ADJUDICATION OFFICER DECISION
Adjudication Reference: ADJ-00019586
A Retained Firefighter
A Local Authority
Complaint Reference Nos.
Date of Receipt
Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under section 27 of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997
Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under section 27 of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997
Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under section 27 of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997
Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under section 24 of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000
Date of Adjudication Hearing: 24/10/2019
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: James Kelly
In accordance with Section 41 of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 following the referral of the complaints to me by the Director General, I inquired into the complaints and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the complaints
Summary of Complainant’s Case:
The following is the Complainant’s submission.
The Complainant is a Retained Firefighter. His evidence is that he commenced his employment on 6 August 2008 and has been employed on a “continuous basis” since that date. He said that he lives a quarter of a mile from the fire station and he said that he has a 98% attendance record for attending calls and attending training. He claims that he is called out on average 60 times in the year. The Complainant’s evidence is that he seeks permission to leave the general area from the Respondent. He claims that over the years the number of retained firefighters attached to the Respondent has dropped and there were efforts made to recruit others. He said some of the current retained firefighters’ team are on leave. He said that numbers are always tight. He said that the current situation is severely restrictive on him. He gave evidence that he runs a B&B and is involved in golf in the locality. On cross examination he confirmed that he has never been stopped from leaving the general area by the Respondent when he asked to go. He said that there is an upcoming golf club outing that he had decided not to attend on account of the possibility of being called out to work. He said it’s just not worth it.
The Complainant presented evidence where it states that he is required to attend training drills 85% of the time and the minimum requirement for attending “call outs” is 75% of the time.
As a whole, Retained Firefighters are men and women who are “on call to respond to a range of emergencies”. Thus, when a call is received for the fire brigade, the alerters for a particular brigade are activated and the firefighters, who each carry an alerter respond to the fire station immediately. The firefighters are then required to make their way to the station without delay, in the most expedient manner possible.
In addition to having to respond to emergency calls and undertaking community fire safety initiatives, Retained Firefighters are mandated to attend regular training, so as maintain competency levels; this can often be weekly, as in this instance. Furthermore, they must undertake routine checks on their equipment as well as testing, cleaning and maintaining said equipment to ensure its functionality when engaging in emergency calls. A firefighter can be called upon to tackle a wide range of emergency situations where problem solving skills and initiatives are vital to resolve issues quickly and calmly. These may include incidents which vary from rescuing people from burning buildings to dealing with chemical incidents and road traffic collisions. Unlike full time firefighters, retained firefighters are not paid a full-time wage however receive a quarterly retainer for their services.
In accordance with the “Composite Retained Firefighters Agreement 1999”, the current practice is that all part time firefighters in Ireland are “on call” 24/7, 168 hours per week for at least 48 weeks in the year. To accommodate such, the Regulations provide that all firefighters live within a 2 - 2.5 km radius of the nearest station and that they must be readily available at all times throughout the day and night. In contrast, full time firefighters are provided with a balanced working week of four days on and three days off rotating.
In Ireland, “working time” is defined by the Organisation Working time Act 1997 (as amended) [“the 1997 Act”]. This in turn is subject to and derives from the European Working Time Directive 93/104/EC. The 1997 Act itself covers all employees under a contract of employment. The recitals of the Directive expressly state that “the improvement of workers safety… and the health is an objective which should not be subordinated to purely economic considerations”. The original purpose of the Directive was to promote health and safety at work by amongst other means, requiring workers to be given the appropriate rest periods and paid holidays therein.
The term “working time” has a varied meaning across a huge range of employment statutes. This can
often be a straightforward matter. For many, working time begins when an employee arrives at their place of work at the relevant start time. However, in this instance the issue is more convoluted. As it currently stands, part time retained firefighters work on an “on call” basis and are therefore available for 168 hours a week at their employer’s discretion. Under the European Working Time Directive which was transposed into Irish law by the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, Working Time is defined as: - “Any time that the employee is at …. his/hers employers’ disposal”.
There have been a number of important decisions in this area which have clarified and built on the definition of working time. In the case of Simap (C303/98), it was held that the physical presence and availability of the worker at the place of work during a stand-by period must be regarded as carrying out his duties, even if the activity actually performed varies according to the circumstances. Here the Court concluded on the following: - “Article 2(1) of Directive 93/104 must be interpreted as meaning that the following should be included in working time: (a) time when doctors are at the employer's disposal and are physically present at health centres; (b) periods of time when doctors are contactable, that is to say available to perform their duties, but are not present at the health centres, such periods being limited to time when they are actually engaged in activities. All the periods which fall within working time must be taken into account in calculating the total duration of work for the purposes of Directive 93/104.”
In the case of Jaeger (C151/02) and in Grigore (C 258/10) the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) held that the determining factor for the classification of “working time”, is the requirement that the worker be physically present at the place determined by the employer and to be available to the employer in order to be able to provide the appropriate services immediately in case of need. In fact, those obligations, which make it impossible for the workers concerned to choose the place where they stay during stand-by periods, must be regarded as coming within the ambit of the performance of their duties.
A more recent decision in Ville de Nivelles v Rudy Matzak (C 518-15) pertained to the fire service in the town of Nivelles (Belgium). The volunteer firefighters in this instance were involved in operations and also provided stand-by and on duty services, similar to the retained firefighters in Ireland and the Complainant in particular. The case concerned a Mr Rudy Matzak, who acquired the status of a volunteer firefighter in 1981. He was also employed in a private company. In 2009, Mr Matzak brought judicial proceedings against the Town of Nivelles in order to obtain compensation for his stand-by services, which according to Mr Matzak should have been categorised as “working time”. Similar to the above cases, the Court of Justice of the European Union held that, stand-by time which a worker is required to spend at home with the duty to respond to calls from his employer within eight minutes – which very significantly restricts the opportunities to carry out other activities – must be regarded as “working time”. The Court pointed out in that regard that the determining factor for the classification of “working time”, within the meaning of the Directive was the requirement that the worker be physically present at the place determined by the employer and be available to the employer in order to be able to provide the appropriate services immediately in case of need.
The Court considered that even if that place, in the present case was Mr Matzak’s home and not his place of work, the obligation to remain physically present at the place determined by the employer and the geographical and temporal constraints resulting from the need to reach his place of work within eight minutes were such as to objectively limit the opportunities which a worker in Mr Matzak’s circumstances had to devote himself to his personal and social interests.
The CJEU clearly provided that article 17(3)(c)(iii) of Working Time Directive 2003/88/EC must
be interpreted as meaning that Member States may not derogate, with regard to certain categories of firefighters recruited by public service fire services, from all obligations arising from the provisions, including article 2 thereof, which defines concepts of “working time” and “rest periods”. Furthermore, the Court concluded that article 15 of the Directive must be interpreted as not permitting Member States to maintain or adopt a less restrictive definition of the concept of “working time” than that laid down in article 2 of that Directive. Thus, the Court determined that Article 2 of the Directive must be interpreted as meaning that stand by time which a worker spends within a temporal and geographical radius (which is this instance was 5km and a 8 minute response time), with the duty to respond to calls from his employer within a specified time period, very significantly restricts the opportunities for other activities, must be regarded as “working time”.
Further to the above, in accordance with Belgian law (the Royal Decree of 6th May 1971) in respect
of types of municipal regulations pertaining to municipal firefighting services, Moniteur Belge of 19 June 1971, p.7891, regulates matters relating to the staff in that service. AT point 12 of the Matzak judgement, this is addressed. It states specifically that that regulation contains provisions specific to the professional staff and volunteer staff of the fire service. Nowhere in that does it state that they must be “home based”. The question of whether the Directive, in regards to working time and resting periods, be interpreted to the effect that it is not applicable to the concept of working time which serves to determine the remuneration owed in the case of home- based on call time was addressed by the Cour du travail de Bruxelles (higher Labour Court, Brussels), to the Court of Justice (CJEU) at paragraph 22 of the Judgement of the CJEU in the Matzak case. It can only be interpreted as the Cour du travail de Bruxelles, given the very restrictive working conditions set down in the Royal Decree of the 7 May, determined that in effect Mr. Matzak had to remain primarily as they put it “home based”, despite no contractual requirement to do so.
