Limits Applied to Annual Leave Claims Under Working Time Legislation

Last updated: April 27th, 2017

The Labour Court recently issued an interesting recommendation regarding annual leave for employees in Ireland.

The case of Tapastreet Ltd -v- Joseph Mitchell was initially heard by an adjudication officer in the Workplace Relations Commissions in November 2015. Mr Mitchell claimed his former employer had breached the Working Time Act by not paying him outstanding annual leave and public holidays in his final pay.

The adjudication officer held that the complaint was well-founded and awarded six days’ pay for annual leave and three days’ pay for public holidays.

Tapastreet Ltd appealed the case to the Labour Court under the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 (OWTA).

The claim was referred to the Labour Court on 5th November 2016. Therefore, the Court stated the period covered by the claim was the six month period from 6th May 2015 until 5th November 2015.

They highlighted that, according to Section 2 of the OWTA, the annual leave year is defined as 1st April – 31st March.

Many employers’ leave year is in line with the calendar year. However, when the Labour Court look at the relevant leave year, they refer to the leave year defined in the OWTA. In that period, Mr Mitchell had only worked 6.5 months and had taken above the statutory entitlement in that period.

Interestingly, the Labour Court recommendation also highlighted that the claimant claimed he was entitled to 23 days annual leave per annum.

Section 19 of OWTA states that the statutory minimum annual leave entitlement for full employees is 20 days. The Labour Court stated that Mr Mitchell could only claim for his statutory annual leave entitlement of 20 days, and not his enhanced entitlement contractual entitlement of 23 days. If he wished to take a claim for the additional 3 days it would require a breach of contract claim to a civil court. The claim for outstanding annual leave payment failed.

Regarding the public holiday element of the claim, the claimant claimed that he had an outstanding entitlement to three public holidays – Easter Sunday, Easter Monday and the first Monday in August.

The Labour Court found that the claimant was not entitled to payment for Easter Sunday as it was not one of the nine public holidays. Easter Monday fell outside of the relevant six-month reference period and he was therefore not entitled to compensation. However, the court stated the claimant was entitled to payment for the public holiday that fell in August 2015, as it fell within the relevant 6 month reference period. The Court awarded the claimant €269 in respect of the breach for one public holiday.

Any employee may present a complaint to a rights commissioner when they believe that their employer has contravened a relevant provision in relation to the legislation. The complaint must be submitted within six months of the breach. The complainant will then be given the opportunity to be heard by the commissioner and to present any evidence relevant to the complaint.

A decision in writing in relation to the complaint will be communicated to the parties involved. The Court have the authority to enforce compensation of up to two years’ remuneration for every breach of Working Time legislation.

The Court’s recommendations, in this case, re-emphasises the tight time frames employees have to take claims and the statutory limitations of claims under Working Time legislation.

If you have any questions in relation to annual leave or public holiday entitlements please contact our expert advice team on 01 886 0350.

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