Children's gaming company and app publisher Zulleon has been ordered to pay a games developer close to €11,000 for unlawful deductions from his pay imposed when the pandemic hit.
In a decision released this morning, the Workplace Relations Commission found that the publisher had made "misleading representations" that it would pay staff back for a 25% pay cut it imposed when the Covid-19 pandemic reached Ireland.
The finding was reached in respect of one of two complaints made under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 against Zulleon Ltd by former employee Eoin Roche, both of which were upheld.
Mr Roche told the employment tribunal at a hearing at the start of the month that Zulleon unilaterally reduced his salary by a quarter starting in April 2020.
The company told him at the time it was its "intention to repay the loss at a point in the future".
The adjudicating officer noted that paperwork submitted by Mr Roche contained repeated representations that the deduction would be repaid continuing up until August 2021.
The complainant also said that after he gave his notice on 1 March this year his employer "stopped paying" at the end of that month – even though he said his contract entitled him to three months’ notice.
The hearing went ahead in the absence of any representative of the respondent company, with adjudicating officer Brian Dalton stating that he was satisfied the company "was notified of the hearing and failed to attend".
Mr Dalton wrote that the correspondence opened to the tribunal by Mr Roche showed there was a dispute between the parties over whether the complainant had resigned, refused to work on a particular project, or been sacked for failing to work on it – and so "waived" his right to work out his three months’ notice.
"In the absence of any oral evidence by the respondent I determine that the complainant was entitled to work his notice period of three months," the adjudicator wrote.
"I determine that 2 months’ salary was unlawfully deducted by the employer," he added.
Mr Dalton also wrote that the deductions made from Mr Roche's salary from April 2020 onward did not appear to be lawful either, but there was a question over whether the pay complaint had been lodged in time.
The normal time limit for a complaint under the Payment of Wages Act is six months, which can be extended to a year for reasonable cause.
Mr Dalton wrote that the delay in making a complaint over the deductions was "because of the representations made by the employer that they would be repaid" – which he noted had continued up to August 2021, around 7 months before the complaints were submitted the following May.
"It would be entirely unjust in these circumstances not to extend time for making a complaint based on the representation made in August 2021 by the employer," he wrote.
"The deduction was unlawful and the delay in bringing the complaint solely arose based on misleading representations from the employer that the monies would be repaid over the coming months," he added.
Mr Dalton made an order against Zulleon for two months’ salary, €5,833.32, for the non-payment during Mr Roche’s notice period.
He also awarded the complainant seven weeks’ pay for the pandemic salary cut, a further €5104.15 – bringing the total orders against Zulleon Ltd to €10,937.47.