Belfast Telegraph

PSNI appeals ruling that could see £30m holiday pay bill

By Alan Erwin

A dispute over holiday pay could mean the PSNI paying staff nearly £3m more for last year alone, the Court of Appeal heard yesterday.

The possible additional budgetary pressure was disclosed as Chief Constable George Hamilton challenged a finding that police officers and civilian workers are owed money dating back two decades.

In November last year an industrial tribunal held that their holiday pay had been wrongly based on basic working hours, rather than actual hours worked, including overtime.

The decision came in a case taken by a group representing more than 3,700 officers and support staff.

They launched proceedings following a landmark ruling on UK holiday pay rules in 2014.

In that case, judges decided employees who were regularly required to work overtime should get extra holiday pay.

According to the industrial tribunal, the failure to provide the correct annual leave entitlements was "extremely serious".

It raised the prospect of the PSNI and the Police Authority facing an estimated bill of £30m in relation to unlawful deductions which could stretch back 20 years.

But the extent of liability remains in dispute.

Lawyers for the officers insist they are entitled to payments from 1998, when the Working Time Regulations were introduced in the UK.

Alternatively, it has been suggested that they can only cover a period of three months prior to proceedings being started.

In court yesterday, John Beggs QC, counsel for the Chief Constable, disclosed the amount calculated going back to April 2018. He said: "The sum of money (which would) have to be added to the police officers and civilians who work with the PSNI will be approximately £2.7m for the tax year just concluded."

Lord Justice Stephens, hearing the appeal with Lord Justice Treacy and Mr Justice O'Hara, questioned why payment has not been made.

"The public might be interested in why the Chief Constable isn't obeying the law," he said.

But Mr Beggs stressed it was his client's "earnest intention" to comply. Referring to the calculations for 2018, he added: "The figures are ready to be paid on a backdated basis."

The appeal continues.

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