How We Operate
How the Labour Court Works
The Labour Court:
- considers industrial relations disputes that are referred to it; and
- hears all appeals of Adjudication Officers’ 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. Parties to trade disputes, or those involved in disputes arising in an employment rights context, should first seek resolution though local or State supported mediation resources, and should only request intervention by the Labour Court if these alternatives have been exhausted.
There are five stages to cases before the Labour Court and the sequencing will vary depending on whether the appeal is an industrial relations referral/appeal or an employment rights appeal.
- Referral of dispute/appeal
- Arrangement for a Labour Court hearing
- Parties lodge written submissions
- Hearing before the Court
- Court issues its Recommendation/Decision
Further information can be found in the Labour Court User’s Guide
Parties who are referred, or who make an appeal, to the Labour Court will be asked to attend a hearing where the details of their dispute are considered. The parties are each asked to make submissions setting out their position on the matter in dispute. 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.
There are six ways in which a case can be referred to the Labour Court. These referral methods are:
- 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 Enterprise, Trade and Employment 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
Divisions of The Labour Court
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 as required at venues throughout the country. Hearings may also be held remotely, in the Virtual Courtroom.
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.
The Court’s administrative service also provides a Secretariat to Joint Labour Committees and certain Joint Industrial Councils.
(c) General Administration deals with internal administration.