Press Release

Southern Region

The Workplace Relations Act - change on the way

2 September 2015

Southern Region Launch Event - 2 September 2015

Kate O’Mahony, Chairman, Employment Appeals Tribunal; Conor O’Connell, Chartered FCIPD, Chairman, CIPD Southern Region; Mary Connaughton, Chartered FCIPD, Director CIPD Ireland

In tandem with launching their exciting 2015/2016 programme of events, CIPD Ireland Southern Region were pleased to welcome Kate O’Mahony, Chairman, Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), to speak on the new Workplace Relations Act at an event held at Heineken Ireland, Cork, on Wednesday 2nd September.

To a large attendance of engaged HR leaders, Kate explained that the current EAT process will be replaced with a Workplace Relations Committee (WRC) from 1st October this year, and that all employers and employees should be reflecting on the considerations below as this significant change is implemented.

  • Decision-making rationale: largely driven by a serious EAT backlog, which saw the number of cases referred treble with the advent of recession, but was still dependent on Departmental admin. According to Kate, a decision influenced by the Labour Court model of lower workload and higher cost.
  • Unfair dismissals claims: has the forthcoming change sufficiently considered that these cases are traditionally more complex, requiring longer hearings impacting on vulnerable employee claimants (who hitherto had the right to a hearing at first instance before a tripartite body) and claimants?
  • Private hearings only: does the change satisfy Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights to 'fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal previously established by law'? Having hearings in private will also lead to an increased number of queries from journalists etc.
  • New appeal process: requiring specific grounds of appeal to be identified with a risk of failure of the appeal at the preliminary scrutiny, by the Chairman/Deputy Chairman of the Labour Court, will encourage many (if not all) appellants to engage the services of lawyers, but many cannot afford.
  • First tier level: versus the current EAT three member model of different experiences and perspectives, the new decision-making process is being devolved on lone civil servants with no experience in industry or law. Will six weeks in training equip them for their roles and render them competent for a task which affects peoples’ rights and obligations? The level of satisfaction with the outcome of EAT hearings is seen in the consistently and extraordinarily low level of court appeals.
Conor O’Connell, Chairman, CIPD Ireland Southern Region, thanked Kate for her informative and objective insights into the new Workplace Relations Act, and presented Kate with a gift to mark the occasion, kindly sponsored by The Irish Examiner. Sincere thanks were also extended to Heineken Ireland for their support in organising this event.

For further information please contact

David Barry
PRO, CIPD Ireland Southern Region
M. 087 2804753

Conor O’Connell
Chairman, CIPD Ireland Southern Region
M. 086 8303843



Kate O’Mahony

Kate O’Mahony, a Barrister-at-Law has been Chairman of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) since 2002, having been appointed by then Minister for Labour Affairs, Tom Kitt. She had previously served on the Tribunal as vice-chairman for over three terms, giving her extensive experience in this field. She studied at University College, Cork and Kings Inns, Dublin and was called to the Bar in 1989. Since the early 1990s she has lectured in law at University College, Cork. Kate is considered one of the most pre-eminent employment law experts in Ireland, having adjudicated on numerous employment law cases over the years.