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PSNI to fork out millions in backdated holiday pay after losing Supreme Court appeal

'Cost ramifications are seismic....[and will] very serious public pay and policy ramifications for Northern Ireland'

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Thousands of police workers in Northern Ireland in line for holiday pay backpay after an “historic” UK Supreme Court Judgement.

Class action was brought by a group representing more than 3,700 police officers and civilian staff who were owed money for a shortfall in holiday pay dating back to 1998.

The PSNI had accepted that claimants were underpaid but challenged the period of time settlements should cover.

The PSNI could now be facing a bill of £40m.

An Industrial Tribunal in 2018 ruled that unlawful deductions made from holiday entitlements of the PSNI’s officers and support staff were in breach of European law rights.

In 2019, the PSNI appealed the decision to the NI Court of Appeal who upheld the Tribunal’s decision. The PSNI appealed again to the UK Supreme Court, being heard in December 2022.

In its judgement released today, the UK Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeal judgement, with the final sentence in the 66 page judgement stating:

“For the reasons we have given, this appeal must be dismissed”.

NIPSA Deputy General Secretary, Antoinette McMillen stated: “NIPSA members will be delighted with the UK Supreme Court Judgment which supports the NI Court of Appeal Judgement.

“This is a landmark case and applies to all workers regardless of sector. Trade unions such as NIPSA are not merely guardians of workers’ rights; they are agents of change, champions of fairness, and drivers of progress.

“Individual workers cannot afford this sort of litigation but being part of a trade union allows workers to challenge pay injustices through legal cases.

“NIPSA remains steadfast in its mission to ensure that every worker is treated with dignity and respect, both in and out of the courtroom. NIPSA will continue to pursue workers’ rights and will utilise its solicitors MTB if necessary. Our thanks to John McShane of MTB solicitors, barristers Jason Galbraith, Michael Ford, David McMillen, Peter Hopkins, Nicola Newbegin and Brian McKee who was instrumental in taking this case forward.

NIPSA General Secretary, Carmel Gates stated: “This case has taken NIPSA the best part of 15 years to pursue on behalf of its members.

“The Supreme Court has supported our members’ claim that they are legally entitled to backdated holiday pay. NIPSA punches above its weight, championing crucial cases that compel employers to uphold their financial and health and safety responsibilities towards our members and all workers.”

Nipsa solicitor John McShane added: “I am delighted with the outcome which ensures a fair days pay for a fair days work.

“It is an important victory particularly at a time when workers are struggling to make ends meet. Holiday pay is not merely a financial matter; it’s an embodiment of workers’ rights and dignity.

“NIPSA stands at the forefront of the ongoing struggle to ensure that every worker receives their rightful pay, holiday or other and that we shape the future of labour relations for generations to come.”

Assistant Chief Officer for Corporate Services, Mark McNaughten, said: “The Police Service of Northern Ireland acknowledges today’s important judgment of the UK Supreme Court and welcomes the clarity it brings to some complex legal issues.

“This appeal was progressed in order to seek a definitive ruling from the Supreme Court on difficult points of law and to help ensure that our officers and staff are fairly remunerated in line with our legal obligations.

“We will now take time to study today’s judgment in detail, consider the implications and how the costs will be met.”

Mark McAllister, Director of Employment Relations Services for the Labour Relations Agency (LRA) said: “This is a landmark decision and has very serious public pay and policy ramifications for Northern Ireland. As a devolved matter there are different rules regarding holiday pay here as compared to GB and this decision will send shockwaves across a wide range of stakeholders.

“The cost ramifications are seismic. When the details of the decision come out, and it becomes clear how far back these holiday pay claims can go, there will be eye watering sums of money involved.”

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