The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) serves as an independent statutory body with a pivotal role in addressing employment and equality-related complaints and disputes.
The core functions of the Workplace Relations Commission or WRC include:
- Offering cost-effective dispute resolution services for employment or equality-related disputes.
- Encouraging compliance with relevant employment legislation.
- Providing the public with information on employment legislation.
- Conducting research.
- Advising the Minister for Business, Enterprise, and Innovation on the application and compliance of legislation.
In this article, our primary focus will be on the significance of legal representation during WRC hearings. These hearings can be conducted either in person or virtually, providing both employees and employers with a platform to present their cases and relevant evidence. An adjudication officer presides over the proceedings, overseeing the hearing and ultimately rendering a decision. It’s important to note that the legal binding nature of the decision can vary depending on the specific claim being pursued.
The operational framework of the WRC typically aligns with established procedures outlined in the Workplace Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2021 and the Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020. However, it’s crucial to recognize that these procedures can exhibit variability, particularly concerning individual cases. This variability, among other factors discussed in this article, underscores why many individuals opt to secure legal representation when navigating the Work Relations Commission (WRC )or initiating a claim.
Within this article, our Employment Law team at Setanta Solicitors will explore the diverse procedures and stages inherent to the WRC process, emphasizing the role that legal representation can play throughout this journey.
Why Seek Representation before Submitting a WRC Claim Form?
While it is indeed possible to file your own employment claims with the WRC and represent yourself at the hearing, as with any other court, it may not be as straightforward as it initially seems.
One of the most common mistakes made by lay litigants is committing critical errors on their initial claim forms, potentially jeopardizing their case. For instance, if a claim form contains technical defects, such as raising a claim outside the court’s jurisdiction, the opposing party may raise preliminary objections during the hearing. This could result in some of your prepared arguments being dismissed. Furthermore, a failure to fully understand the claims may lead to missed opportunities to assert valid claims.
Additionally, if you select the wrong legal grounds or claims, it may become too late to rectify them by the time the hearing approaches. Many employment claims must be submitted to the WRC within six months of the alleged wrongdoing or events that prompted the complaint.
Why Seek Representation while Proving Your Case?
Winning your case hinges on your ability to prove it. To do this, you must determine whether the burden of proof initially rests with you or the employer, as it varies depending on the claim. Next, you will need to compile and submit evidence to support your case. This evidence should address two main categories:
- The facts or events that gave rise to the claims
- eg., emails showing discrimination from your employer
The relevant legal basis for each claim
- e.g., The Employment Equality Acts 1998–2015
Neglecting either of these crucial elements is almost certain to result in an unfavorable outcome. Hence, effective preparation is of paramount importance.
This preparation should involve a comprehensive collection of all relevant facts, evidence to substantiate your account of events, and thorough legal research to validate your claims. Such legal research should encompass statutory law and case law, including decisions made by the WRC, the Labour Court, and civil courts.
This intricate phase of the process highlights the challenges of achieving success without professional assistance, especially when confronted with complex issues and claims.
Making a Submission
The next crucial step is to consolidate your research findings into a comprehensive “submission” and then submit it to the relevant parties. This submission should be forwarded to the WRC and shared with the opposing party well before the actual hearing, affording both sides ample time to review its contents. This practice serves a dual purpose: on one hand, it enables the adjudication officer and the opposing party to gain a thorough understanding of your case; however, it also provides the opposing party with insight into your arguments, allowing them to prepare counterarguments. Simultaneously, you will also receive the submission from the other party, which you can analyze to formulate your own arguments.
A robust submission is essential, as its absence can significantly undermine your case. Your submission should be structured clearly and organized into distinct sections:
- Facts, events, and evidence supporting your claims.
- The legal foundation for your case, along with reasons why you should prevail on each claim.
- A conclusion outlining the specific remedy you are seeking, such as compensation or reinstatement in the case of unfair dismissal.
For most employment solicitors, the creation of WRC “submissions” and the analysis of the opposing side’s submissions are routine tasks. This means they are well-versed in the correct formatting, presentation of evidence, and framing of arguments to bolster your case effectively.
WRC Hearing Process
The WRC hearing process offers some flexibility, permitting hearings to be conducted remotely unless there are compelling reasons necessitating in-person proceedings. Within the hearing itself, the process follows a structured sequence involving a series of questions, the presentation of evidence, and the exchange of legal arguments. Additionally, when their testimony is deemed necessary, witnesses may also be called upon to provide their insights. Throughout these proceedings, adjudication officers play a central role, diligently overseeing the process to ensure that all parties are afforded fair procedures.
In order to ensure a well-prepared and thoroughly organized hearing, it may be prudent to consider the advantages of seeking legal representation, especially for individuals who lack legal expertise. Legal professionals can provide valuable assistance in meticulously preparing all required documentation well in advance of the hearing, as well as ensuring the proper presentation of these documents, recognizing the critical importance of this aspect of the process.