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EU Court’s Decision Raises Question Re Legal Qualification Requirement For WRC Adjudicators

On 4th December 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) decided that the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has the jurisdiction to dis-apply a rule of national law that is contrary to EU law, in the case of, Minister for Justice and Equality, Commissioner of An Garda Siochana v Workplace Relations Commission. C – 378/17.

Ronald Boyle and two others were excluded from the procedure for recruitment to An Garda Siochana on the grounds that they were above the maximum age for recruitment. They brought complaints before the Equality Tribunal (now WRC) constituting discrimination prohibited by the EU Directive 2000/78.

The Minister for Justice claimed that the Equality Tribunal lacked jurisdiction on grounds that only courts established under the Irish Constitution had jurisdiction to dis-apply rule of national law. The High Court upheld the Minister’s view, prohibiting the Equality Tribunal ruling on the complaints of Mr Boyle and others.

In 2017 the Supreme Court ruled that the jurisdiction to dis-apply rules of national law that are in conflict with EU law was held only by the High Court. However, the Supreme Court referred a question to the CJEU in regard to whether the WRC could dis-apply national law that is contrary to EU law.

The CJEU determined that as the WRC is a body established by the Irish legislature and has been conferred with the power to ensure the enforcement of the principle of primacy of EU law, it must therefore have the capacity to dis-apply any provision of Irish national law that may be contrary to EU law.

This decision highlights the already existing concern that WRC adjudicators do not require to have any legal qualifications or experience. The fact that the CJEU has confirmed that a WRC adjudicator has the same power as a High Court judge in relation to the application and interpretation of the law, the lack of legal qualifications and experience on the part of an adjudicator may result in the incorrect use of this power. Although WRC decisions may be appealed to the Labour Court and/or judicially reviewed to the High Court, a number of parties before the WRC will not be able to afford to take such further actions.

The decision also illustrates that it is no longer sufficient for employers to comply with Irish national law but must also be aware of EU employment law.

7th December 2018

Anne O’Connell
Fitzwilliam Hall
Fitzwilliam Place
Dublin 2

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