Maximum Working Hours

The Labour Court recently upheld a decision of an Adjudication Officer in respect of a claim that an employee had been regularly working excessive hours beyond her contracted 40 hours per week, in breach of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

Kepack Convenience Foods had appealed the WRC decision, which had found in favour of an ex-employee, Ms O Hara, who claimed that her employer had breached the Organisation of Working Time Act. The Labour Court rejected the appeal and increased the award made from €6,240 to €7,500.

Ms O Hara who was employed as a Business Development Executive claimed that she was unable to complete all the administration duties needed to support her role, in which she was required to make up to five customer visits every day. Ms O Hara said on average she completed 60 hours per week, and often had to work late in the evenings or over weekends to complete reports. Ms O Hara produced examples of emails that had been sent out of normal working hours.

The Labour Court found that Kepack had breached the Organisation of Working Time Act, as they had not complied with the provision within, not to permit employees to work beyond the maximum working week of 48 hours. Whilst the employer claimed that Ms O Hara was inefficient at completing her duties and also carried out unnecessary site visits, they were unable to provide evidence of the hours that she actually worked, nor had they ever requested that she did not work additional hours and had actively engaged in email communication with her outside of standard working hours.

Employers should note that in order to defend a claim under the Organisaiton of Working Time Act 1997, they must have records to prove what actual hours are being worked. In addition, it is also clear from this decision that employers should be proactive in monitoring hours being worked and when they are being worked, and are obliged to take measures to prevent excessive hours being worked, once they are aware of it.