The full impact of a recent Supreme Court decision on the procedures in the Workplace Relations Commission remains to be seen, but for now the WRC has adopted measures to ensure the administration of justice in public.
Tomasz Zalewski lost his claim for unfair dismissal, and challenged the process under which the WRC’s adjudication officer had decided the case. The decision was made on the basis of written submissions with no oral hearing and no opportunity to cross examine. This was deemed to be inappropriate by the Supreme Court, which held that an adjudication officer is ‘administering justice’ when making determinations on employment law matters.
The administration of justice comes with obligations of fair procedures, explained in the words of O’Donnell J as ‘independence, impartiality, dispassionate application of the law, openness, and, above all, fairness.’
The Supreme Court has held that it is not fair that hearings should routinely take place behind closed doors and that evidence should be given under oath or affirmation, with a penalty for giving dishonest evidence.
Legislation will be required to provide for oaths and affirmations, and where there is a serious conflict of evidence the WRC will currently allow for postponements to prevent injustice arising before that legislation comes into force.
As a result of the judgement, the WRC has made an immediate amendment to its procedures to allow for public hearings. As hearings are currently remote, this means that journalists or other interest parties may seek to be admitted to the hearings.
The other change is that when determinations are published, they will contain the names of the parties, whereas they had previously been anonymised. These measures satisfy the obligation for justice to be administered in public.
The above is provided for information purposes and is not intended as legal advice. If you have reason to be before the WRC, we, at Fitzsimons Redmond, would be happy to advise you on your next steps. Please contact us on 01-676 3257.
By Lisa Quinn O’Flaherty
Solicitor at Fitzsimons Redmond