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1,300 police officers to sue PSNI chief Hamilton for holiday pay

Case could have big impact on Northern Ireland policing: PSNI

By Jonny Bell

Over 1,300 police officers are suing the PSNI chief constable George Hamilton for holiday pay.

The action was revealed by the BBC Stephen Nolan show. It reported that officers feel they are owned money going back 20 years in light of a landmark court ruling in 2014.

Police said given the large cost of losing the case it could have a direct impact on policing in Northern Ireland.

The action is being supported by the Police Federation, the police officer's union.

Over 1,300 officers are taking a case. They are seeking pay dating back as far as 1998 when new working regulations were introduced.

Retired Detective Superintendent Alan Mains said the action - if successful - could cost millions and money would have to be set aside until a judgement.

He said: "Obviously officers feel they have a case. During my time, from '78 onwards there was an expectation - in order to deal what we had to deal with - officers did have to work overtime.

"If there is a reward then they probably deserve it - don't forget the family time that had to be sacrificed. Greed doesn't come into it - if there is a requirement in law for it to be paid then it should be paid."

The action follows on the back of a court ruling in Scotland in 2014 which said people who regularly work overtime would be owned addition holiday pay. Other police officers in the UK have taken a similar action against their force.

Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris said: “At a time of austerity, I must manage scarce resources prudently so as to best protect the people of Northern Ireland.

"It is perfectly understandable that PSNI officers and staff should seek to avail themselves of their entitlements in relation to overtime and holiday pay.

"However, there are difficult points of law which mean that I would be failing my responsibilities if I didn’t seek clarity in the courts, especially when the potential sums of money at stake are very large and would have direct operational impact upon policing in Northern Ireland.

"The PSNI always seeks to conduct litigation in an efficient and ethical manner and this case will be no exception."

The Police Federation said the case centred on how far back officers could claim holiday pay.

A spokesman said: "There has been much debate around how far back members are entitled to claim back in this case and many questions arising; for example does it go back to 1998? Why is my claim based solely on a 3 month time scale?

"It will be for the Industrial Tribunal to establish whether any claim for loss will be restricted to the three months immediately preceding the date of their claim, or, if the argument is acceded to that a police officer is considered a ‘worker’ under Article 45 of the Employment Rights (NI) Order 1996 (ERO), then it is anticipated that officers may be entitled to claim back for a number of years.

"If it is accepted by the Tribunal that Police Officers are not workers then the claims for unlawful deduction of wage under Article 45 of the ERO would fail and the value of each claim would be substantially less as they would only succeed on a claim under the Working Time Regulations which would allow the claims to be based solely on the last three months."

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