INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY MANDATE)
Chairman: Mr McGee
Employer Member: Mr Carberry
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Appeal of Rights Commissioners recommendation No. IR19744/04/MMG.
2. The appeal concerns two workers who are senior sales staff in the Furniture Department. The Union claims that the Company is attempting to impose a staff uniform policy on the claimants, contrary to their contracts of employment. The Union claims that their contracts of employment do not require them to wear a designated uniform. There has been a dress code for sales staff incorporated in the Staff Manual for many years. This is specifically mentioned in the Manual of 1979 and the revised Manual of 1999. In 2000 Management held discussions with the House Committee with regard to specifying uniform corporate colours to be worn by staff. The Union claims that, while the agreed colour scheme in 2000 was adopted by many staff, the claimants did not opt into the wearing these colours (grey and pale yellow). In 2003 following an approach from the House Committee, further discussions were held and the House Committee proposed that the corporate colours be changed to black and white. Management wrote to all staff informing them of a change to the dress code. A date of 1st December, 2003 was given as the changeover date to the new colours, however the final date for full implementation of the new code was set for February, 2004. Both claimants indicated that it was not a contractual requirement to wear the black and white and they did not intend to comply on those grounds. The claimants intimated that they would wear the uniform specified if the Company supplied same. The Company discount scheme applies for the purchase of clothing. The claimants agreed to conform to the new policy under protest pending the resolution of the issue through procedures. The dispute was referred to a Rights Commissioner for investigation. On the 28th September, 2004 the Rights Commissioner issued his recommendation as follows:
".........Having carefully considered these matters I am of the opinion that the code is a collectively agreed agreement on behalf of some 1,200 employees and management. The code incorporates features of earlier codes and complies with more recent legislation. The colour scheme adoptive by the scheme is one chosen by the staff.
I recommend therefore that the employees in question should comply with this new code and wear the appropriate clothing.
The complaint fails."
On the 5th October, 2004 the Union appealed the recommendation to the Labour Court. The Court heard the appeal on the 9th December, 2004.
3. 1. At the time of the claimants' employment there was a dress code in place which obliged staff to wear business dress but did not specify colours. This is reinforced by the Staff Manuals in force at that time and is ,therefore, what they were contractually obliged to abide by.
2. Staff in the Furniture Department were never previously affected by changes in corporate uniform colours such as occurred in 2000.
. If the Company require all staff to wear such corporate colours they should apply them as a uniform in the same manner as other companies.
4. The staff discount scheme applies to all merchandise in the Company. It has been in existence for many years and predates introduction of the staff uniform code. There is no specific discount scheme targeted at assisting staff purchase the required clothing.
5. The Union does not accept the amended dress code was " a collectively agreed agreement on behalf of employees and management" as stated by the Rights Commissioner. The House Committee was responding to requests from staff for a change in corporate colours. It was therefore negotiating on behalf of staff who accepted the uniform code or new staff who were contractually obliged to abide by it.
4. 1. A dress code has always applied in the Company although it has not always been colour specific. This dress code has not changed substantially over the years.
2. It was at the request of the House Committee that corporate colours be worn. The colours ultimately selected, black and white, were the choice of the employees.
3. This proposal was introduced at the House Committee in the normal manner and the Committee, representing staff, wished to see the introduction of this colour code.
4. Adequate time was provided for staff to change over from their previous dress to the new code. Management made a point of meeting with staff who had not made the change by January, 2004 to deal with any individual issues that may have arisen for staff.
5. Staff discount was and continues to be offered for the purchase of this clothing.
6. This is not a matter of principle for the two claimants as they clearly state that they are willing to wear the colours as long as Management pays for the clothing. This has never been the case either contractually or in custom and practice. All dress code clothing has been purchased by the individual at discount rates. To fund all staff clothing would be prohibitive.
Having heard the submissions of the parties, the Court sees no reason to alter the Recommendation of the Rights Commissioner and so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
15th December, 2004______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Tom O'Dea, Court Secretary.