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Thompsons NI and Unison victory in Industrial Tribunal

The employment rights team at Thompsons NI has secured compensation for a UNISON member, following an Industrial Tribunal regarding unauthorised deduction to wages.

Darren McGavigan is a receptionist and porter for Western Urgent Care. In his role he is contractually required to work a certain number of basic hours per month and is further entitled to receive pay enhancements for working additional hours, at unsocial times.

In 2016, the national minimal wage was increased to £7.20 per hour for workers over the age of 21. However, Western Urgent Care failed to increase Mr McGavigan’s pay rate. On this basis, he lodged a grievance with his employer.

The concerns raised were not upheld by Western Urgent Care, as they took the view that on production of an average hourly rate, they were complying with statutory and contractual obligations. Western Urgent Care also claimed that pay enhancements for unsocial hours were ‘discretionary’ and were not part of Mr McGavigan’s contract of employment.

Western Urgent Care decided to ‘simplify’ the information given to employees and as a result, the new format of wage slips did not provide a break-down to differentiate net basic pay and net pay for unsocial hours.

However, the law states that employers should provide sufficient information so that their employees are aware of factors, such as a breakdown of how net pay is calculated.

As a trade union member, Mr McGavigan instructed Unison and Thompsons NI to pursue an employment rights claim on his behalf. Thompsons NI, alongside Unison, contended that Western Urgent Care’s methods of calculation were not correct and that they were also in breach of their obligations, due to the lack of information provided in the new payslip format.

The case was taken to an Industrial Tribunal, where it was concluded that the new format of payslips ‘masks’ the fact that the wrong calculation had been used by Western Urgent Care. The Tribunal noted there was ‘compelling inference’ from the conduct of the employer, that its method of calculation was ‘deliberately designed to short-change the claimant’.

The Industrial Tribunal added that Western Urgent Care’s assertion that enhanced payments are discretionary, ‘beggars belief’.

Thompsons NI and Unison secured compensation of £2,349.96 as reimbursement for the shortfall in pay, after the Tribunal concluded that the employer had made unlawful deductions from Mr McGavigan’s wages with Western Urgent Care also being ordered to pay £5,000 costs.

Mr McGavigan said: “I want to thank the Employment Rights Unit at Thompsons NI for all their help. I would not have won this case without them.”

UNISON Regional Organiser, Joe McCusker, speaking on the Tribunal’s decision said:  “This ruling from the Tribunal is significant in that employers cannot circumvent minimum wage legislation by changing how they pay workers, without their agreement, by combining separate contractual allowances and enhancements with their basic rate of pay.

“We encourage workers to check their terms and conditions of employment and payslips to ensure that they are getting the correct hourly rate of pay in accordance with minimum wage legislation.”