Belfast Telegraph

Court's PSNI holiday pay judgment could be a 'game changer' for retail

The Court of Appeal decided that holiday pay for PSNI workers should reflect overtime and allowances - a ruling that will also affect the levels of holiday pay for workers across the public sector and cost hundreds of millions of pounds (stock photo)
The Court of Appeal decided that holiday pay for PSNI workers should reflect overtime and allowances - a ruling that will also affect the levels of holiday pay for workers across the public sector and cost hundreds of millions of pounds (stock photo)
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

A body representing retailers has said a ruling that holiday pay must reflect the payment of overtime and allowances could be a "game changer" for members.

The Court of Appeal decided that holiday pay for PSNI workers should reflect overtime and allowances - a ruling that will also affect the levels of holiday pay for workers across the public sector and cost hundreds of millions of pounds.

Glyn Roberts, chief executive of Retail NI, which represents large numbers of employers in retail, said: "Retail NI has taken a great interest in this because of the impact it could have on our members."

He said jobs in retail were often not 9-5, with many staff likely to be accruing overtime.

"The case is potentially a game changer as nobody would deny that staff are entitled to their rights," he added.

Harry Fone of right-wing pressure group the TaxPayers' Alliance said: "When errors are made by those in positions of authority in the public sector, it's the taxpayers who lose out.

"Families and businesses who work hard and pay their taxes will hope that lessons are learnt from this case so that in future both public sector staff and taxpayers are protected from the consequences of these mistakes."

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Private companies are also expected to have to scrutinise the impact of the decision on their pay practices.

However, it's believed that many had already taken action as far back as 2014 following a ruling in the UK in a case known as Bear Scotland.

In 2015 the UK Government limited claims for underpaid holiday pay to two years, though that was not introduced here.

The Court of Appeal decision on Tuesday allows PSNI staff to claim for up to 20 years.

Craig Patterson, employment law associate at the Belfast offices of international law firm Pinsent Masons, said employers will have been aware of the Bear Scotland case.

"Many businesses will have taken steps to correct any practices that fall short, and in some cases address historic liabilities," he said.

"Following this ruling, businesses should do three things: firstly, if they haven't already done so, health-check their payment practices and make sure they are compliant; assess their potential liability if they identified a current or historic issue, and consider or take advice on how they wish to proceed."

Aerospace firm Bombardier, the biggest employer here with around 3,600 staff, said: "We have already addressed this issue within our current holiday pay policy."

Many observers are waiting to see if the PSNI, which is facing a bill of £40m due to the ruling, will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.

Mr Patterson added: "Given the sums of money at stake, it could reasonably be expected for this case to progress to the next stage, ie UK Supreme Court.

"If that happens, it is possible the Supreme Court Justices could approve the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal decision, in which case employers in Great Britain as well as Northern Ireland could be exposed to significantly larger claims."

Belfast Telegraph

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