The Employment Court has overturned the Employment Relations Authority decision that Christmas and New Year holidays for a chef employed by a boarding school were not payable as public holidays. The Employment Court decided that, as the employee normally worked Monday to Friday during school terms, the public holidays which fell over Christmas and New Year fell on days which would otherwise be a working day for that employee.

That was despite the fact that his employment agreement was clear that he only worked during term times and was required to take his annual leave at the end of term 4, which would fall over the Christmas and New Year period.

The employee’s annual leave period would be extended by four days for the four public holidays which fell during his annual leave and he was entitled to be paid for Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day and the day after New Year’s.

The Court found that whether the day was normally a working day was not to be looked at during the Christmas holidays, but during the working year when the employee was working.

This could have far reaching effects on other employees who do not work outside of term time when public holidays fall during periods outside of their normal days of employment, but at a period when they are required to take their annual leave.

The Court’s ruling does not mean that public holidays that fall when an employee is not working during the rest of the year, for example during term breaks other than at the end of the year are paid public holidays. Therefore if public holidays, such as Easter, fall during a term break then they will not be public holidays for employees who do not work during term breaks. They will remain as public holidays for any employees who do continue to work during term breaks.

 

Alan Knowsley