Working-time law excluding Defence Force members to be changed

By Ann O'Loughlin

The Government has decided to change a law governing working time which excludes members of the Defence Forces and the Garda Siochána from its provisions, the High Court heard.

The Government's decision was announced as part of the settlement by a member of the Defence Forces of her action challenging the 1997 Organisation of Working Time Act (OWTA) and was the first of a number of such challenges.

As part of the settlement, Defence Forces member Susan O'Donnell is to get annual leave she lost in 2015.

In her action, she challenged the constitutionality of the exclusion of members of the Defence Forces from the OWTA.

The Act provides for, among other things, annual leave entitlements which are not affected by sickness, maternity or parental leave entitlements.

The O'Donnell case against the Minister for Defence and others was the first of three listed before Mr Justice Tony O'Connor on Thursday.

Following talks, Eileen Barrington SC, for all three Defence Force members, said the O'Donnell case had been settled and she asked the court to make a number of orders on consent.

These were that the Government had decided to amend the OWTA to deal with the exclusion of Defence Force members.

She also sought an order that Ms O'Donnell was entitled to the benefits of a 2003 EU directive entitling workers to four weeks paid annual leave (Article 7 of Directive 2003/88/EC). Under that, the defendants have agreed to grant her the leave she lost in 2015.

Counsel also said there should be an order that the defendant pay her costs.

Ms Barrington said the two other cases should remain in the court system in the normal way and in due course an application will be made in relation to them.

Alex White SC, for the defendants, said his side were agreeable to those orders.

Mr Justice O'Connor made the orders and complimented the parties on reaching agreement in what he said would have been a complicated case.

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