The Development of the Employment Appeals Tribunal

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This text will thoroughly examine how the Employment Appeals Tribunal developed into the Workplace Relations Commission and its purpose in relation to employment law in Ireland. The Employment Appeals Tribunal was set up in 1967 under the Redundancy Payments Act 1967. The first ever Chairman of the EAT was John Gleeson who got the position in 1968 and remained in that position for 10 years until 1978. Before the establishment of the EAT there was no forum for settling dispute regulations in regard to Employment law. By the 2010s the EAT began to dissolve and 2017 marked its final year. The EAT was succeeded by a new upgraded format. This became the Workplace Relations Commission. The WRC was set up on 1st October 2015 under the Workplace Relations Act.

The EAT heard its first appeal on the 18th April 1968. The tribunal sat 75 days and heard a total of 133 appeals between 18th April and 31st December 1968. A total of 83 of the appeals were heard in Dublin with the remaining 50 appeals being heard around the rest of the country at various different venues. It was clear from the beginning that the tribunal would have a Countrywide and national dimension to its work. The composition of the EAT consistently grew throughout the years. It started out with a 16-person panel and developed into a panel which at its height consisted of well over 100 people.

The members included a Chairman, Vice Chairmen, a Trade Union Panel, an Employers Panel and a secretary. The EAT was a semi-legal forum that heard disputes over individual entitlements under legislation including dismissal, notice, payments, maternity entitlements, and Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-1993. It also heard appeals from rights commissioners under certain legislation. The Appeals from the Employment Appeals Tribunal can be found under order 105 in the Rules of the Superior Court. The main part of the EATs work involved the adjudication of reports that had arisen from the termination of the employment relationship.

This included claims for unfair dismissal, redundancy and minimum notice. It also included complaints which were against the minister on employees’ rights when an employer had been declared insolvent. The Adjudicating Officers of the EAT were required to be of a legal background. The EATs main and possibly most complex work was dealing with claims under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977. There was no need to have representation if you appeared before the Tribunal. The EAT was an adjudicating body that made binding decisions and its tripartite nature was derived from the fact that it heard both sides in a case, which is the fundamental principle underlining the meaning of a Tribunal.

The new simplified two-tier structure consisting of the Workplace relations Commission and a new Labour Court (one single appeal body) was set up under the Workplace Relations Act 2015. The establishment of the Work Relations Commission provided a new more sophisticated system for dealing with Workplace Relations. The WRC is an umbrella organization and it assumes the functions and roles which were “previously carried out by the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), Equality Tribunal (ET), Labour Relations Commission (LRC), Rights Commissioners Service (RCS), and the first-instance (Complaints and Referrals) functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).”

Appeals in the WRC are heard by one adjudicating officer in private. All adjudicating officer are required to be of a legal background. All of the first instance complaints are made to the Workplace Relations Commission where three options for the resolution of complaints are made available. The three options for the resolution of complaints include early resolution, inspection and adjudication. Any appeals have to be made through the Labour Court with the only further appeal being to the High Court on a point of law (with the exception that appeals under the Equal Status Acts will be to the Circuit Court).The first 3 years of the WRC saw a huge backlog of cases. The core services of the WRC include the processing of employment agency, the inspection of employment rights compliance, the protection of young persons employment licences, the provision of information and the provision of conciliation, advisory services, mediation and facilitation. The board of the Workplace Relations Commission consists of a chairperson and 8 other member who are appointed by the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation. It has a workforce of close to 200 staff and supplemented by over 30 external adjudicators. The current Director General of the WRC is Liam Kelly, who has been in that position since 1st November 2018. The WRC has operational bases for hearings in many counties with offices based in Dublin, Shannon, Sligo, Cork and Carlow.

The WRC has a number of functions and services. One of the WRCs key objectives is to provide impartial information on a wide variety of employment rights legislation to employers and employees by telephone, in writing, through its website and through ongoing public awareness programmes. The WRC promotes and encourages compliance with relevant employment as well as equality and equal status legislation. The WRC also plays the key role of advising the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation on relevant legislation. Other than the Employment Equality Act, the WRC provides information to the public in relation to employment legislation.

The WRC also maintains the responsibility of monitoring a range of employment rights in Ireland through its inspection service. These inspections happen as a result of complaints received by the WRC of alleged contraventions of employment rights, routine inspection enquiries and targeted inspection campaigns. Under legislation, inspectors of the WRC have the power to enter the workplace at any reasonable time; require the production of records; inspect records; take copies of, and remove and retain, records; and to interview and require information from any relevant persons. In order for a case to be appealed it has to go to the Labour Court.

Although the current system that is the WRC may not be perfect, it is miles ahead in terms of efficiency and modernity than the previous system that was in place in Ireland – the EAT. The first few years after the establishment of the WRC definitely proved to be quite pressurizing on the commission due to the large backlog and influx of cases. However, the Workplace Relations commission has a much more modern set up which includes a very well laid out website which is essential in the modern-day world. It would be advisable though to further update the application system of the WRC as it is a long and generally quite complicated process. The appeal process can also take some time to go through the whole process.

In conclusion, it is clear from the evidence presented in the above text that the WRC is a very complex umbrella organisation which intertwines the various governing bodies that were previously involved in employment law and workplace relations stated above, which include “National Employment Rights Authority (NERA), Equality Tribunal (ET), Labour Relations Commission (LRC), Rights Commissioners Service (RCS), and the first-instance (Complaints and Referrals) functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).”

Having all these bodies under the one organization proves to much better than the previous set up. It is also clear to see that the new Labour Court is a very efficient way of dealing with appeals within the Workplace Relations Commission. The process of dealing with appeals through the Labour Court works quite well. Although the new Workplace Relations Commission could still be updated to an extent, it is important not to criticize too heavily and instead keep in memory that it is better than any system which had previously existed in Ireland.

Based on the details which are stated, the new two-tier structure is a far more sophisticated structure and provides for a much better system of dealing with cases. Overall, it is very evident that the WRC works quite well and effectively carries out the job in which it was set up to do. The WRC, like anything may have its certain flaws but altogether it is a very capable organization and deals efficiently to an extent with all of the cases it is involved with.


  1. ‘Employment Appeals Tribunal’, (Annual Report, 2012) < https://employmentrightsireland.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/EAT_45th_Annual_Report_English-EAT-report-2012.pdf>
  2. WRC website,
  3. ’50 years of the Employment Appeals Tribunal – 1967 2017’, (2017) < https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/publications_forms/eat-50th-booklet-final.pdf>
  4. Terry Gorry, ‘The Employment Appeals Tribunal Annual Report for 2012-The Essentials’ (Employment Rights Ireland, 20 December 2013) < https://employmentrightsireland.com/tag/employment-appeals-tribunal/>
  5. Courts service, ‘Superior Courts Rules order 105’, (Appeals from the Employment Appeals Tribunal) < https://beta.courts.ie/rules/Appeals-from-the-Employment-Appeals-Tribunal>

Cite this paper

The Development of the Employment Appeals Tribunal. (2021, Jul 23). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/the-development-of-the-employment-appeals-tribunal/

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