Equally in regard to paragraph 22 (4) of the decision of the CJEU nowhere in Mr. Matzak’s contract, as is the Complainant’s contract here today, was he required to remain at home all the time. The decision is therefore on “all fours” with the position of Retained Firefighters in this jurisdiction and, as previously averred to, the position in this country is indeed arguably more restrictive.
Although the above are European based cases, they have what is called “direct effect” in Ireland, in
other words, individuals within Ireland can rely upon them. The Labour Court has followed the
aforementioned Decisions in a number of cases which have come before them in the past number of years. In addition, in accordance with the recent European preliminary ruling in Minister for Justice of and Equality, Commissioner of An Garda Siochana v Workplace Relations Commission and Ronan Boyle & Ors (C-378/17) which clearly states that on the basis of primacy of EU law that the WRC, a statutory body established for the resolution of employment related disputes in Ireland, has the authority to disapply a rule of national law that is contrary to EU law here it is necessary to give full effect to the EU law.
In consideration of such, it is submitted that despite the fact that the Complainant herein worked on an “on call” basis, for the purposes of the legislation, he was still at his employer’s disposal during this time frame. In summary, it seems that part time retained firefighters, and the Complainant in this instance, in application of the Nivelles case, due to the restrictive nature of their work, are at the disposal of their employer, meaning the entirety of the time spent “on call” (168 hours weekly) qualifies as “working time” for the purpose of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.
In line with the above conclusions, the same argument was recently tabled discussed in the European Parliament on the 19th September 2019, reference number 2019/2806(RSP). The European Federation of Public Service Unions (“EPSU”) have themselves stressed that the working time directive and subsequent case law must apply to all firefighters in France. In France, volunteer firefighters have on-call shifts in emergency centres of up to 24 consecutive hours. It is strongly suggested that despite the “on call” nature of their duties, that same must be considered as working time therein.
Mutuality of Obligations
Notwithstanding the former Contract of Employment between the Complainant and the Respondent, which in itself gives rise to an Employee and Employer relationship, it is accepted that courts may look beyond the relationship of the parties to determine how the parties operate in reality and whether or not the employee is actually at the employer’s disposal therein.
For the purposes of completeness, it is important to clarify the extent of the obligations placed on
Firefighters during the “on call” period. Questions have been raised as to whether or not the retained Firefighters are actually at the disposal of their Employer during this period casting doubt over the existence of mutuality of obligation between the parties.
It is our contention that the Complainant, due to the “on call” nature of his former position, rendered him at the disposal of his employer for 168 hours a week for 48 weeks of the year, thus giving rise to a clear mutuality of obligation between the parties.
As part of the Complainant s conditions of service, he was required to attend all calls. Firefighters may be rostered for duty in accordance with the station procedures. During a rostered period they will attend all fire calls. The obligation is on the Firefighters to ensure that they receive all fire calls during the rostered period. If a Firefighter is unable to attend during a rostered period, a substitute must be provided, and the Station Officers approval received. Substitution will only be allowed once per week unless in exceptional circumstances as agreed under the disciplinary code.
Generally, Retained Firefighters who do not attend for 75% of all incidents to which they are called,
will have 50% of their Retainer deducted. Otherwise, he is subject to disciplinary action. Further
penalties may also be applied, including up to dismissal. During non-rostered periods Firefighters
who are not on leave, will be expected to turn out for duty if required to do so. Firefighters are
required to carry a Fire Service alerter, which in turn must be switched on at all times and they must
ensure said alerter is fully operational.
Firefighters will reside and work within an acceptable distance of the fire station, as deemed by the
Chief Fire Officer: generally, this is with a five-minute travel time to their designated station, as
measured using Google maps. If at any time change of work or place of residence affect availability
the firefighter will be required to resign. Absent without reason [A/W/R] is an option on the
Firefighters “Turnout” report. This report specifies who was on a call and is used for both attendance, pay and disciplinary procedures (possible other items also including statistical purposes). Firefighters sign this after every attendance and the onus is on the Station Officer to put in the term associated with the firefighter: -
i. Rider (was on the truck),
ii. Station Duty (if the truck was full, a member stays back and gets paid for the duration of the
call, however carries out station duty),
iii. Attended (in a case of 6 Firefighters going out on the truck, the 7th person gets Station duty
and paid for duration, the 8th, and/or 9th, and/or 10th (attended) person gets 1 hour pay and
sent home following),
iv. Annual Leave, Parental Leave, Sick Leave, Missed the call (Rostered off or has cover from
someone who is rostered off),
v. Training Absence (training courses),
vi. Rostered off (not used in our station),
vii. AWR which is where the disciplinary procedure comes into play. This is given to the
Firefighter who are rostered as being “on call” however do not turn up to said call therein.
Following this, disciplinary procedures take place in the form of verbal, written and final
warnings etc, depending on severity, common occurrence etc.
The Complainant said that the Respondent suggests that Firefighters are not at the disposal of
the Respondent during the on-call time, then why are Firefighters ultimately disciplined for not
attending said calls? By disciplining Firefighters for not attending a call, it can only be determined
that Firefighters are at the disposal of the Respondent and thus in turn establishing an undisputed
element of mutuality of obligation, as they are required to accept all work. Furthermore, Firefighter
alerters only work within a certain range so if they are not in the immediate area of 2.5km, they will
be unaware said calls, and then will be subject to disciplinary action on foot of same.
In determining the nature of the parties' relationship, the courts will take a holistic approach not
confined to the written terms of the agreement between the parties. In conducting such an evaluation, the courts will look to the respective bargaining power of the parties and whether the written terms accurately record what was agreed (or whether one party effectively imposed a set of terms on the other). Although parties cannot themselves fix the status of their relationship in writing, the courts can look to the written categorisation of the relationship and decide that same is an accurate reflection of the relationship in reality. In application of such, we note the following: -
i. The Complainant, when “on-call” is required to operate within 2.5km radius;
ii. The Complainant is obliged to respond to the alerts that occur during the “on call” period;
iii. Although the Complainant might not have been called in during that period, they are still
required to be within the radius, irrespective of workload;
iv. If the Complainant failed to attend an alert when “on-call” they are subject to disciplinary action,
which includes deduction of their retainer and/or dismissal;
Therefore, in consideration of such, there was an obligation on the Complainant to respond to all work provided. It is not a case that the Firefighters are free to select the work they wish to carry out whilst “on-call”, rather they are obliged to accept same at all times. This in turns means all retained
Firefighters are at the disposal of their Respective Employer, thus creating a clear element of
mutuality of obligation therein.
Section 15 of the Organisation Working Time Act 1997: Prescribed Weekly Hours
Given that the Complainant has been at his employer’s disposal for 168 hours a week, it is clear that his employer has breached Section 15 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, and that he
should be compensated accordingly for the breach of the provisions contained herein.
Although it is accepted under Article 17 of the Working Time Directive 2003/88/EC, that member states may derogate from Articles 3,4,5,6,8 and 16; it is prescribed under Recital 16 that said category of workers subject to derogation must be given compensatory rest periods. For the avoidance of doubt, it states the following: - “As a general rule, in the event of a derogation, the workers concerned must be given equivalent compensatory rest periods.”
The Complainant contents that, based on the above, the Working Time Directive has been incorrectly transposed into Irish Law under S.I. No. 21/1998 - Organisation of Working Time (General Exemptions) Regulations, 1998 and by the Organisation of Working Time (Exemption of Civil Protection Services) Regulations 1998 (S.I. No. 52 of 1998) and ineffectively applied by the State therein.
