Employers Obligations – Sunday Work Entitlements

Employers Obligations – Sunday Work Entitlements

The recent High Court decision in Trinity Leisure Holdings Limited t/a Trinity City Hotel v Sofia Kolesnik and Natalia Alfimova held that an express statement in a contract of employment that working on Sundays was taken into account when setting an employee’s wage discharged the employer’s obligation with regard to Sunday work. It is the first time the High Court considered this area.

The Facts of the Case

The employees worked 2 out of 3 Sundays and their contracts expressly specified an hourly rate “which includes your Sunday premium based on you getting every third Sunday off”. The contract did not explain the Sunday premium in any detail beyond that. The employees argued they did not receive their Sunday entitlements.

The Law

Section 14 (1) of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 provides that an employee required to work on a Sunday shall be compensated by the following means, where working that day is not otherwise taken into account when determine their pay;

  • An allowance
  • An increase in the rate of pay
  • Paid time off in lieu
  • Combination of two or more of the above

The Decision

The High Court allowed an Appeal to reverse the Labour Courts decision to award 30% premium for all Sunday hours worked between a certain period of time. The employer argued that the contracts of employment discharged the obligations under the Law outlined above. The High Court noted the wording was clear and not buried in small print. The High Court also held that the Labour Court erred in law by asking the employer to explain by way of breakdown any statement to the effect that an hourly rate takes into account the obligation to work on a Sunday.

The Outcome

  1. The burden is now on an employee to prove they were not paid their Sunday entitlement and where a contract states the pay takes into account an obligation to work Sundays, the employee must provide evidence to prove otherwise;
  2. It is not accepted that an employer is required to identify in the contract of employment precisely what element of pay is attributable to Sunday work.

If you have any queries regarding employment law or litigation, please do not hesitate to contact Niall MacCarthy or Brendan Dillon of this office.