€15,000 awarded for breaches of The Working Time Act 1997

Following on from my last article on break and rest entitlements that employees have under the working time legislation, a recent Labour Court decision is note worthy in that an award of €150 by an Adjudication Officer was increased significantly to €15k on appeal (Ref DWT 1914 – Sandra Cooney’s Home Care Ltd & Deirdre Morgan).

The claimant had not received a daily rest period of 11 hours as required under the Working Time Act, having only received 10 hours each day. Furthermore, the claimant did not receive the required uninterrupted weekly rest period of 35 hours, instead receiving two 24 hour rest periods in each 14 day period, but which were not preceded by an 11 hour daily rest period as required.

The employer argued that the claimant actively sought to self roster and work seven days a week, and was as much responsible for the breaches that occurred.

The Court outlined that there is a clear obligation on employers to ensure that breaks and rest periods are taken as legislated for, in the interests of the health and safety of employees, and that in this case the employer had disregarded completely such requirements. It further stated that the redress awarded should not only compensate for any economic loss sustained, but must provide a real deterrent against future breaches. The claimant was awarded €15,000, amounting to approx 30 weeks wages, based on a 40 hour week at the hourly rate of €12 that the claimant was paid.

This decision clearly indicates how seriously these breaches will be taken by the Courts, and employers must ensure that they afford employees their statutory rest periods, in order to avoid large compensatory awards against them, with the potential for a maximum two years salary to awarded as compensation.