He said, SI 21/1998 provides for a general exemption for sections 11, 12, 13, 14, and 16 of the Organisation Working Time Act 1997, as permitted under Article 17 of the Directive. More specifically under section 4 of SI 21/1998, the following is stated: -
“If an employee is not entitled, by reason of the exemption, to the rest period and break referred to in sections 11, 12 and 13 of the Act, the employer shall ensure that the employee has available to himself or herself a rest period and break that, in all the circumstances, can reasonably be regarded as equivalent to the first-mentioned rest period and break.”
Under SI 21/1998, no reference is expressly made to section 15 of the 1998 Act in relation to a workers prescribed weekly hours. It is only under SI 52/1998 that an exemption is provided for the fire service regrading section 15 of the 1997 Act. However, no provision is made for compensatory rest therein as required for under Recital 16 of the Directive.
In consideration of such, in line with the initial point that the Complainant’s working time amounts to a 168 hours weekly, the Respondent is therefore in breach of section 15. Although an exemption is permitted under the aforementioned Statutory Instruments, no such compensatory rest, as guaranteed under the Directive, is provided to the Complainant in this instance. Relying on the Von Colson (C-14/83), case the Complainant said that the compensation awarded to him should reflect the blatant abuse of the Directive by the Respondent and be seen as a deterrent to others.
Notwithstanding the lack of compensatory rest contained in SI 52/1998 in accordance with Recital 16, he claims that the derogation contained under Article 17 of the Directive, upon review of same, does not seemingly apply to Retained Firefighters. Specifically, it states the following: -
“With due regard for the general principles of the protection of the safety and health of workers, Member States may derogate from Articles 3 to 6, 8 and 16 when, on account of the specific characteristics of the activity concerned, the duration of the working time is not measured and/or predetermined or can be determined by the workers themselves, and particularly in the case of:-
(a) managing executives or other persons with autonomous decision-taking powers;
(b) family workers; or
(c) workers officiating at religious ceremonies in churches and religious communities”
In consideration of the above, the Complainant deems the specification inconsistent with that of the work Retained Firefighters engage in and as a result, it is our contention that Article 17 does not provide a full derogation in respect of Retained Firefighters, more especially as under SI 52/ 1998.
Section 19 of the Organisation Working Time Act 1997: Annual Leave
Annual Leave for Retained Fire Fighters is governed by the Organisation Working time Act 1997 (as amended). There is no formal qualifying period of service with the employer before an employee (full-time, part-time, permanent or temporary) qualifies for paid annual leave. Qualification is on the basis of all time actually worked by an employee. This is inclusive of hours notionally worked, most particularly those hours spent on call.
Under the 1997 Act the minimum Annual Leave entitlement for employees who work at least 1,365 hours per year is 4 weeks; this does not necessarily mean 20 days; it refers to 4 of the average weeks worked by the employee. Where employees work less than 1,365 hours per week entitlements should be calculated on a pro-rata basis. Under section 19 (1) of the 1997 Act, there are three different methods of calculating Annual Leave entitlement; if one or more of these methods is applicable the employer must use the one that gives the greater entitlement.
1. Allow four of the average weeks worked where an employee has worked at least 1,365 hours
in a leave year. (e.g. if the employee works 4 days a week then their entitlement is 16 days;
2. Allow 1/3 of a working week for each calendar month in which the employee has worked at least 117 hours;
3. Allow 8% of the hours worked in the leave year, subject to a maximum of 4 working weeks.
This method is generally used to calculate entitlement for part-time employees.
Under section 20(2)(b) of the 1997 Act, payment for Annual Leave is determined by reference to
the normal weekly rate of remuneration. Normal weekly rate of remuneration is defined in two ways: Where the rate of pay does not vary in relation to the work done, then pay for annual leave is the rate payable for normal weekly hours last worked by the employee before the commencement of the leave; Where the rate of pay does vary in relation to the work done, i.e. where employees do not have normal weekly pay, the weekly rate of pay for annual leave is calculated by reference to the earnings over the 13-week period prior to the annual leave. The intention here is to provide a fair and equitable estimation of ‘normal’ pay where an employee’s income fluctuates over the year.
In consideration of the above, the Complainant contend the following: -
Annual Leave Hours of Work:
The fact that the Complainant is “on call” 7 days a week as per the definition of working time in accordance with the 1997 Act, it is our contention that that his annual leave under section 19 should be calculated in accordance with same. As annual leave is reflective of the “working week”, it thus renders the Complainant’s entitlement to four weeks of said working week i.e. 28 days of annual leave.
Therefore, the Complainant claims that that Retained Fire Fighters and the Complainant should be
compensated in respect of not receiving the correct hours guaranteed under section 19 and the
Respondent’s blatant breach therein.
Annual Leave Pay:
Notwithstanding Point 1, the Complainant claims that he has been wrongly paid his annual leave during the course of employment, due to the miscalculation of hours worked. Therefore, the Complainant claims that in addition to a compensatory breach outlined in Point 1, the Complainant should be awarded the shortfall difference between annual leave received and annual leave not received, during the annual leave year. In that regard, due to the fact the Complainant “works” 168 hours a week, thus in turn he is entitled to 28 days of statutory leave.
Without prejudice to the foregoing argument, the Complainant said that the recent decision by the Court of Appeal in Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Northern Ireland Policing Board v Alexander Agnew & Others ( NICA 32) regarding the relationship between the Working Time Directive and national legislation and the doctrine of equivalence. Here, the Court of Appeal acknowledged that the curtailment of having to submit a complaint within 3 months in respect of the incorrect payment of holiday pay, meant that no pay can be recovered between the period from which the claim was submitted [2015/2016] since the enactment of the Directive itself.
In Ireland, the Workplace Relations Act 2015 limits claims to the WRC in respect of Organisation Working Time claims to be submitted within 6 months from the date of infringement. In the case of holiday pay, which this decision relates to, in Ireland a claim for such can be lodged within 6 months at the end of the leave year which would end on the 31st March, after which such claims then goes back and includes that leave year. Therefore, if a claim is lodged on the 29th September 2019 that claim goes back to a date effectively before the 31st March and as a result the entire leave year running from 1 April 2018 to 31 March 2019 is included. In Ireland, it appears an employee is thus limited to one year when making a claim in respect of holiday pay owed.
However, contrary to the above, the foregoing decision from the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal
clearly points out the following: -
1 If the complaint is in respect of a series of deductions; and
2 If the complaint is presented before the end of requisite time period [6/12 months in this
instance] since the date of payment which the last deduction was made,
The UK Industrial Tribunals jurisdiction is not curtailed to a deduction of wages occurring three
months [6/12 months in this instance] prior to the presentation of the complaint. Therefore, the tribunal has jurisdictions to deal with the whole series of deductions from its commencement “no matter how far back in time”.
This decision further goes on to discuss the doctrine of equivalence, which as we know, provides that national law may be no less restrictive that of the directive counterpart to which it derives from. The Directive on Working Time provides for no limit in respect of compensation. However, in Ireland each claim under section 27 of the 1997 Act are limited to two years’ salary therein. The WRC and/or Labour Court have gone one step further to restrict compensation under the Act to breaches within the 6-month reference period prior to when the claims are lodged. To do this is both incorrect and without proper foundation. In fact, the foregoing case, although currently under appeal provides persuasive authority to permit the WRC and Labour Court jurisdiction to award compensation in respect of continuous breaches going beyond the envisaged 6-month timeframe, provided same does not exceed two years of the Complainant’s wages.
Therefore, it is the Complainant’s claim that the claims for Annual Leave should be allowed to revert back to the commencement of the Complainant s employment when there has been a series of deductions since that point, rather than the assumed 6 month to 1-year time frame prior to the lodgement of his claim. As in this instance, where the Complainant’s working time amount to 168 hours weekly, compensation in respect of same, should reflect the mismanagement of his Annual Leave by the Respondent since the commencement of his employment. In other words, 28 days of annual leave for each year of service, totalling 308 days. Compensation should provide for the shortfall in the Complainants Annual Leave received and not received, as calculated above, for the entirety of his employment.
