What is the Advisory Service?
The Advisory Service works with employers, employees and their representatives, principally in non-dispute situations to develop effective industrial relations practices, procedures and structures that best meet their needs. The Service is independent, impartial and experienced in industrial relations practice and theory.
Staff of the Service, in discussion with the parties will tailor assistance to individual workplace requirements. This assistance is confidential and free of charge. The Service assists employers and employees build and maintain positive working relationships and works with them to develop and implement on-going effective problem-solving mechanisms. With these in place, the organisation (management and employees) is free to concentrate on core objectives, meet competitive challenges, implement organisational change and positively address employee expectations and concerns.
Who can use the service?
The service is available to all employers and employees. To use the service employees need not be trade union members, nor do employers have to belong to a representative body. While certain public sector employments do not come within scope of the statutory function of the Commission, the Advisory Service will always assist these parties on an ad hoc basis outside their established employee relations frameworks.
What type of services does the Advisory Service deliver?
The Advisory Service delivers a broad range of services to its customers including:
- Industrial Relations Audits
- Joint Working Parties
- Preventative Mediation/Facilitation
- Training / workshops
- Preparation of Codes of Practice
- Voluntary Dispute Resolution (SI 76 of 2004)
- Frequent Users Initiative
What do these services cost?
The services delivered by the Advisory Service are free to users. In certain circumstances parties may be requested to provide a venue for meetings.
Do parties travel to Dublin to avail of these Services?
No. Staff of the Advisory Service will attend at every place of employment, regardless of geographic location. Much of the Advisory Service work is undertaken in the actual workplace. However, on occasion, meetings/facilitations take place off site, but in the geographic location, to facilitate particular requirements of various parties and the type of service being delivered.
What is an Industrial Relations Audit?
Where a broad range of problems are perceived to exist or where the parties wish to gain a greater understanding of the dynamics at play in an organisation, it may be appropriate to conduct a thorough audit of industrial relations practices and procedures together with a survey of the views of all the groups in the enterprise. Typically the audit is presented to the parties in the form of a confidential report containing findings, conclusions and recommendations. In some cases however it may be more appropriate to focus on the change agenda and present the parties with a series of recommended improvements. The Service provides further support in terms of post-report monitoring and, where necessary, assistance with implementation of the required changes and improvements in the form of a Joint Working Party.
What is a Joint Working Party?
A Joint Working Party means joint sessions of company management/representatives and employees/ representatives working together to agree and implement recommendations or decisions to improve industrial relations in the workplace. The Advisory Service provides assistance in the setting up of such working groups and will chair sessions as required. This service is designed to give the parties direct involvement in developing mutually acceptable solutions to the various difficulties identified in their workplace.
Can the Advisory Service provide any other preventative services?
Yes. Assistance is often required in situations where parties anticipate future difficulties. The Service assists in such cases by providing preventive mediation and facilitation. Many organisations also require assistance to improve work organisation. The Service advises on and develops specific disputes and grievance procedures, new work practices, structural change and other measures required to maintain and enhance competitiveness.
What kind of Advice does the Advisory Service provide?
The Advisory Service provides advice on workplace procedures and processes and assists employers and employee representatives in non-dispute situations to develop effective industrial relations practices. In some instances employers and trade unions/emplyee representatives (together or separately) approach the Service for detailed advice on good practice when putting in place negotiating agreements, grievance/ disciplinary procedures and other industrial relations frameworks. The Advisory Service will provide whatever assistance is required in these circumstances.
What Training/Workshops are provided?
The Advisory Service promotes good practice in workplace relations through the provision of training workshops and seminars on such topics as the management of change, the prevention of workplace conflict, grievance and disciplinary procedures, and working together effectively. The topics covered reflect the Commission’s wide experience in dealing with dispute resolution and prevention in the workplace. Programmes are delivered both on a stand-alone basis or as a module in an organisation’s own training programme.
What are Codes of Practice?
Under the Industrial Relations Act 1990, the former Labour Relations Commission (now part of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC)) developed draft Codes of Practice for submission to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The Codes of Practice that are developed by Advisory Services are instruments drafted and put in place by Government to outline recommended practice in certain contexts. While not having force of law, they can be taken into account in the course of proceeding before the Labour Court or other adjudicative forums.
What is SI 76?
SI 76 is also known as the ‘Enhanced Code of Practice on Voluntary Dispute Resolution (Statutory Instrument 76 of 2004)’. The Code provides a recognised framework for the processing of disputes arising in situations where negotiating arrangements are not in place and where collective bargaining fails to take place. The WRC's Advisory Service facilitates a six-week procedure, which is designed to assist management and unions to resolve the issues in dispute. Outstanding issues may be referred to the Labour Court. This is the only service involving issues of dispute with which the Advisory Service deals.
How do I prepare for an SI 76 case?
Referrals under SI 76 (Enhanced Code of Practice on Voluntary Dispute Resolution) must adhere to the prescribed format which is detailed in the Appendix to the Code. Referrals must include contact names, addresses and telephone numbers for the trade union and company, category of worker(s) involved, description of issues in dispute and details of previous communications. The Advisory Service's experience has been that the more detail that is initially given in respect of the the issues in dispute, the more productive the process has been.
The Code also imposes a six-week time-frame for completion of the LRC stage of the process. On receipt of an invitation to participate in the process, respondents have 2 weeks to accept the WRC's invitation to participate. If the invitation is accepted, there is then a further four weeks for substantial engagement on the issues in dispute. This time-frame can only be extended by agreement and where progress is being made.
This Code is complimented by SI No. 139 of 2004 (Code of Practice on Victimisation), which provides guidelines for participants in the SI 76 process in respect of behaviour that might be considered to be 'victimisation' and also provides a mechanism for complaint and redress.
In summary, when preparing for an SI 76:
- Parties referring issues should ensure that as much detail as possible is supplied to the LRC in the first instance,
- Respondents should ensure that they comply with the time-frames when replying,
- In light of the six-week time-frame, parties to the process are requested to be flexible in respect of their availability
- All parties should be aware of the provisions of SI 139 of 2004 - Code of Practice on Victimisation.
What research is carried out under the remit of the Advisory Service?
The Advisory Service commissions research on current industrial relations themes and disseminates the findings through publications or via conferences.
What is the Frequent Users Initiative?
The Frequent users Initiative is a consultative process undertaken by the Advisory Service on a regular basis. The purpose of the initiative is to explore with the users of our dispute resolutions services the reasons for their frequent recourse to the Commission. While this service is confidential and has no impact on the parties’ access to the WRC's dispute resolution services it monitors levels of usage of the Commission’s dispute resolution mechanisms to ensure effective and efficient use of resources and to focus assistance on areas of greatest need.
How do I avail of these services?
Queries and requests for the assistance of the Advisory Service should be directed to the
Director of Conciliation, Advisory & Mediation
The Workplace Relations Commission
Dublin 4 D04 A3A8
Or by email to email@example.com
Requests should include an outline of the nature of the service required and contact details for all concerned parties.