Julie Leonard: Public and private sectors must now overhaul wages after landmark case
Having acted for 3,500 police officers in the recent holiday pay cases, we have been considering the implications of the Court of Appeal judgment for our own clients and for others who may have been affected by this issue.
While the amounts of compensation each of our clients will receive is unclear - the Court of Appeal did not rule on this but said it would be a matter for the Employment Tribunal which heard the original case - the principle has been established that each of those 3,500 officers must be rewarded for overtime worked by having it properly recognised in their holiday pay calculations.
The decision was as a result of the failure by the Chief Constable to pay appropriate amounts of holiday pay to police officers since the start of the relevant legislation in November 1998 (The Working Time Regulations (NI) 1998).
During that period the Chief Constable had calculated the amount of holiday pay entitlement by reference to basic pay, not normal pay, which would include both basic pay and matters such as overtime.
Importantly, the Court of Appeal ruled that there would be the right, in certain cases, for workers to go back as far as 1998 to claim the backdated pay.
The judgment will have implications for not only the public sector but also the private sector because the judgment covers all workers under the legislation. Workers will now have to examine their own pay packets to see have they received any payment for time worked over and above their normal working hours.
If not, they should take urgent legal advice as time limits are important, as generally claims need to be lodged within three months of the last payment which was received for holiday pay which did not account for any overtime worked.
Employers in both the public and the private sector will have to re-examine their method of payments and, as directed by the Court of Appeal, where appropriate include a payment for overtime in holiday pay.
As it has now been defined by the Court of Appeal that workers must be rewarded and recognised for the time worked over and above their contracted hours, the majority of employers, both in the public and private sectors, will now be facing some form of a bill for unpaid overtime.
How much will depend on individual circumstances.
Julie Leonard is an employment partner at Edwards & Co Solicitors, Belfast