Section 21 of the Organisation Working Time Act: Public Holiday entitlement in respect of hours of work and pay.
In accordance with section 21 of the 1997 Act, an employee shall, in respect of a public holiday, be
entitled to whichever one of the following his or her employer determines, namely:
a) a paid day off on that day;
b) a paid day off within a month of that day;
c) an additional day of annual leave;
d) an additional day's pay.
It said that all Retained Fire Fighters only receive a Public Holiday benefit in line with this provision, on the basis they are called out on one of the 9 listed public holidays, despite being on call for the entirety of that period. Based on such, the Complainant submits that following: -
Hours of Work
Given that Retained Fire Fighters working time amounts to 168 hours weekly, for the purposes of the
1997 Act, all fire fighters are ultimately working during any/or all public holidays throughout the
year, thus entitling them to the benefit contained under section 21 of the 1997 Act. Therefore, it is
our contention that the Complainant should be compensated for the Respondent’s failure to provide such.
Notwithstanding the Point A, and in addition to compensation, the Complainant said he should be awarded the shortfall difference of the public holiday entitlement received and public holiday entitlement not received in accordance with the Complainant’s annual leave year. For the avoidance of doubt, in accordance he said that he has worked every public holiday in the last 12 months and not been provided with any of the entitlements set out under section 21 of the 1997 Act.
Without prejudice to the foregoing, as outlined above, in accordance with the decision in Agnew, the Complainant’s complaint in respect of Public Holiday entitlement, should be allowed to go back to the commencement of his employment when assessing compensation for same.
Section 11 in relation to the Complainant’s entitlement to daily rest breaks;
The Complainant said that in accordance with the legal argument outlined above and in line with the definition of “working time” for the purposes of the Organisation Working Time Act 1997, the Complainant works a total of 168 hours weekly. As a result, the Complainant does not receive his requisite rest breaks in accordance with section 11 of the 1997 Act and should be compensated in that regard.
Section 12 in relation to the Complainant’s entitlement to breaks;
The Complainant said that in accordance with the legal argument outlined above and in line with the definition of “working time” for the purposes of the Organisation Working Time Act 1997, the Complainant works a total of 168 hours weekly. As a result, the Complainant does not receive his requisite rest breaks in accordance with section 12 of the 1997 Act and should be compensated in that regard.
Section 13 in relation to the Complainant’s entitlement to weekly rest breaks;
The Complainant said that in accordance with the legal argument outlined above and in line with the definition of “working time” for the purposes of the Organisation Working Time Act 1997, the Complainant works a total of 168 hours weekly. As a result, the Complainant does not receive his requisite rest breaks in accordance with section 13 of the 1997 Act and should be compensated in that regard.
Section 16 in relation to the Complainant having to work excessive night hours;
The Complainant said that in accordance with the legal argument outlined above and in line with the definition of “working time” for the purposes of the Organisation Working Time Act 1997, the Complainant works a total of 168 hours weekly. As a result, the Complainant does not receive his requisite rest breaks in accordance with section 16 of the 1997 Act and should be compensated in that regard.
Section 17 of the Organisation Working Time Act 1997 regarding the Complainant’s right to information in respect of being notified of start and finishing times; not being notified in advance of any additional hours;
The Complainant said that in accordance with the legal argument outlined above and in line with the definition of “working time” for the purposes of the Organisation Working Time Act 1997, the Complainant works a total of 168 hours weekly. This in turn results in an automatic breach of section 17 of the 1997 Act as the Respondent’s fail to provide the adequate information guaranteed therein; more specifically right to notification of start and finish times within 24 hours of the next working day and notification of additional hour therein. The Complainant should be compensated in that regard.
Section 14 of the Organisation Working Time Act 1997: Right to compensation for working on a Sunday.
As per section 14 of the 1997 Act, an employee who is required to work on a Sunday shall be compensated by his or her employer for being required so to work by the following means, namely: -
(a) by the payment to the employee of an allowance of such an amount as is reasonable having
regard to all the circumstances, or
(b) by otherwise increasing the employee's rate of pay by such an amount as is reasonable having
regard to all the circumstances, or
(c) by granting the employee such paid time off from work as is reasonable having regard to all
the circumstances, or
(d) by a combination of two or more of the means referred to in the preceding paragraphs.
Notwithstanding the argument that Retained Fire Fighters working time amounts to 168 hours weekly, the fact remains, whether on call or on active duty, fire fighters are not compensated for work carried out on Sundays. Therefore, he claims that in line with section 14 of the 1997
Act, the Complainant should be compensated for the Respondents deliberate breach therein. Furthermore, for the avoidance of doubt, in line with the foregoing argument, he said that the
he has worked 46 Sundays in the last 12 months. Without prejudice to the foregoing, as outlined above, in accordance with the decision in Agnew, the Complainant’s complaint in respect of his Sunday premium entitlement, should be allowed to go back to the commencement of his employment when assessing compensation for same.
Minimum Wage Act 2000 CA-00023072-001
In contrast to the Organisation of Working Time Act, Section 8 (1) of the National Minimum Wage
Act 2000 does not define working time, rather it defines “working hours” as “the total hours during which the employee carries out or performs the activities of his/her work at the employees place of employment or is required by his employer to be available for work there and is paid if the employee is carrying out or performing the activities of his work”.
It is admitted however that the Act does go on to state that time is spent on stand by or on call at a
place other than a place of work does not constitute working hours. However, the Act fails to detail specific restrictions, as in this instance whereby the Complainant is actually on call at his place of work, albeit that that is his home, given the fact that his employer contractually insists that he reside no greater than 2km or 5 minutes on Google Maps from the fire station.
In Nivelles (wherein in fact the fireman in question was required to live within eight minutes of his
employer) the Court noted that “the obligation to remain physically present at the place determined by the employer and the geographical and temporal constraints resulting from the requirement to reach his place of work within eight minutes are such to objectively limit the opportunity to which a worker in Mr. Matzak’s circumstances has to devote himself to his personal and social interests. The Court further noted, “in light of those constraints Mr. Matzak’s situation differs from that of a worker who during his stand by duty must simply be at his employer’s disposal in as much as it must be possible to contact him”.
In that regard, therefore the CJEU went on further to note that the stand by time was in fact working
time. As such the same applies in this instance in other words the Complainant is not actually on standby, he is actually working full time. Here the Complainant has to reside very closely to the fire station such that even whilst at home, that in fact his home is his place of work and thus we submit that the Act applies and that the total hours for which the Complainant worked or carried out his work was 168 hours per week.
As per the English case of Royal Mencap Society v Tomilson- Blake  EWCACiv 1641 where two appeals were heard together by the Court of Appeal, each involving the broad issue of whether the entirety of the period spent on the premises had to be taken into account when calculating an employer’s obligations under the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999-2015 in the UK when a worker agreed to be “on call” on the employers premises in the care sector on the basis that they could assist if required during the night, but otherwise no duties. Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) which had held that carers working sleep-in shifts were entitled to the National Minimum Wage (NMW) for every hour of their shift, regardless of whether they were awake and carrying out relevant duties. In overturning this decision, and a significant body of case law.
As has been typical in the care sector, Mrs Tomlinson-Blake received a flat rate payment of £22.35
plus, one hour's pay of £6.70 for a nine-hour-long sleep-in shift. She contended that this pay fell below the NMW as, when accounting for every hour spent at work, her wage equated to around just £3.23 per hour. The EAT rejected Mencap's argument that Mrs Tomlinson-Blake was not awake and carrying out her duties for the majority of her shift and was therefore not entitled to remuneration for those hours. In doing so, they took the following factors into account:
1 Mencap's statutory obligation to have someone on the premises;
2 Mencap's requirement to have someone present to fulfil their obligations to the council;
3 Mrs Tomlinson-Blake's responsibility to be present and use her professional judgement as to whether attention was required through the night.
