour Court (under section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969). This may happen where initially the worker(s) referred the dispute to an Adjudication Officer but the employer did not agree to have the case heard by the Adjudication Officer- in such a case the Adjudication Officer informs the worker(s) that the employer has not agreed to his/her hearing of the case and advises worker(s) that a direct referral may be made to the Labour Court.
- Appeal of the decision of an Adjudication Officer. Where a case has been heard by an Adjudication Officer and a recommendation has been issued, either party to the dispute may appeal the recommendation to the Labour Court; such appeals must be made to the Labour Court within 42 days of the date of the Adjudication Officer’s recommendation. The appeal can be on the basis that one or both of the parties does not agree with the Adjudication Officer’s recommendation
Administrative Structure of the Labour Court
The workings of the Labour Court are supported by an administrative service staffed by civil servants. The service is divided into 3 administrative sections - Programming, Secretariat and General Administration.
(a) Programming Unit processes referrals to the Court, arranges hearings and provides information on how to refer cases to the Labour Court.
(b) The Secretariat consists of the Court Secretaries. Each hearing of the Labour Court is attended by a Court Secretary who takes contemporaneous notes as an aide-memoire, subsequently issues the Decision/Recommendations of the Court to the parties in the particular case and deals with any queries in relation to the case.
It also provides a Secretariat to Joint Labour Committees and certain Joint Industrial Councils.
(c) General Administration deals with internal administration.