Minister seeks Attorney General’s advice over stable work rules
Training yards no longer qualify for exemptions from working hour regulations
Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty is “exploring the options that might be available under the terms of the Organisation of Working Time Act”. Photograph: Cyril Byrne
The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Regina Doherty, is awaiting advice from the Attorney General about a possible derogation for racing from strict implementation of new Working Time legislation.
A 2015 amendment to the Industrial Relations Act means training yards no longer qualify for working hours exemptions allowed for agricultural workplaces and stable staff are no longer classified as agricultural workers.
The issue came to prominence in January when the Labour Court rejected an appeal by Ballydoyle Racing against compliance notices served by the Workplace Relations Commission over alleged excessive working hours on the part of some staff.
Warnings about the potential serious impact on a racing sector already under staffing pressure if more flexibility isn’t allowed on work practices have been made across the sector.
Last month the Trainers Association warned that serious changes to the race programme could have to be made if a derogation isn’t granted.
Representations to the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection have been made for such a move in recent months, including by the Minister for Agriculture.
A decision has yet to be made although a spokesperson for Minister Doherty said on Friday: “The Minister is very conscious of the concern that exists in the horseracing industry arising from the Labour Court ruling and understands the fears about the potential impact on the sector.
“It is also incumbent upon the Minister to ensure that, in addressing the issues in the sector, she operates within the provisions of the Working Time Directive and ensures that the rights of workers in relation to working time and rest breaks are upheld.
“The Minister is therefore exploring the options that might be available under the terms of the Organisation of Working Time Act. In this regard, the advice of the Attorney General has been sought.”
An appeal of the Labour Court ruling is pending before the Circuit Court and department spokesperson said it would be inappropriate to comment further on the matter pending the decision of the Court.
However, she added: “It is understood that work is ongoing between employer and employee interests within the horse racing industry with a view to formulating a collective agreement in relation to working time procedures, and the Minister is supportive of this work.”