The Labour Court has dismissed the appeal of Ballydoyle Racing Stables against compliance notices issued by the Workplace Relations Commission in respect of employee working hours.

Background

A derogation exists under the provisions of the Organisation of Working Time Act (the "OWT Act") whereby employers who are engaged in the industry of "agriculture" are exempted from strict compliance with certain requirements of the OWT Act including employee breaks and daily and weekly rest periods.

Following a pre-announced inspection of Ballydoyle Racing Stables ("Ballydoyle") in May 2016, the Workplace Relations Commission ("WRC") issued four compliance notices requiring Ballydoyle to comply with certain provisions of the OWT Act governing working hours.

The compliance notice (in addition to the fixed payment notice) is one of two new legislative instruments introduced under the Workplace Relations Act 2015 (the "2015 Act").

Arguments

Ballydoyle appealed against the compliance notices served. It argued before the Labour Court that the employees, the subject of the compliance notices, fell within the exemption relating to agriculture set out in the OWT Act.

Ballydoyle contended that there was no requirement for it to comply with the provisions relating to employee breaks and rest periods as outlined. It said that the precise nature of Ballydoyle's business is that of agricultural activities. Ballydolye also explained that, due to ensuring continuity of production and the nature of its business, grooms and exercise riders often did not want to take set rest periods or breaks in respect of caring for horses, to the benefit of both riders and the animals.

Counsel on behalf of the WRC submitted that Ballydoyle fell outside the agricultural exemption and training racehorses could not be classified in this manner. The WRC emphasised the definition of agriculture under the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015, which refers to the production of animals or crops for consumption.

Labour Court Decision

The Labour Court rejected Ballydoyle's appeal and the compliance notices stand. In the Court's view the business falls outside various definitions of agriculture which it examined. In addition, it had not been clearly shown that the relevant employees were directly involved in ensuring continuity of production.

The outcome is noteworthy, not only because it is the first appeal against compliance notices issued under the 2015 Act, but also because of its potential impact on the bloodstock industry.

The official Labour Court decision will be released tomorrow. It is open to Ballydoyle to appeal the outcome to the Circuit Court.