Labour Court Decision on Unpaid Wages during Storm Emma

by Siobhan Lafferty, Lawyer in the Employment Department, Fieldfisher

The Labour Court has found in favour of Marks & Spencer’s Cork Store after the retailer opted not to pay staff who did not attend work during the 2018 ‘Storm Emma’.

These cases were brought under the Industrial Relations Act 1990. Thirteen members of staff claimed that their employer had acted unreasonably in failing to pay them for their shifts. These employees did not attend the store which remained open until 11am, although the majority of the hours to be worked were scheduled after that time.

Mandate Union, on behalf of the staff, argued that the employees were following Government advice which stated people should avoid travel. They also outlined that the staff had contacted the store’s management to inform them that they would not be able to attend work due to the adverse weather conditions in accordance with the attendance policy.

However, the employer stated that the non-payment was an effort to be fair to the rest of the staff members who attended work on the morning of the storm and stayed until close. These staff members were paid in full for their shifts despite the store closing early.

In submissions to the Labour Court, it was further argued that all staff affected by the storm were offered four options to choose from in respect of making up any lost hours. Essentially the arrangements which were in place had been for a number of years and were generally considered acceptable to the staff more widely.

In its recommendation, the Labour Court found in favour of the employer and emphasised the importance of an employer treating its employees in a consistent manner. The Labour Court also stated the importance of a consistent approach to all staff “is in the interest of good industrial relations”.

This case provides a useful example for how employers should deal with employees further to an adverse weather incident. It serves as a reminder that it is particularly important for employers to treat employees consistently, regardless of the issue at hand.

About the author
Siobhán is a lawyer in the Employment Department at Fieldfisher, and regularly advises both corporate client employers as well as employees. Siobhán has extensive experience in advising on all aspects of employment law and has advised on a range of issues from redundancies to discrimination complaints. She also has experience in working on contentious matters across the UK and Ireland, including High Court proceedings.

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