Farmer forced to pay over €10k to labourer he sacked

Milking parlour.
Milking parlour.
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

A farmer has been forced to pay over €10,500 to a farm labourer after multiple findings against him by the Workplace Relations Commission.

The claimant in the case worked as a farm labourer. In 2017 he returned to his native land.

This absence was not (allegedly) authorised by the farmer, who argued that he had already taken his annual leave.

The farmer replaced the labourer on the farm. Subsequently, the labourer lodged a series of claims against his former employer.

The labourer claimed the respondent to compensate for Sunday work and that he worked approx. 30 Sundays per annum.

He also said the farmer failed to pay for annual leave and compensate for public holidays.

The labour also claimed that the farmer failed to pay in lieu of termination (minimum) notice and to issue a written statement of his employment terms. That is, he received no contract of employment.

He also claimed that he was unfairly dismissed. On return (to work) from his holidays the respondent had taken on new staff and the claimant was sent home. No due process applied to the dismissal.

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The labour alleges that he told the respondent that he would not be available for work (from ~ Sept. 5th to Oct. 19th, 2017) when he would be out of the country.

In response, the respondent explained that the labourer was given a choice as to which days he wished to work. He agreed ‘absolutely’ that 30 Sundays per annum is an accurate estimate, but he was given time off in lieu and other benefits. No records thereof were maintained.

The farmer said he did pay for annual leave, though no record thereof was made. He acknowledged that two weeks’ holiday pay is outstanding to the claimant for 2017.

He also said he did compensate for public holidays. However, no records thereof were maintained.

He said the issue of payment in lieu of termination (minimum) notice does not apply as the claimant was not dismissed. The farmer said in effect, by failing to show up for work (or appropriately explain his absence), it was a voluntary resignation.

He also said the absence of a written statement of the claimant’s employment terms - or contract of employment – is due to the fact that the contract was verbal.

The Commission found in favour of the labourer in the majority of this claims citing that the absence of records was fatal to the farmer’s case.

Of note, it found the labourer was unfairly dismissed in the absence of due process. However, it said his unauthorised absence from work (from ~ Sept. 5th to Oct. 19th, 2017) after his approved holidays was a contributory factor in the dismissal. Notably, it said the claimant took up new employment with effect from Jan. 2018.

The farmer was told be must pay the labourer over €10,500 in compensation.

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