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The process for resolving employment disputes will be drastically changed later this year as the Workplace Relations Act comes into force.

The Act will hopefully bring an end to the lengthy delays between initiating a claim and getting it heard, which have become a staple of the current system. Under this new legislation, the current five workplace relations bodies will be replaced with two. The Labour Relations Commission, The National Employment Rights Authority, the Equality Tribunal, the Employment Appeals Tribunal and the Labour Court will be subsumed into the new Workplace Relations Commission and an enhanced Labour Court.

Under the new regime, the Workplace Relations Commission will deal with all employment disputes at first instance, while the Labour Court will deal with appeals.

The Workplace Relations Commission will be the first port of call for any employment-related dispute. All hearings will be before a single adjudicator who will also have the power to refer cases for early resolution. This Early Resolution Service will facilitate the speedy resolution of disputes without the need to resort to a full hearing or inspection.

Practitioners are optimistic that the reforms will lead to a speedier and more cost effective system than the complex process that has been in place to date. The new changes are expected to come into effect by the end of the year.

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