21st April, 2017
Nearly 200,000 decisions by EAT since its establishment contributing hugely to employment rights in Ireland.
EAT is winding down as part of the restructuring of the Workplace Relations mechanisms of the State.
The Minister of State for Employment and Small Business, Pat Breen TD, today marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Employment Appeals Tribunal and was presented with a history of the EAT by the Chairman, Ms Kate T O’Mahony, at an event in Dublin Castle.
The purpose of the Employment Appeals Tribunal was to provide an inexpensive and relatively informal means for the adjudication of disputes on employment rights under the body of legislation that comes within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal.
The Tribunal has been an integral part of the employment rights framework of the State for a significant length of time. Over 50 years, it has served the interests of employers, employees and their representatives, earning respect on all sides.
The creation of the Tribunal was considered an innovative move by the State in the area of employment rights. It was set up to ensure that a worker’s statutory entitlement to redundancy was given the force as well as the full protection of the law.
Speaking at the event in Dublin Castle Minister for Employment and Small Business said: “I am delighted to be here today to mark this significant milestone. The booklet ’50 Years of the Employment Appeals Tribunal’, is an interesting and valuable record of what the EAT was all about. The Tribunal was a vital institution in the vindication of the rights of employees and employers. As the body of employment rights legislation developed, the Tribunal evolved with it, meeting the challenges of the day and applying its legal expertise and workplace experience to arrive at considered decisions. Its Register of determinations – which, I’m told, now comprises approximately 190,000 decisions – has contributed hugely to employment rights in Ireland.
While today is a day to celebrate the EAT achievements it is also important to note that the Tribunal is winding down as part of the restructuring of the Workplace Relations mechanisms of the State. I am fully aware of the immense reputation of the EAT for impartiality and fair procedures. In particular, I would like to highlight the work of the Chairman Kate O’Mahony, who has steered the Tribunal through a remarkably challenging time and congratulate her and the Tribunal for their achievements.
I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of all the EAT members past and present. They have contributed significantly to the employment rights ethos in Ireland.”
Vice-Chairman of the Tribunal Peter O’Leary spoke of the positive features of the Tribunal’s procedures, in particular the tripartite nature of the Tribunal, and the fact that it holds oral hearings. The exceptionally low level of appeals and judicial reviews of Tribunal decisions taken to the superior courts is, he said, “a testament to the fair procedures the Tribunal applies”. Mr O’Leary thanked his “extremely knowledgeable and experienced colleagues” for their dedicated service, and also thanked the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation for their ongoing support over the years.
The Tribunal’s record of “unfailing professionalism and commitment” was commended by Dr Orlaigh Quinn, Secretary General of the Department of Jobs Enterprise and Innovation, under whose aegis the EAT operates. She said the Tribunal had added “in a very concrete way to the building of the employment rights framework that exists today” and that the new Workplace Relations Commission and expanded Labour Court structure continuously will build upon what went before. Dr Quinn expressed her certainty that “the legacy and spirit of the Tribunal will continue to contribute to employment rights in the future”.
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NOTES FOR EDITORS
Minister Breen will host an event marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Employment Appeals Tribunal.
The purpose of the event is to:
a) Present ‘50 Years of the Employment Appeals Tribunal’ booklet to the Minister, and
b) Mark 50 years of the Tribunal in this, its final year
The Tribunal celebrates 50 years in existence in 2017. It is also its final year, as it is being wound down as part of the Workplace Relations reform process. It is an appropriate occasion for the Minister to thank the Tribunal members for their service over the years.
Booklet: ‘50 Years of the Employment Appeals Tribunal’
A booklet, ‘50 Years of the Employment Appeals Tribunal’ has been produced by a group of Tribunal members including the Chairman. The booklet will be presented to the Minister by the Ms O’Mahony as part of the event. It contains details of the development of the Tribunal’s remit, its cases and Members and includes factual articles as well as some more colourful anecdotes of Tribunal proceedings.
Reason for the wind down of the Tribunal
The Tribunal is winding down as part of the re-structuring of the workplace relations mechanisms of the State. The Workplace Relations reform process commenced in 2012 with a view to streamlining the previously cumbersome employment rights structure into a more simplified two-tier system.
The reform was underpinned by the Workplace Relations Act 2015, which provided for the establishment of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the expansion of the Labour Court. Under the Act, the WRC assumes the roles and functions previously carried out by the National Employment Rights Authority, the Equality Tribunal, the Labour Relations Commission, the Rights Commissioners Service and the first instance functions of the Employment Appeals Tribunal. The Act also provided that the Labour Court was given sole appellate jurisdiction in all disputes arising under employment rights enactments.
The Tribunal worked closely with the Department and the other Workplace Relations bodies to progress the reform agenda, the main impact of which will be, vis-à-vis the Tribunal, the winding down of its operations and its ultimate dissolution.
Since 1 October 2015, the Employment Appeals Tribunal no longer accepts new claims or appeals, which must instead be referred to the WRC or the Labour Court respectively. All cases already lodged with the Tribunal before 1 October 2015 (its legacy caseload) will be finalised by the Tribunal itself. The Tribunal is working to expedite its legacy cases, almost all of which are expected to be finalised by October 2017. Although it will not be formally dissolved in 2017, its work will be more or less complete at that stage.
Brief history and development of the Tribunal
The Tribunal has been an integral part of the employment rights framework of the State for a significant length of time. Over 50 years, it has served the interests of employers, employees and their representatives, earning respect on all sides. The Redundancy Payments Act of 1967, which established the Redundancy Appeals Tribunal, was enacted on 18 December 1967. The Act thus established a forum within which the ordinary ‘man in the street’ could refer a case to have those rights vindicated. Apart from its continuing responsibility to hear appeals under the Redundancy Payments Acts, under its revised title, the Employment Appeals Tribunal dealt with cases under eighteen pieces of legislation. These range from cases for unfair dismissal to minimum notice, as well as hearing appeals from decisions and recommendations of the Rights Commissioner Service of the Labour Relations Commission. The majority of cases dealt with by the Tribunal deal with ‘termination of employment’ issues, that is, redundancy, dismissal, minimum notice, transfer of undertakings etc.
The Tribunal has operated in Divisions, each consisting of either the Chairman or a Vice-Chairman and two other members, one drawn from the employers’ side of the panel and one from the trade union side. All Members are appointed by the Minister – the Chair and Vice-Chairs directly by the Minister, with the Employee Members and Employer Members having first been nominated by ICTU and Ibec respectively. A Vice-Chairman of the Tribunal, when acting as Chairman (at the request of the Minister or the Chairman), has all the powers of the Chairman. Many of the current Members of the Tribunal have given long years of solid service: the longest serving being a Vice-Chairman (Dermot McCarthy SC) who was appointed in 1969. The Chairman, Ms Kate O’Mahony BL, was appointed in 2002, having previously acted as a Vice-Chair.
Tribunal cases are heard in public as provided for by statute, unless the Tribunal, on the application of either party and in the exercise of its discretion, decides that the hearing be heard in private.
The Tribunal’s determinations are published on the website - www.workplacerelations.ie.