A number of weeks ago the Irish Labour Court rejected an appeal by Ballydoyle Racing Stables, which attempted to prevent changes to the categorisation of its employees. The stable's failure in the Labour Court could have a significant impact on horse racing in this country.
For those unfamiliar with the case here is a brief summary.
Employees of the horse racing industry in Ireland have historically been deemed to be “agricultural workers”. According to 2010 Employee Regulation Order covering this sector, an agricultural worker is defined as:
“a person employed under a contract of service or apprenticeship whose work under the contract is or includes work in agriculture, but does not mean a person whose work under such contract is mainly domestic service”.
Importantly, this means that such workers can be asked to engage in:
“a wide variety of activities, which are weather dependant, seasonal, unpredictable and often require 7 day week flexible working arrangements”.
In 2015, the Irish Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) changed legislation covering the horse racing industry so that employees were no longer classified as “agricultural workers”. This has had serious consequences for the number of hours and days employees could be asked to work without a break.
On a routine inspect of Ballydoyle stables, the home of many world famous Aidan O’Brien trained horses in May 2016, the WRC found the employers to be in breach of the law. Ballydoyle’s failure to overturn the ruling in the Labour Court has left the industry at a crossroads. A further appeal to the High Court is possible, and if successful, could result in a return to the status quo.
It is worth pointing out that the definition of “Agriculture” under the 2010 Order is as follows:
““Agriculture” means horticulture, the production of any consumable produce, which is grown for sale or for consumption or other use, dairy farming, poultry farming, the use of land as grazing, meadow or pasture land or orchard or osier land or woodland, or for market gardens, private gardens, nursery grounds or sports grounds, the caring for or the rearing or training of animals and any other incidental activities connected with agriculture”.
It is also worth pointing out, that Irish Government support for the horse racing industry has, since 2011, been provided by the Department of Agriculture.