A worker has hit the 'low-pay' jackpot after the Labour Court awarded him over €200,000 for being paid under the national minimum wage while working up to 100 hours a week for a Longford-based businessman, Adarsh Puri.
The payment of €202,400 to Surinder Singh is one of the highest amounts ever paid out by the Labour Court to an individual.
Usually, awards to individual who are paid less than the minimum wage, which currently stands at €8.65 an hour, run to no more than a few thousand euro with many in the hundreds.
In such cases, the Labour Court simply awards the worker the difference between what the individual was paid and the legal minimum of €8.65.
Also, in these cases it is primarily up to the employer to prove through employment records that the legal minimum was paid and also the number of hours worked in the week. If the employer cannot produce records to that effect – an offence in itself under the minimum-wage legislation – then the court will usually accept the worker's evidence.
While few details were released about the massive award, it is understood Singh worked up to 100 hours a week at rates well below the minimum wage.
Fagan Bergin solicitors, based on Parnell Square in Dublin, which represented Singh, declined to comment on the case because of client confidentiality. It was not possible to contact Michael Butler Solicitors in Longford which represented Adarsh Puri.
A similar minimum-wage case was taken on behalf of an Arti Rani against Puri, also involving the same legal representative; this resulted in a lesser but still substantial award of €12,715 to Rani.
A spokesman for the National Employment Rights Authority (Nera) – the state agency charged with policing the implementation of the national minimum wage and other labour laws – declined to comment as the authority was not involved in the case.
However, he confirmed that in the event that Singh does not get his money within six weeks, he can apply to Nera's enforcement unit which "in special circumstances" such as Singh's case, can pursue payment through the Circuit Court.
The warning to errant employers comes as the government and economists have called for a cut in the national minimum wage which is the second highest in Europe after Luxembourg.