by Ronnie Neville, partner in Employment Law and Benefits Team, Mason Hayes & Curran
In a recent case before the Irish Labour Court, a former employee at a mushroom farm in Tipperary was awarded €21,422 in compensation having alleged that she was forced to work over 80 hours a week. In addition, the employee claimed that her employer had doctored her payslips to make it appear as though she had worked less than the permitted number of hours.
Her case was an appeal of a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) decision under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.
The adjudication officer of the WRC had ruled that the employee’s complaints relating to the hours she worked, the calculation of her public holiday pay and the calculation of her annual leave were not “well founded” and held against her.
The employee submitted a number of complaints under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000, the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 and the Payment of Wages Act 1991. She was responsible for the day-to-day running of the mushroom farm and alleged that she was forced to work in excess of 80 hours a week for €2,000 a month. She gave evidence that she worked from 6.20am until 9.20pm, six days a week. The employer denied this, stating that she worked 40 hours a week, and left work most days at lunch time.
The Labour Court noted that there was a total contradiction in the evidence given by the employee and her employer.
The Labour Court found that because the employer did not keep adequate records, the burden was on the employer to prove that it complied with the relevant legislation. The employer was not able to produce any evidence to back up its position that the employee worked 40 hours a week. Accordingly, the Labour Court held that the employer fell afoul of the legislation and awarded the employee compensation of €21,422.
It is crucial that employers take steps to implement an accessible and reliable system to record and retain employee’s working hours. This decision serves as an important reminder to employers to monitor working hours and keep proper records in line with the legislation. It is extremely difficult to defend a working time claim in the absence of records.
The content of this article is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal or other advice.
About the author
Ronnie is a partner in the Employment Law and Benefits Team, advising public and private sector employers on both contentious and non-contentious matters. Ronnie develops strong working relationships at the highest level with clients and provides strategic advice on restructuring, re-organisation and general employment related matters. He regularly appears in various employment law fora, including the Workplace Relations Commission, the Labour Court and the civil courts.
As well as acting for a diverse range of indigenous clients on a wide range of employment and industrial relations issues, Ronnie has a significant number of international clients and he is recognised as a leading employment lawyer who provides strategic, pragmatic and proactive advice.
Ronnie is a fluent speaker of French and advises a large number of French companies with subsidiaries in Ireland in relation to employment law issues. He heads up the office’s “French Desk” advising French clients on all legal issues arising in the Irish jurisdiction.