Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Executive took decision not to introduce holiday pay cap, UK Government claims

Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry
Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry

The Northern Ireland Government decided not to introduce legislation to cap backdated holiday pay for civil servants despite having "detailed discussions" with a UK Government department about the matter.

The Department for Business, Innovations and Skills told the Nolan Show it discussed the issue with the Executive in 2014 but that the NI government decided not to act on the matter. A decision which could cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds.

The revelations come after the Court of Appeal ruled last week police holiday pay dating back 20 years should have taken overtime into account and now the PSNI is facing a £40million claims bill from staff. The ruling could affect any worker.

In the wake of the ruling, it emerged that the Department of Finance, which sets pay policy for all public sector bodies, is considering how the ruling would affect other workers.

The same issue was facing the UK Government back in 2014 following a court ruling similar to that made in Belfast. It led to the introduction of a two-year cap on backdate claims in order to stem the huge costs of the ruling.

However, the two-year cap was never introduced in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein told the Nolan Show that the then deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was never informed about the matter.

"The changes to regulations of the Employment Rights Act 1996, meaning that claims to employment tribunals cannot stretch back further than two years, were not brought to before the deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

"The responsibility to the Executive for these changes lay with the departmental minister."

The DUP said that records held by the Executive Office could indicate whether the issue was ever referred to the First and Deputy First Minister by the Department for Employment and Learning and any other department.

Stephen Farry, who was the Minister for Employment and Learning at the time, said on Thursday that he engaged with the Departments of Finance and Economy on the court ruling in 2014 but has not revealed why he did not take the decision to introduce a cap.

TUV leader Jim Allister said he would be "very surprised" if the matter was not brought to the Executive because it would have impacted all departments.

"The Executive Office have the records and they should be giving up those records and telling us," he said.

"If it is a matter that they weren't brought, then that is a very simple answer.

"If it is a matter that they were brought, then it is a more complicated matter for them because they have to explain why they did nothing about it.

"Either this devolves back exclusively to Mr Farry or the blame is shared with the Executive Office. But we are entitled to know why it is, and because of who's inactivity, that we have arrived at a situation that we may have to find hundreds of millions more out of the block grant."

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