The Employment Tribunal found that the worker was not allocated any specific task during the sleep
in shift but was required to remain at the patient’s house during the shift and keep a listening ear out during the night in case her support was needed. An employee is expected to intervene where necessary to deal with incidents that might require her intervention. The Tribunal was of the opinion that the need for intervention was “real but infrequent”. Ms. Tomlinson- Blake’s case was that she was entitled to have the totality of the hours spent “sleeping in” counted for NMW purposes. The Industrial Tribunal and UK EAT on appeal both upheld that claim. However, was subsequently overturned by the Court of Appeal.
In overturning this decision, the Court of Appeal ruled that only time spent awake and "actually
working" should be included in the calculation of NMW payments and referenced the exclusion under Regulation 32 of the NMW Regulations 2015. This Regulation specifies that the NMW is only payable during hours "when the worker is awake for the purposes of working, even if a worker by arrangement sleeps at or near a place of work and the employer provides suitable facilities for sleeping". A plain reading of this regulation was favoured over the EAT's multifactorial test above. The Court of Appeal stated that this approach is limited to the facts of sleep-in workers who are "contractually obliged to spend the night at or near their workplace on the basis that they are expected to sleep for all or most of the period but may be woken if required to undertake some specific activity".
The Complainant said that this matter has yet to be determined in this jurisdiction.
In this regard the Complainant’s representative wrote to the Respondent on 30 November 2018 in accordance with Section 23 of the Minimum Wage Act seeking the Complainant’s pay reference period and a written statement of his average hourly rate. The Respondent on 2 August said
The HR Manager in response to the request set out the following: -
1. Pay Reference Period: 4-week period between 4/1/19- 31/1/19
2. Reckonable Pay Components:
b. Courses drills
3.Total working Hours: 16.43
4. Hourly Pay Rate: €20.83 plus 4-week Retainer of €1,156.92
As such given that the minimum wage is €9.80 per hour and the Complainant’s working time is 168
hours weekly, the Complainant calculate over a 48 working week that this amounts to €73,802.40 annually or €6,150.20 monthly meaning that the Complainant has been significantly underpaid for the period.
In accordance with section 26 of the 2000 Act, he requested that the Adjudicator provide
an award of arrears in relation to the blatant shortfall in minimum wage being the difference of the amount paid and the amount received by the Complainant since the commencement of employment in 2015 in line with the fact that he works 168 hours weekly.
Furthermore, as per the Complainant’s entitlement under section 26 (1) (ii), he is entitled to submit a claim in respect of “reasonable” expenses incurred in pursuit of his claim under the 2000 Act as affirmed by the Labour Court in the decision of Ballinalard Transport Ltd v Kazdalis MWD 8/2013. Therefore, he has asked that an order be granted in conjunction with the decision herein to permit the Complainant to submit his expenses incurred in pursuit of this claim.
Summary of Respondent’s Case:
The following is the Respondent’s submission.
Complaints under the Organisation of Working Time Act.
The Respondent said that the Complainant was employed as a retained firefighter.
Retained Firefighters make up about 70% of the Fire Service in Ireland, with Full-time Firefighters in major Cities. Retained firefighters of which there are approximately 2060 employed across the Country in 202 fire stations. The delivery of fire services by way of retained fire services is common not just in Ireland but across the EU.
Whilst not attending at incidents the availability of retained firefighters does not require them to be in attendance at the fire station, they operate on the basis which requires them to be available within a specified distance of the Fire station so that they can respond within a specified period of time. This availability is not considered to be working time. It is important to note that at this period of time where they are required to be available, retained firefighters can engage in other activities and be employed by other parties.
It is the position of the Respondent that Article 17 of the Directive identifies a number of areas where derogation from the rights conferred by the Directive is permitted. In accordance with paragraph 2 of this Article derogations may be made from Articles 3, 4, 5, 8 and 16 for certain cohorts of employments including:
(iii) press, radio, television, cinematographic production, postal and telecommunications services, ambulance, fire and civil protection services;
These derogations as they apply to the role of retained firefighter are provided in this Jurisdiction by S.I. No. 21/1998 - Organisation of Working Time (General Exemptions) Regulations, 1998 and by the Organisation of Working Time (Exemption of Civil Protection Services) Regulations 1998 (S.I. No. 52 of 1998).
These provide as follows;
The persons employed in each of the classes of activity specified in the Schedule to these Regulations are, as respects the carrying out of the duties involved in that activity, hereby exempted from the application of sections 11, 12, 13, 15 and 16 of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 (No. 20 of 1997).
The schedule specifically provides as follows: The activity of a person employed by a fire authority in the position commonly known as retained fire fighter.
With regard to the complaint made by the Complainant as they relate to sections of the Act which are not directly covered by S.I. No. 21/1998 - Organisation of Working Time (General Exemptions) Regulations, 1998 and by the Organisation of Working Time (Exemption of Civil Protection Services) Regulations 1998 (S.I. No. 52 of 1998) the following is the position.
With regard to the complaint under section 14 of the Act as it relates to additional payment in respect of attendance on Sundays. The Respondent said it is satisfied that the Complainant receives his appropriate entitlement. Retained firefighters receive a premium payment in respect of attendance at weekends this payment encompasses the premium for Sundays.
With regard to the complaint under section 17 of the Act as it relates required attendance at incidents the Respondent are satisfied that both the contract of employment and collective agreement specifies the normal weekly attendance of the complainant in addition in each week that he is required to work, he can advise with regard to his non availability.
With regard to the complaint under section 19 & 20 of the Act, the Respondent are satisfied that the Complainant receives his appropriate entitlement. The basis of the calculation of holiday pay is set out in legislation as follows. Section 20 of the Act provides that pay in respect of holidays shall be at the employee’s “normal weekly rate”. Section 20(4) of the Act provides: “In this section ‘normal weekly rate’ means the normal weekly rate of the employee concerned pay determined in accordance with regulations made by the Minister for the purpose of this section.” Regulations pursuant to this provision were made by S.I. No.475 of 1997 and entitled Organisation of Working Time (Determination of Pay for Holidays) Regulations 1997. The Respondent is satisfied that payment for annual leave is in accordance with these regulations.
The nature of the calculation of holiday pay for retained firefighters because of the atypical nature of their employment is as follows; they receive the retainer continuously in full across the year including periods whilst on annual leave i.e. 52 weeks paid on a four-quarterly basis. Separately they then receive 8% annual leave entitlement based on other earnings which they are paid for i.e. attendance at drills and incidents. As the nature of their required attendance at incidents does not form a defined pattern and, therefore, could affect the level of payment based on the time of the year that the individual takes their holidays, on that basis it is necessary to calculate the 8% of those earnings in arrears. In accordance with the national agreement between Management and SIPTU & ATGWU, it has been the practice that at the end of every calendar year a calculation is undertaken on their earnings outside that of the retainer (which as set out above is already paid to them whilst on holidays). A payment is then made to the firefighter of 8% of these earnings. This completes the payment of holiday pay.
The Respondent pays in full for the Complainant’s holiday pay. He is entitled to take his leave during the course of the year. He is paid his full retainer during his leave because earnings need to be assessed for a full annual period in order to determine the amount of the 8%, payment cannot be made until the next year. This payment is provided for in the next annual first quarter payment to firefighters.
It has been accepted in all jurisdictions that the clear purpose of the Act as it relates to annual leave is to ensure that for either annual leave or public holidays an employee receives no less (or no more) than he or she would have received if he or she was working during the period in question. The Respondent said it is satisfied that this requirement is met.
With regard to complaint under section 21 of the Act in respect of payment for attendance at incidents on Public Holidays the Complainant receives additional remuneration in accordance with the provisions of section 21 the Organisation of Working Time Act.
