Chief Constable of Police Service of Northern Ireland v Agnew
This claim was brought by police staff and civilian officers in relation to underpayment of holiday pay by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (“PSNI”). Those bringing the claim had only received basic pay in relation to their holiday pay. The PSNI accepted that pay should have been calculated based on the worker’s “normal remuneration” including overtime however sought to rely on the case of Bear Scotland v Fulton which stated that a series of deductions could only be exist if the gap between any deductions was three months or less.
Having being appealed to the Supreme Court, the Supreme Court overturned the decision in Bear Scotland v Fulton and confirmed that a gap of more than three months will not necessarily prevent a worker from bringing a claim for a series of unlawful deductions. This is provided that the worker can establish that any deductions are sufficiently similar in nature to the extent that they can be considered the same “series”. Elements such as who is making the decision to deduct within the organisation, the type of pay being deduction each instance and the reason for any deductions are likely to be highly relevant in considering whether or not a series exists, and each case will very much turn on its own assessment of facts.
It is worth noting that in England it is still the position that employees can only claim arrears in pay going back two years and any claim must be brought within three months less one day from the last deduction.
As a result of this decision workers can now potentially go back further for deductions of wages claims where the deductions are more than three months apart.
Employers can no longer rely upon a gap of three months to break a series of deductions. This is likely to lead to employers being open to more claims (that would have previously faced time difficulties) and/or more potential compensation being paid to workers (as workers can go back further in relation to their claim).