Farmer paid nine years redundancy to worker who had laboured on family farm for 30 years
A FARM owner has been ordered to pay a worker over €18,000 after making him redundant after 30 years of service.
The farm worker told the Work Place Relations Commission that he worked on the farm for 30 years from February 1988 to February 2018.
However, he was made redundant when the owners of the farm leased out the land. When he received his redundancy payment it was based only on a little over nine years of service.
He disputed the farm owners claim that he was self-employed prior to 2008.
He said he worked on the farm for 30 years without any notified change in employment status and that he was at a complete loss to understand how the owners can make out any claim that he was self-employed at any time.
The farm worker also said that he was never given any compensation for working on public holidays and that he received only one week annual leave each year.
He also told the Commission that he was paid €1,560 per month until 2008 when payment of wages became sporadic and claimed he was underpaid by €52,090 in the period from 2008 to 2018.
He also contended that he was never compensated for working Sundays.
In response, the farm owners said the worker only commenced employment with the respondent on January 1, 2009.
His gross weekly wage at the date of his redundancy was €358. His redundancy payment of €6,887.92 was calculated accordingly. The farm owners submitted that the worker was an independent contractor providing casual labour prior to his employment with the current respondent in this case.
The farm owner also contended that the worker worked his own hours at his own discretion and he chose to feed animals on weekends and public holidays but then took weekends off in lieu on the basis that he could treat attendance on a weekend as worth a multiple of week days.
He attended for work on average three to five days a week, and took days off at his choice.
In so doing, he more than made up for attending for an hour on the three public holidays in winter, the owner claimed.
He also said that the worker took holidays in accordance with relevant legislation.
He took one week off at a time of his discretion during the summer, nine days at Christmas and at least two weeks in days and half days at his choice during the year.
The farm owners also said the worker had a very flexible working arrangement that did not require him to work full working weeks which made up for any Sunday working.
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer, Gaye Cunningham noted that the farm worker had worked on the same farm for the owner's late father from 1988.
"His employment can be deemed to have been transferred to the current owner by transfer of undertakings when the farm was transferred into the farm owner's name.
"I do not accept the respondent's arguments that the worker was a self employed contractor from 1997 to 2008. I find that the designation of the worker as a self employed contractor at the time, done without consultation or agreement with the worker was therefore bogus," he said.
He found his claim to full redundancy payment to be well founded and as he was paid €6,888 already, he required the farm owner to pay to the complainant the balance of €15,043.
In terms of holiday pay, the adjudication officer found the worker's complaint to be well founded and required the farm owner to pay to the complainant the sum of €358 being the monetary value of the five public holidays, together with €642 compensation for breach of regulations.
However, in terms of the farm worker's submitted calculations for unpaid wages from 2008 to 2018, the adjudication officer said that given the constraints of the time limits in the legislation he is confined to considering the evidence for the period February 7, 2018 until the employment end date in this case, February 9, 2018.
He said evidence supplied by the accountant for the respondent shows no shortfall in wages for that period.
"I do not find the complaint as it relates to the period covered by the Act to be well founded," he said.
However, the officer said he has not been presented with evidence that the farm worker was compensated for Sunday working and the farm owner was ordered to pay to the worker the sum of €1,000 compensation for this.
For Stories Like This and More
Download the Free Farming Independent App