Delay in the Employment Relations Authority

If you’re currently awaiting a hearing from the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) you could be waiting longer than you first thought. An article by Deborah Morris from Stuff explains the angst that many people are feeling waiting for their cases to be assigned and heard by the ERA.

Last week letters were sent out to lawyers of parties bringing cases before the Authority warning of long delays in hearings and investigation.

Specialist employment barrister Michael O’Brien said that the letter warned that there were delays because of the Covid-19 lockdown, an increase of cases because of coronavirus and a lack of Authority members.

He had clients waiting for hearings and decisions for months, becoming distressed at the delay.

“It’s more redundancies and job losses, run-of-the-mill stuff. Litigation can be all-consuming, and their lives are put on hold.”

O’Brien said some clients were unable to hold other jobs while they were waiting, were suffering financial consequences or were dealing with ongoing tensions in the workplace.

Now he might file a case only to have it sit without any progress for months.

“The process is basically stalled,” he said.

He said that he had spoken to other practitioners just as concerned.

The individuals go to seek justice, but it could be months before they get heard, and this cuts across the whole philosophy of the Authority, he said.

“It was always apparent that the Authority would need additional resources to deal with the increase in claims flowing out of the impact of the Covid-19 crisis. The Authority model is built around the prompt delivery of justice. There is a need for quick action to be taken to properly resource the Authority and address the backlog in claims being heard and determinations delivered.”

The Authority is briefed to help resolve employment disputes. As O’Brien says, it was established to provide quick and efficient justice. However, he has a client still waiting for a decision since July last year, with a decision promised in November, then January and now this month.

Under lockdown procedures, like many courts and tribunals, the Authority had to delay cases or proceed via video conferencing. In addition, two of the Authority members have left and one is on long-term leave due to injury.

An Authority spokesperson said it anticipated some matters lodged would not be allocated to a member for a period of up to three months. They said that the delay was outside the Authority’s control, and they were asking for patience.

New authority members were expected to be appointed in the next few months.

The Authority was unable to tell Stuff how many cases were waiting to be assigned, how many were awaiting decisions or if there was an increase in cases because of coronavirus. In December, it was reported the wait time for mediation was seven months.

Here at EQ Consultants, we deal with many different employment disputes and we always strive to make the process as smooth as possible for the employer. Resolving the issue as quickly as possible is beneficial for both parties. The stress, emotional and financial strain can bear a significant impact, especially if the process is drawn out longer than it needs to be. While the employee having recourse to the ERA is a fair and just option, at times, a case could have been resolved before it reaches the need for mediation or the ERA, where there is the requirement for the employee to have legal representation.

Please come and talk to us if you need any help or advice in resolving your case or before it reaches the need to advance this to the ERA.

Please see the full article here.

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