Neonakis v La Trape Proprietes (Divers) A.R.L (Jersey)

The Claimant claimed: (i) he did not receive pay in respect of overtime; and (ii) unauthorised deductions had been made from his wages.

The Respondent defended both claims on the basis that during the lockdown period: (i) he was given paid time off in lieu; and (ii) he was entitled to make the deductions because the Claimant did not work his full hours during the lockdown period.

The Tribunal did not uphold the claim for non-payment of overtime because: (i) the contract was clear in its terms about payment or paid time off in lieu; and (ii) the email (which communicated the lockdown) clearly stated that lieu time owed would be paid off time in lieu. As the Respondent had: (i) the contractual discretion to give paid time off in lieu of overtime; and (ii) notified the Claimant lieu time was being given (and sufficient time was given off); the claim in respect of overtime was not well-founded and was rejected.

In respect of the second claim, the Respondent asserted that all employees were asked to cut their wages by up to 20% to help avoid redundancies, but agreement by the employees could not be evidenced. The Tribunal was satisfied that the contract clearly stated the Claimant’s annual salary as well as how much was to be paid for each payment period. Although the contract was contradictory in terms (as it also stated that payments would be made against weekly timesheets) there was no evidence of payments being made against weekly timesheets.

Furthermore, the reductions made were based on a percentage. Therefore, it was held by the Tribunal that a verbal agreement (even if reached) was not sufficient to change the Respondent’s contractual obligation to make salary payments.

Finally, although the contract actually contained a lay-off provision, it wasn’t argued that it sought to enact this provision nor was any evidence given that it advised the Claimant it was enacting this provision. So for these reasons, the Tribunal held that the deductions from wages had been unauthorised.

This case is an example of where your contract terms need to be unambiguous and that if you seek to rely on those terms, you must act in accordance with them. If a business is going to do anything that affects pay during a lay-off or a lockdown situation it must do so in accordance with the terms of the contract and that any variations are clearly communicated in writing and agreed by staff as verbal communications will not be sufficient to vary pay.

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