Legal spotlight on stable staff working hours
IRELAND’S Ballydoyle Racing Stables has challenged a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) notice to comply with employment legislation.
A compliance notice was issued after WRC inspectors detected an alleged breach of the Working Time Act in relation to excessive working hours for stable staff based at Ballydoyle.
During the Labour Court hearing in Dublin last month (28-29 August), barrister Rosemary Healy Rae said inspectors discovered several employees had worked 19 hours during a 24-hour period at the
Co. Tipperary yard and were not given the stipulated compensatory rest periods.
It was alleged some employees had worked 28 consecutive days without a day off.
SINCE February 2015, racehorse training yards do not qualify for working hours exemptions that are allowed for in agricultural workplaces, according to industrial relations law in Ireland.
Champion trainer Aidan O’Brien, who runs Ballydoyle, said it was inappropriate that training yards do not meet the criteria to be classed as agricultural workplaces.
“When we were in agriculture we were totally compliant, but now we’re not in agriculture we’re not compliant,” he said.
Mr O’Brien cited his interest in the welfare of his staff and their dedication to their work.
He said that continuity of care was important for racehorses and feedback from riders was vital, adding that he took care matching employees to horses and that changing staff increases the risk of accidents occurring.
At the hearing it was suggested that Ballydoyle employ two grooms per horse to ensure staff are given sufficient downtime.
This suggestion has provoked heated debate in the equestrian world, with many commenting on social media that this number of grooms would be “overkill” and unaffordable.
GROOMS PER HORSE
THE executive director of the British Grooms Association, Lucy Katan, said that grooms could “adequately look after four to six horses”, but more staff are needed than those that are required on the yard each day.
“You have to have more people on your staff quota to fulfil holiday requirements,” she told H&H.
“If you’re running a business it’s important to have enough staff to allow employees to have their time off and statutory annual leave. For example if you need four members of staff, you will need at least five on the rota.”
A verdict on the appeal is expected later this month.
Champion trainer Aidan O’Brien gave evidence at the hearing
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