Santa Grotto “Undernourished” Photographer Receives € 200 for “No Break at Work” Claim


A state workplace watchdog has ordered a stressed and malnourished Santa Grotto photographer to be paid € 200 compensation for not being given a break in his last three days on the job in the busy period until Christmas Day.

At the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), Santa Grotto Experience photographer Tristan Shiels said when he finished his job on December 23, 2019, with the Santa Grotto Experience, he was not feeling well. during the Christmas period “due to lack of food and stress.”.

Now WRC referee John Harraghy ​​has ordered Santa’s Grotto Experience operator Magic Hammer Events Ltd to pay Mr Shiels compensation in the amount of € 200 for breaking the Law on Hosting. working time by not facilitating the breaks from December 21 to 23, 2019.

Mr Harraghy ​​considered two other complaints filed by freelance photographer Mr Shiels to be unfounded. Magic Hammer Events Ltd is based in Corbally, Co. Limerick, and operates Santa’s Grotto Experience at various locations across the country.

In his case, Mr Shiels said he had not had a break in the past three days as another photographer had left and he could not leave the “Grotto” area. Mr. Shiels alleged that he was “instructed to stay in the cave all day, with no breaks, no access to the toilet, no lunch.”

He said that as a photographer he had to do extra chores in the sales area and help make sure the cave area was presentable for the next visit. He said the visits took place on a seven-minute cycle and therefore there was no possibility to take breaks.

Mr. Shiels claimed that there was a lot of heat in the area and no food of any substance was provided.

WRC Judgment

In his decision finding that the Santa Grotto Experience company had violated the law on the organization of working time concerning breaks, Mr. Harraghy ​​considered that the employer “has not provided proof that the complainant has was able to take advantage of his breaks on these dates ”. Mr Harraghy ​​said the employer accepts that the workdays at the event were busy.

He said: “I do not accept the Respondent’s position that it is up to every employee to take their breaks whenever they can.” Mr Harraghy ​​said it was clear that there were days when it was difficult for Mr Shiels to take the breaks he had available during the periods specified in the legislation.

Mr. Shiels didn’t start working in his seasonal Santa Grotto photographer role until November 22, 2019 and was paid € 12 per hour.

Mr Harraghy ​​said that the period worked by Mr Shiels was very short and that the granting of compensation is in part a deterrent against possible future violations of the Santa Grotto Experience and to encourage them to put in place appropriate measures.

Ordering the company to pay Mr Shiels € 200, Mr Harraghy ​​said that if Mr Shiels had worked longer than the period of one month, compensation in relation to the complaint would be more substantial.

Mr Harraghy ​​pointed out that in general a worker is entitled to a 15 minute break when he has worked 4.5 hours and if a worker works more than six hours he is entitled to a 30 minute break. , which may include the first 15 minute break.

Mr Harraghy ​​ruled that two other claims by Mr Shiels for workplace violations were unfounded, including one that he should have received extra pay for working on Sundays.

Reaction of the Santa Grotto experience

In response to Mr. Shiels’ “breaks” complaint, the Santa Grotto Experience Company said Mr. Shiels had indicated that he wanted to take advantage of any overtime available.

The company – represented by attorney Kevin Sherry of Dermot G O’Donovan Solicitors – said it had other photographers available in other locations who could have supported Mr. Shiels’ site.

However, Mr. Shiels’ overtime request was made easier and as a result there was no need to hire an additional photographer and Mr. Shiels was signed up for the overtime shifts.

The Santa Grotto company told the WRC that it offers all staff breaks throughout the day in accordance with the Working Time Organization Act 1977. She said toilets were also available and all staff working at the cave were allowed to bring refreshments.

The Santa Grotto experiment also provided an adequate supply of drinking water, coffee and food and all staff were aware that they took their breaks when the opportunity arose.

The manager of Santa Grotto Experience said all staff are aware of their right to take breaks and are encouraged to do so when the opportunity arises. The manager confirmed that no employee has ever been denied a toilet break.

She also confirmed that Mr. Shiels raised an issue with her regarding difficulty taking her breaks. In her testimony, the manager also confirmed that there had been no complaints from any other employee regarding the breaks and that many of those employees, including the second photographer, are returning for another season.

Asked to comment on the decision, Magic Hammer Events Ltd attorney Kevin Sherry said his client “is happy with the ruling that speaks for itself” and the firm does not wish to comment further at this time.


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