In a recent Labour Court ruling, Blackrock-based Medfit Wellness was ordered to pay €3,250 to ex-receptionist Ruth Murphy, who told the court that she rarely received a rest break during her eight months of employment there.
Medfit Wellness Limited, which trades as Medfit Proactive Healthcare, provides a range of physiotherapy and rehab services to people with injuries as well as weight-loss and exercise programmes.
Olympic champion boxer Katie Taylor has frequented its Blackrock gym and received physiotherapy from its founder, John Murphy.
Ex-employee Ruth Murphy appeared before the court to appeal the decision of a Workplace Relations Commission-appointed adjudication officer, who had originally awarded her €250 in compensation over her complaint about work breaks.
Citing the 1997 Organisation of Working Time Act, Murphy said she rarely received a 15- or 30-minute rest break while she was employed by Medfit from November 2015 to July 2016.
She told the court that in order to ear her lunch, she had to step away from the reception desk and into a storage area but was regularly interrupted when she did so.
In response to a question from the court, Murphy admitted that she didn’t formally raise the issue with her employer at any stage of her employment because she was under probation and “didn’t want to rock the boat”.
Medfit chief executive Paul O’Grady told the court that he had personally seen Murphy take her full break on many occasions but acknowledged that the company had failed to keep a record of the rest breaks.
In its ruling, the Labour Court found Murphy’s evidence to be “cogent and credible”. It said Medfit had failed to “credibly rebut” her evidence and as a result ordered the firm to pay €3,250 to Murphy, the equivalent of six weeks’ salary.
In a separate Labour Court case concerning the same parties, Murphy was awarded €750 because Medfit hadn’t provided her with a written statement of the terms and conditions of employment within two months of her start date.
Once again, Murphy appealed the decision of an adjudication officer who had originally awarded her €500.
Her solicitor, Richard Grogan, argued that this amount was not sufficiently large enough to dissuade the company from making the same mistake.
In its submission to the court, Medfit admitted that it failed to provide Murphy a written statement of her terms and conditions of employment in accordance with the 1994 Terms of Employment (Information) Act. It said this was due to an administrative oversight.
The Labour Court ruled that the obligation of an employer to provide each employee with such a document “is not an onerous or burdensome obligation, regardless of the extent of the administrative resources available”.
“In fact, for many years there has been an official template made available to employers (through) the Workplace Relations Commission) to assist them in fulfilling this requirement of the 1994 Act,” the court said in its decision.
As a result, Medfit was ordered to pay €750 in compensation to Murphy.