The Labour Court recently issued a positive recommendation for employers in the case of Tapastreet Limited v Joseph Mitchell.
The claimant employee was a co-founder and CEO of Tapastreet and his employment ended in October 2015. He lodged a claim in the WRC under the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 (the “OWT Act”) for payment of alleged outstanding annual leave and public holidays. At first instance, the WRC Adjudication Officer found that the complaint was well-founded and the claimant was awarded six days’ pay for annual leave and three days’ pay for public holidays. This decision was appealed by the employer to the Labour Court.
The Labour Court’s recommendation highlighted the limitations of claims under the OWT Act. Firstly, it noted that the claim was received by the WRC on 5 November 2015 and therefore his claim was limited to the six-month period from 6 May 2015 to 5 November 2015. Secondly, Mr. Mitchell could only claim his statutory OWT Act entitlement to annual leave, and not his higher entitlement of 23 days under the contract of employment (that would require a breach of contract case to a civil court). Thirdly, the relevant leave year under the OWT Act commences on 1 April and is not, as many assume, aligned with the calendar year. As the complainant had only worked 6.5 months in the relevant leave year, he had in fact exceeded his statutory entitlement to annual leave and therefore his claim for payment of outstanding annual leave failed. However, the Labour Court found that he was entitled to one day’s pay for a public holiday in August 2015 and he was awarded €269 in respect of that breach. The Labour Court’s recommendation highlights the specific limitations of statutory claims under the OWT Act and the short period in respect of which an employee can lodge a claim.