Irish employer ordered to pay for night emails

Courts agreed that an executive's after-hours email amounted to an almost 50% increase in work hours over what had been contracted.
By: | August 15, 2018

Kepak, one of Ireland’s biggest meat producers, has been ordered to pay €7,500 (S$12,000) to a former employee – in compensation for having to handle emails outside of working hours.

The employee, Gráinne O’Hara, was a business development executive at a Kepak subsidiary, Kepak Convenience Foods Unlimited Co.

O’Hara argued in the Irish Labour Court that having to check and deal with emails sent after official start and end times pushed her working hours to almost 60 hours a week – almost half as much as her contracted 40 hours per work.

Under Ireland’s Organisation of Working Time Act, employers cannot permit workers to put in more than 48 hours a week.

Her supervisor at the company told the court that her workload should not have needed more than the permitted 48 hours per week to complete, and that O’Hara had merely chosen to be inefficient in how she executed her tasks.

However, because Kepak had failed to counter O’Hara’s email evidence with satisfactory evidence of their own, the Labour Court chose to accept O’Hara, and her evidence, as “credible”.

As such, it was found that Kepak was aware of O’Hara’s excess hours, but failed to take any action to attempt to mitigate the situation.

The Labour Court then ruled that Kepak’s actions in this case constituted multiple breaches of the country’s Organisation of Working Time Act.

In this digital age, where e-mail and mobile devices are readily accessible, companies are increasingly grappling with the blurring lines between work and off-work hours.

Only a few weeks ago, Rentokil in France was ordered to pay a former employee €60,000 (S$95,000) for failing to respect his right to “switch off” from his phone and computer after work.