From 27 January 2020, claimants in Northern Ireland wishing to formally lodge a claim with either the Industrial Tribunal or Fair Employment Tribunal must notify the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) so that a period of early conciliation can be initiated. This contrasts with the current system in which the LRA contacts parties to offer conciliation after a claim has been lodged.
The limitation period for lodging claims will be paused for one month when an early conciliation notification is made, with the prospect of a further 14-day addition to the current time limits. This brings the Northern Irish system in line with England, Wales and Scotland, where mandatory early conciliation prior to bringing an employment law claim has been in place since 2014.
Now that the Northern Ireland assembly has been restored after its collapse in 2017, we can expect the introduction of new employment law legislation in Northern Ireland, such as the banning of zero hour contracts, as currently exists in the Republic of Ireland and giving the Executive devolved powers to set their own NMW rates in Northern Ireland. The return of power sharing in Northern Ireland is also important for its economy and delivery of public services.