Submission to the WRC on Remote Hearings during the COVID-19 restrictions, 2020
We made a submission to the Workplace Relations Commission, in response to their consultation on Remote Hearings and Written Submissions: Dealing with Adjudication Complaints During the Period of Covid19-related Restrictions.
Our submission highlights the potential effects the proposed written procedure and virtual hearings will have on vulnerable groups and makes the following recommendations:
1. No party should be required to participate in a written procedure without consent.
2. Disputes under the Equal Status Acts 2000-2018 are not suitable for disposal by way of written procedure.
3. The WRC must consider all factors, including any special assistance required by certain individuals before referring a complaint for assessment by way of written procedure.
4. Applicable time limits must be communicated to parties in an accessible and timely manner.
5. Where the WRC seeks to utilise a written procedure, additional supports should be available to service users, particularly those who are acting without legal representation.
6. Virtual hearings should remain available after the Covid-19 restrictions have lifted, if both parties consent.
7. All cases should be considered for virtual hearings on a case-by-cases basis.
8. The WRC must review its current support systems and consider what additional supports can be provided to ensure maximum participation in virtual hearings.
9. The WRC should continue to explore safe and appropriate ways in which it could conduct face-to face hearings, even after the current period of restrictions.
10. The WRC may wish to consider virtual mediation sessions in addition to virtual hearings.
These recommendations are outlined in further detail in our submission which can be read here.