INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 2004
SECTION 26(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1990
MEDITE EUROPE LIMITED
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Mr Doherty
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Sick-pay scheme
2. The Company manufactures medium-density fibreboard for the Irish, UK and European Markets. It employs 127 people of which 86 are SIPTU members. The Company funds a sick-pay scheme which pays a maximum of 12 weeks in any 12-month period. The dispute concerns the different interpretation that the parties have of how the sick-pay scheme works. Basically, the Company's view is that when a worker applies for sick pay it will review the worker's attendance over the previous 12 months, e.g. if a worker takes 2 weeks sick leave in July and had already taken 2 weeks sick leave in May of the same year then he/she has taken 4 weeks out of a 12-month period. The worker's next sick-pay period begins in May of the following year. The Union believes that if a worker takes 2 weeks in July then he/she has another 10 weeks sick leave until July of the following year.
The dispute was referred to the Labour Relations Commissions and a conciliation conference took place. As the parties did not reach agreement the dispute was referred to the Labour Court on the 24th of August, 2007, in accordance with Section 26(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. A Labour Court hearing took place on the 6th December, 2007, in Nenagh.
3. 1. The Company is not implementing the sick-pay scheme according to what was agreed in the original scheme in 1994. The Union believes that "any 12-month period" means from the commencement of the first date of illness to the anniversary of that date i.e. goes forward not backwards.
4. 1. The Union's interpretation of the sick-pay scheme is correct only when it is the first instance of a person applying for sick-pay. In all other cases the Company must look back over the previous 12-month period to see how much of the 12-week allowance has been taken in that period.
The dispute between the parties concerns the interpretation of the Company’s sick pay scheme. The scheme provides full basic pay less Social Welfare Benefit for a maximum duration of 12 weeks in any 12-month period. A 12-month period is described in the scheme as the period dating from the first instance of an employee’s absence, through illness or injury.
The Union take the view that the scheme is forward looking, i.e. when a worker commences his sick absence, he/she benefits for a maximum period of 12 weeks in 12 months then once the 12 month period has expired the worker becomes entitled to a further 12 weeks benefit commencing from their next period of sick absence. The Union has a difficulty with the Company’s interpretation of the scheme as it maintains that it operates a roll back system and also takes account of periods when workers had not received any payment under the scheme.
The Company’s position is that when a new certified sick absence is reported it reviews the employee’s attendance record from the date of absence over the previous 12 months and the entitlement to benefit is dependent on the number of weeks availed of over the previous 12-month period. If the worker has not been certified sick absent in the 12 months prior to an absence then he qualifies for benefit up to a maximum of 12 weeks. If he had been certified sick absent for say 3 weeks then he qualifies for up to 9 weeks in the 12 months beginning on the date of the first absence.
Having given careful consideration to the oral and written submissions of both parties, the Court is of the view that the date of the first ever recorded absence in the worker’s employment history with the Company determines the anniversary date for reviewing the entitlement for eligibility from then on. Consequently, the Court concurs with the Company’s interpretation that it is necessary to review a worker’s absence since their anniversary date to determine eligibility for payment. The Court recommends that the scheme should be amended to reflect the Court’s interpretation of the scheme.
The Court so recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
20th December, 2007______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.