The Complainant specifically relies on a preliminary ruling of the Court of Justice of the EU in Ville de Nivelles v Rudy Matzak; EU law does not have a doctrine of binding precedent such as that entertained in common law countries. Therefore, a judgment of the CJEU in a preliminary reference procedure is, strictly speaking, binding only on the national court that submitted the question, as well as on other courts in the same domestic procedure in this instance Belgium. However, it is accepted that national courts interpreting EU law can take them into account. However, it is done so with regards to facts of the respective cases. It is the position of the Respondent that the case of Ville de Nivelles v Rudy Matzak is not on all fours with the facts of this case and can be distinguished in that Mr. Matzak was a volunteer firefighter whilst the Complainant is a retained firefighter, they are two totally different types of employees.
Mr. Matzak’s primary complaint was that he was not compensated to be available, while restricted to remaining at his home and prevented in undertaking work elsewhere, the Complainant in this case was compensated, was not restricted to remain at home, and was free to commit to and undertake work elsewhere. The key element is that the Complainant like all other retained firefighters is free to engage in other employments or other activities as he so wishes, and it is believed that he does so.
The purpose and scope of the Directive is defined at Article 2 which provides the following definitions of the expressions "working time" and "rest period":
"1. 'working time' means any period during which the worker is working, at the employer's disposal and carrying out his activity or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice;
2. 'rest period' means any period which is not working time."
With regards to working time the CJEU has given specific definition in relation to this in particular, the ECJ cases of Sindicato de Medicos de Asistencia Publica (SIMAP) v Constelleria de Sandidad eY Consumo de la Generalidad Valenciana  IRLR 845 and Landesshauptstadt Keil v Jaeger  IRLR 804 ("the SIMAP and Jaeger cases"). The CJEU held that the time spent ‘on-call’ by workers is to be regarded in its entirety as working time within the meaning of the Directive if they are required to be present at the workplace and that by contrast, where workers must be reachable at all times but are not required to remain at a place determined by the employer, also called ‘standby time’, only the time linked to the actual provision of services must be regarded as working time.
The Court has repeatedly held that the concept of ‘working time’ under Directive 2003/88 is an autonomous concept of EU law, which must be defined in accordance with objective considerations by reference to the scheme and purpose of that directive, intended to improve workers’ living and working conditions. It requires that three conditions be satisfied. First, the worker must be ‘at work’; second, he must be at the employer’s disposal; and, third, he must be carrying out his activity or duties.
The onus is therefore on the Complainant to prove that for the periods in question he met these criteria. If he was engaged in other activities for this time period which are the subject of his complaint, he cannot de facto meet the criteria and his complaint is moot.
The conditions of employment for all retained firefighters provide that a firefighter can be in employment with another employer however the firefighter must ensure that an employer is willing for the firefighter to be released from the working hours of that employer once alerted.
Individuals employed as a retained firefighter if not employed, may qualify for a jobseeker’s payment from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. People who are working as retained fire fighters do not have to sign off for the days they are on call, firefighting or training. This means that they can be paid a jobseeker’s payment for days that they are on call, firefighting or training. This requirement is not considered by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection as a restriction on the availability for work, so long as the individuals are satisfying the conditions of the scheme. In order to qualify for payments from the Department of Social Protection Complainant s must confirm that they are available to actively pursue employment however this would directly conflict with the Complainants claim as predicated on the decision in Matzak.
A retained firefighter is paid a retainer, this payment is by definition an amount that is paid to someone so as to be sure that that person can work for the person paying the retainer when needed. This cannot in itself constitute working time. Separately when this work is undertaken the person to whom the payment is made is entitled to remuneration for this specific work. The payment of a retainer and payment for work undertaken are entirely separate. Therefore, the availability that is provided for under a retainer could not be considered working time.
It should be noted that the annual retainer allowance is a set figure and is not related to activity. In contrast, the other payments made to retained firefighters are calculated as and when the corresponding tasks are completed.
1) Turnouts – when answering a call to attend an incident; 2) Drill nights – when attending weekly “drill nights” for the purposes of training, development and maintenance.
It is the Respondent’s position that for retained firefighters there is a clear distinction between being required to be available for work and actually carrying out their contractual duties. There is no obligation on the Complainant to carry out their contractual duties in the period for which the retainer applies unless alerted to do so. Once they are alerted and attend the fire station it is accepted that this period of time will be considered as carrying out their contractual duties and therefore working hours. On this basis there is no employment relationship existing for this availability/retainer period.
In its decision the Court advised that a worker being required to be physically present at a place determined by the employer and to be available to the employer to provide services immediately, where it is impossible for the worker concerned to choose the place where they stay during stand-by periods, must still be regarded as coming within working time. However, the situation is different where the worker performs a stand-by duty which requires that the worker be permanently accessible without being required to be present at the place of work or remain permanently at another location. Even if he is at the disposal of his employer (since it must be possible to contact him), in that situation the worker may manage his time with fewer constraints and pursue his own interests, and accordingly only the time linked to the actual provision of services must be regarded as working time.
The Complainant may raise the issue of mutuality of obligation. Mutuality of obligation where such exists can as in this instance reflect circumstances where a worker works intermittently for the employer, perhaps as and when work is available. In the case of retained fire services there is no control by the employer over incidents they are by their nature random events outside of the control of the employer. It can also be considered that each time the Complainant worked he entered a separate contract governing that particular engagement. The position of the Respondent is that only the time linked to the actual provision of services must be regarded as working time even if of short duration. As already stated, the Respondent have confirmed that the Complainant at all other times when he is not required to attend at fires or other fire incidents, he is free if he so wishes to engage in other employments which require the establishment of mutuality of obligation with another employer or to engage in self-employment where a simultaneous obligation cannot exist. It is the Respondent’s position that mutuality of obligation between an individual employee and two separate employers cannot occur simultaneously or indeed that there can be mutuality of obligation where an individual is self-employed and engaged in this self-employment What the Respondent have required is that the other employer or the retained firefighter if self-employed accepts that once the firefighter receives an alert they relinquish their obligation on the employee. The lack of mutuality of obligation before and after the completion of attendances at fire incidents does not of itself prevent the attendances at fire incidents from constituting contracts of employment and that only the time linked to the actual provision of services must be regarded as working time.
The essential feature of an employment relationship as set out above is, according to the CJEU case‑law, that for a certain period of time a person performs services for and under the direction of another person in return for which he receives remuneration (see, in particular, Case 66/85 Lawrie‑Blum  ECR 2121, and Kurz v Land Baden-Wurttemberg  EC 1-10691)
The ECJ decision in Lawrie-Blum v Land Baden-Wurttemberg  ICR 483, stated at paragraph 17 of its judgment that;
"That concept (i.e. of "worker") must be defined with objective criteria which distinguish the employment relationship by reference to the rights and duties of the persons concerned. The essential feature of an employment relationship, however, is that for a certain period of time a person performs services for and under the direction of another person in return for which he receives remuneration."
In Kurz v Land Baden-Wurttemberg  EC 1-10691, the Court stated at paragraph 32 of its judgment that;
"32. - In order to be treated as a worker, the person must pursue an activity which is genuine and effective, to the exclusion of activities on such a small scale as to be regarded as purely marginal or ancillary. The essential feature of an employment relationship is that for a certain period of time a person performs services for and under the directions of another person in return for which he receives remuneration”.
The Court in making its decision in Matzak stated that a contractual relationship “very significantly restricting the opportunities for other activities, must be regarded as ‘working time’”. The nature of the relationship between the Respondent and the Complainant outside of what is considered to be contractual hours once alerted to an incident, is characterised by the exercise of free choice, free from the direction of the employer, and free to undertake other employment or activities. This differentiates the Complainant from other CJEU cases for instance the constraints upon the doctors in SIMAP and Jaeger were different. Both had obligations. Both were not free of their employer’s control. The degree of control over the place in which the work was to be performed, and where the employee was to remain whilst on call, was plainly of a different dimension from that of a retained fire fighter, who has freedom of choice in relation to their location, availability and activity e.g. working elsewhere or otherwise.
