The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has been significantly impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 emergency over recent months. Hearings and face-to-face mediation sessions have been postponed and a backlog of cases due to be heard has presumably been building up.
The Commission has, however, now announced proposed guidelines and procedures aimed at facilitating a resumption of certain activities. The WRC's vision involves virtual hearings, possible virtual mediation and adjudication of disputes based on written submissions only.
The Commission has requested that interested parties submit any observations by the end of May but has indicated that it "proposes to action its delivery models with immediate effect".
The first measure anticipated is the adjudication of disputes based exclusively on written submissions. The WRC has indicated that it will commence offering such a service within a matter of days. Parties will, however, be entitled to object to their cases being dealt with exclusively on the basis of written submissions.
It is expected that the first virtual hearings will be scheduled to take place in July with letters inviting parties to participate in same to be issued from next week on. It appears unlikely that complex cases will be dealt with using this mechanism but the proposals may be reviewed as time moves on.
The resumption of normal face-to-face hearings still appears to be some time away although the WRC has indicated that it is planning to commence such hearings at its' own premises in due course in line with the Government's Roadmap for Reopening Society & Business.