Richard Grogan: Payment of wages claim

In a case of QFF Distribution Ltd and Keith O’Reilly being PWT1728, the Labour Court had to deal with the issue of an underpayment of wages. The employee sought an extension of time. One of the grounds of the extension of time was that the matter was under an internal appeal. The Labour Court held that the Complainant could not rely on an internal grievance procedure as a basis for his applications to extend time. The employee was therefore limited to the period from 22  April 2015 to 21 October 2015. There was an agreed underpayment of €2,500 in respect of that period.

This is a very useful decision from the Court.

There are two aspects that we can take from this.

The first is that employees should submit the claim at the earliest date possible, even if going through an internal grievance procedure in respect of a Payment of Wages claim. It can always be submitted and then submitted every six months if necessary to the WRC and asked to put on hold pending the outcome of the internal grievance procedure.
Secondly, it is often claimed by employers in other types of cases that the employee should have gone through the internal grievance procedure. This case is a prime example as to why the employee does not go through the internal grievance procedure prior to lodging a claim. In other cases it is regularly argued that the employee should go through the internal grievance procedure before lodging any claim. If there was ever a clear and precise case set out by the Court as to why employees should not to do so and should rather in employment rights cases issue the claim immediately, this is one of those. It is clear that there is absolutely no reason, once claim issues, why an employer cannot treat it as a grievance and use the internal grievance procedure to try and have the matter resolved.

It is extremely useful that the Court has, as it had in many cases, dealt with the issue of the ground for extending time but this one is extremely useful in that it deals with the issue of going through internal grievance procedures. It is effectively a very good warning to employees to issue proceedings and the grievance at the same time and possibly it might come down to that employers would start, regarding claim that are issued to the WRC as effectively grievances, and seeking to have them resolved by going through mediation or internal grievance procedures as there is nothing to stop an employer seeking to have a matter resolved if it can be resolved.