Currently, Defence Force regulations only provide for enlisted members to carry over 19 days’ leave, regardless of circumstances.
PDforra, the organisation which represents 7,500 enlisted men in the army, air corps and naval service, said the regulations are very unfair because the nature of military service is distinctly different from the majority of other jobs in the public service.
If a soldier is posted on overseas service with the United Nations in the Golan Heights, on the Syrian border, or in Lebanon, they will typically be away from home for a six-month tour of duty.
This tour of duty can come with little notice, so they may have a little or no annual leave used up by the time they return.
Some personnel may also be sick, through no fault of their own, and may be unable to access annual leave until the following year.
The PDforra deputy general secretary, Ger Guinan, said that, in his organisation’s opinion, this is contrary to the provisions of the Working Time Directive.
He said he has been informed that the claims were lodged with the High Court earlier this week.
“PDforra has sought the amendment of Defence Forces Regulation A.11 for the past number of years, and entirely regrets the necessity for legal action to be undertaken to secure entitlements under European law,” he said.
“Military service, by its very nature, gives rise to requirements to put the service before one’s self; however, this selflessness should not be taken advantage of.”
He maintained that members of the Defence Forces should be permitted, during periods of downtime, to take their full statutory leave entitlements, and not be punished through arbitrary reduction through regulation.
“The value of periods of time spent with family cannot be underestimated as a morale-booster for our sailors, soldiers and airmen, who face long deployments to the Mediterranean Sea on Operation Pontus, or six-month tours to Syria and Lebanon,” he said.
Mr Guinan said PDforra understands that, amongst the reliefs being sought in the High Court, is a declaration that the Government has failed to correctly transpose the provisions of Directive 2003/88/EC into Irish law.