The contractual relationship between the parties is clear, the Complainant receives a retainer to be available, however the payment of a retainer does not preclude a firefighter from taking up other employment or being available to take up other employment or to undertake education courses, or to engage in sporting or social activities etc that the time is their own and they are free to pursue activities as they see fit. Retained Personnel are not confined to their homes and have a choice of what to do with their time and engage in other activities when they are required to be available and not required to work.
The Respondents believe that the position of the Complainant from that of Matzak case can be distinguished in that options were available to him to stand down and that there were active arrangements available to him within the fire station to mark himself as being unavailable if he so wished. In addition to annual leave there are also provisions in place for casual leave aspects of the job which allow for all personnel to avail of structured time off. The Respondent said that the provisions of the 1999 Composite agreement reflects the position that a firefighter can seek to be marked as unavailable. Namely, where it states;
Both sides agree that staffing arrangements must guarantee the twin objectives of adequate availability of firefighters to respond to emergencies and structured time off to meet the social and family needs of the firefighters.
To meet these objectives, the following guidelines will be used in association with the
Labour Court Settlement of 1973:
One Pump Station: Optimum recommended staffing level of nine. (it is recognised that there are currently higher staffing levels in some locations.) All nine staff may be alerted in the event of an incident. Alternatively, members, by arrangement with the Station Officer, may register unavailable for call-out; subject to the number available at all times to respond to a call not going below seven.
Two Pump Station: (For Stations with more than 100 calls per annum). Optimum recommended staffing level of 15. These may be utilised in a number of ways: Two crews may be available at any time. In any event, both sides are committed to crewing arrangements, which ensure that there are sufficient staff to provide a necessary service.”
In the station where the Complainant was employed there was a less onerous requirement for attendance than the agreement. The current arrangement is 9 crew members to give a minimum response of 5. This provided for staff members to seek to more time off if desired.
The Respondents also believe that the position of the Complainant from that of Matzak case can be distinguished in that there is no absolute requirement to attend to calls when contacted and that the firefighter can make the decision as to attend or not. They have discretion to not attend up to 25% of the alerts, meaning that the time is their own and they can indeed decide whether to report to the Respondent for work or not or being in full time education or engaging in other sporting or social activities. So, the retainer does not place an absolute requirement on attendance where in general, contracts of employment do place an absolute requirement on attendance for contractual hours unless otherwise excused such as by reason of illness.
Whilst there is a requirement on the Complainant to attend at the station as soon as possible when alerted, if a firefighter attends up to 15 minutes after being alerted, he is still entitled to payment for the full duration of the call subject to the fire-fighter remaining in the fire station for that time. Payment where attendance is after 15 minutes is similar except the first hour is not paid.
In relation to drills/training while there is weekly training, there is no absolute requirement for retained firefighters to attend all such sessions (85% attendance rate).
In summary the Respondent said that without prejudice to the above it is the position of the Respondents that it did at all times apply what it believed were the required statutory obligations under the Organisation of Working Time Act with regard to the working time of retained firefighters. It does not at any time refuse minimum rest periods during what it considers to be working periods. In the event of protracted fire incidents staff were provided with break periods and minimum rest periods in accordance with the legislation.
The Complainant may also reference the judgment of the European Court of Justice in Von Colson and Kamann v. Land Nordrhein-Westfalen. Whilst some cases may involve breaches that are major and deliberate with serious consequences for the employees involved, at all times the fire service are cogniscent of the health and safety of firefighters and will stand down firefighters if there are concerns. The system of retained firefighters has existed in this State in excess of fifty years. There has been no intentional breach of the Act if Local Authorities are required to apply the provisions of Matzak it will effectively require the cessation of the retained fire service and implement a new and radically different model for the delivery of fire services which will require significant infrastructural change which cannot be implemented in the short term and in any intervening period fire services must continue to be provided. If there was a breach the respondents submit that the breach was technical and non-culpable in nature.
The Complainant may seek to rely on elements of the judgement of the Court of Appeal of Northern Ireland in the case of the Chief Constable of the PSNI V Alexander Agnew and others as it relates to time limits for compensation. The fact is that firstly such cases are persuasive only, secondly the case in question is under appeal to the Supreme Court in the UK and most importantly the decision is based on an anomaly which existed in Northern Ireland under Working Time Regulations (Northern Ireland) 1998 and subsequent Working Time Regulations 2016. Such an anomaly does not exist in this jurisdiction where there are clear time as per the provisions of Sec 41 (6) of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 and Sec 27 (4) of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.
Complaint under the National Minimum Wages Act.
The Respondent said the claim as submitted by the Complainant is specifically excluded by section 8.2 of the National Minimum Wages Act as follows; the provisions of the Act at Section 8(2)(c)(i) as follows,
“8 (2) “Working hours” under this section shall include—
(b) time spent travelling on official business, and
(c) time spent on training or on a training course or course of study authorised by the employer, within the workplace or elsewhere, during normal working hours,
but shall not include—
(i) time spent on standby or on call at a place other than a place of work or training provided by or on behalf of the employer for whom the employee is on standby or on call,
(ii) time spent absent from work on annual leave, sick leave, protective leave, adoptive leave, parental leave, carer’s leave under the Carer’s Leave Act, 2001, while laid-off, on strike or on ‘lock-out’ , or time for which the employee is paid in lieu of notice, or
(iii) time spent on travelling between an employee’s place of residence and place of work and back.”
It is the position of the Respondent that the Workplace Relations Commission does not have jurisdiction to consider this ruling in any consideration of the case. In making this assertion the Respondent rely on the decision of the Decision of the High Court in Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform v The Equality Tribunal  20 E.L.R. 116. The Ratio Decidendi of that Decision is set out as follows;
“There is no principle of European law which allows an administrative body or a court of limited jurisdiction to exceed its own authority in order to achieve a result, whereby it is of the view that European legislation has not been properly implemented at national level and that this situation is to be remedied by the re-ordering in ideal form of national legislation. The limit of jurisdiction is of primary importance to the exercise of authority, whether the court be one established as an administrative body or is one of the courts under the Constitution. In the event that a view emerges that national legislation has not properly implemented European legislation, this is no more than an opinion. The respondent does not have the authority to make a binding legal declaration of inconsistency or insufficiency on a comparison of European and national legislation. The High Court has that power as this has been expressly reserved to it by Article 34 of the Constitution. The respondent is bound by S.I. No. 749 of 2004 fixing the upper age for admission to training as a member of An Garda Síochána at 35 years”.
The Tribunal/WRC appealed to the Supreme Court which delivered a judgment on June 15, 2017. The Supreme Court confirmed the finding of the High Court, that the WRC does not have jurisdiction to disapply national law. The specific case was referred to the CJEU which ruled that the WRC did have jurisdiction as it relates specifically to EU legislation, however this ruling is not relevant in this instance to a claim under the National Minimum Wages Act as this legislation does not derive from EU legislation. There is no EU legislation to implement as it relates to national minimum wages, it is a matter of fact that a number of EU states do not have minimum wage legislation.
The Respondent believes that based on the above that the WRC is not empowered, under national law, to proceed with a hearing, “which implicitly assumed competence to overrule or disapply national legislation”.
The Respondent said that without prejudice to the above the Complainant may seek to rely on the decision of the ECJ in Ville de Nivelles v Rudy Matzak it is the position of the Respondent that the ECJ specifically addressed the issue of remuneration in their judgment at Paragraph 52 of the Judgment, “Having regard to the foregoing, the answer to the third question is that Article 2 of Directive 2003/88 must be interpreted as not requiring Member States to determine the remuneration of periods of stand-by time such as those at issue in the main proceedings according to the classification of those periods as ‘working time’ or ‘rest period’. Therefore, it is the position of Management that the provisions in place in respect of the payment of the retainer are in accordance with the provisions of judgement of the ECJ and no underpayment arises.”
Findings and Conclusions:
"Working Time" is defined by Section 2(1) of the Organisation of Working Time 1997 Act as follows:
"working time” means any time that the employee is
(a) at his or her place of work or at his or her employer's disposal, and
(b) carrying on or performing the activities or duties of his or her work,
"work" shall be construed accordingly.”
Subsection (2) of that section provides: -
“A word or expression that is used in this Act and is also used in the Council Directive has, unless the contrary intention appears, the meaning in this Act that it has in the Council Directive.”
Article 2 of the Directive 2003/88/EC (the Working Time Directive) contains a somewhat differently worded definition of working time. It reads: -
"working time” means any period during which the worker is working, at the employer's disposal and carrying out his activity or duties, in accordance with national laws and/or practice.”
Having heard all the evidence from the parties in this case I am satisfied that these complaints seem to originate from the evolution of the case law in this area in particular following the decision from the Court of Justice of the European Union in Ville de Nivelles v Rudy Matzak Case C-518/15. The reason for this assumption is that the Complainant relies heavily on this case and the questions considered and addressed in its findings.
In simple terms, the case that is before me for consideration is based on the Complainant’s claim that as a retained firefighter, he is a worker who is, if not at work, is on ‘standby’ and is required to attend for work at very short notice. The Complainant determines that following the decision in Matzak, those periods of “standby” are to be regarded as working time. As a consequence, the Complainant claims that the Respondent has therefore erred with regard to the calculations of his rights, as per the definition of working time in accordance with the Article 2 of the Directive 2003/88/EC (the Working Time Directive). The Complainant contends that because of this his de facto working hours per week is substantially more than he is credited for, on the basis that “standby” should be regarded as working time. Therefore, he claims that there are substantial breaches of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 and the Minimum Wage Act 2000 as a result of the level of hours he claims that he has worked.
The Complainant has asked me to consider a number of claims under the legislation and to find in his favour under the headings accordingly. I am satisfied that as a first step therefore, I need to determine first and foremost if the same set of circumstances that occurred in Matzak are present in this case. Having carefully read the decision in Matzak I am satisfied that the Courts did not purport to make new laws here. There is no fundamental overturning of the established principles heretofore. Instead, to me, the decision seems to follow the established jurisprudence of the Courts in the decision in cited cases Jaeger (C151/02), Grigore (C 258/10) and Simap C-303/98. However, in Matzak the Court point to the substantial differences in fact and therefore the decision in Matzak appears on the face of it to differ from the established jurisprudence of the Courts.
In review of the case before me I have compared the essential elements that are similar and different in Matzak. The Complainant has stated that his case is on all fours with Matzak. I note with interest the following paragraphs that were presented in Matzak.
10. “Mr Rudy Matzak is a retained firefighter for the Ville de Nivelles (Town of Nivelles), Belgium. Under the arrangements which apply to his engagement, he is required to be available on call for work, for one week out of every four, during the evenings and at the weekend. He is paid only in respect of time when he is on active service. Time spent on call without the firefighter being required to carry out any professional duties (so called 'stand-by time) is unpaid.
59. Furthermore, it is apparent from the case-law of the Court that the determining factor for the classification of 'working time within the meaning of Directive 2003 88, is the requirement that the worker be physically present at the place determined by the employer and to be available to the employer in order to be able to provide the appropriate services immediately in case of need. In fact, those obligations, which make it impossible for the workers concerned to choose the place where they stay during stand-by periods, must be regarded as coming within the ambit of the performance of their duties (see, to that effect, judgment of 9 September 2003, Jaeger, C-15//02, EU:C:2003:437, paragraph 63, and order of4 March 2011, Grigore, C-258 10, not published, EU:C:2011: 122, paragraph 53 and the case-law cited).
60. Finally, it must be observed that the situation is different where the worker performs a stand-by duty according to a stand-by system which requires that the worker be permanently accessible without being required to be present at the place of work. Even if he is at the disposal of his employer, since it must be possible to contact him, in that situation the worker may manage his time with fewer constraints and pursue his own interests. In those circumstances, only time linked to the actual provision of services must be regarded as 'working time', within the meaning of Directive 2003/88 (see, to that effect, judgment of 9 September 2003, Jaeger, C-151/02, paragraph 65 and the case-law cited).
61. In the case in the main proceedings, according to the information available to the Court, which it is for the referring court to verify, Mr Matzak was not only to be contactable during his stand-by time. He was, on the one hand, obliged to respond to calls from his employer within 8 minutes and, on the other hand, required to be physically present at the place determined by the employer. However, that place was Mr Matzak’s home and not, as in the cases which gave rise to the case-law cited in paragraphs 57 to 59 of the present judgment, his place of work.
62. The obligation to remain physically present at the place determined by the employer and the geographical and temporal constraints resulting from the requirement to reach his place of work within 8 minutes are such as to objectively limit the opportunities which a worker in Mr Matzak’s circumstances has to devote himself to his personal and social interests.
63. The obligation to remain physically present at the place determined by the employer and the geographical and temporal constraints resulting from the requirement to reach his place of work within 8 minutes are such as to objectively limit the opportunities which a worker in Mr. Maztak’s circumstances has to devote himself to his personal and social interests.
64. In the light of those constraints, Mr. Matzak’s situation differs from that of a worker who, during his standby duty, must simply be at his employer’s disposal inasmuch as it must be possible to contact him.
65. In those circumstances, it is necessary to interpret the concept of ‘working time’ provided for in Article 2 of Directive 2003/88 as applying to a situation in which a worker is obliged to spend stand-by time at his home, to be available there to his employer and to be able to reach his place of work within 8 minutes.”
I am satisfied, and as mention in Matzak at paragraph 49, that the distinction between working time and rest time is binary, its either you are working, or you are not working.
The comparison of the facts of the cases therefore needs to be examined. Having invited the Complainant to shed some light on the role of a retained firefighter and in general his life around his work, I was struck by the high level of commitment that he had to his role and the sense of service and responsibility. I also was struck by the collegial spirit that appears to be in existence between the firefighting team and the very need to be ready when called up on. The Complainant paints a very demanding picture on account of the lack of firefighter’s availability at the moment and the burden that places on his and his colleagues’ shoulders.
That said, it does not deflect that the overall structure of the fire service here and I must note that it is not identical to all the circumstances in Matzak. There are some noteworthy differences. Mr. Matzak was rostered as being on standby, and that rostered period would appear to be a central plank in his case. Mr. Matzak was required to be at home, which the Court held was a place designated by the employer. Therefore, there was a high level of control by the Respondent on Mr. Matzak during that standby time. These elements alone are different to the Complainant’s case.
In the within case I note that the Complainant articulates a weight of anticipation of a possible call to duty, and a ready willingness to forfeit attending functions and events in case he is called to duty. I note that there is no requirement to attend at a specific location which is pre-determined by the employers. The Complainant is free to partake in other events and other employment - I understand that he is involved in a family business- and that is not forbidden by the Respondent. I note that he is involved in other activities and this too is not forbidden. I note that while on call the Complainant has never been prevented from leaving his locality when he has asked. I note he has made calculated decisions not to go place or do things off his own accord. These have not been dictated to him by his employer. I would question whether these situations would be tolerable in the circumstances of the case in Matzak, as he was required to spend the identified period literally on stand-by at his home. That is not the case here.
I note the Complainant has a 98% attendance record to call outs. However, the required level for call outs is only 75% as per the Respondent’s instructions. I would suggest that this level of “flexibility” is somewhat contrary to a definition of working time, where an employee can determine not to “work” for up to 25% of his working time. Accordingly, I am not satisfied that the within case under consideration is on all fours with the Matzak case. Accordingly, I am satisfied that the periods of “standby” do not equate or meet the definition of working time. I find the case is not well founded.
Section 41 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 requires that I make a decision in relation to the complaints in accordance with the relevant redress provisions under Schedule 6 of that Act.
I find the complaints under the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997 are not well founded.
I find the complaint under the Minimum Wage Act 2000 is not well founded.
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: James Kelly
Organisation of Working Time Act - Minimum Wage Act 2000 - not well founded