Retailers in the Irish Republic have been told the traditional staff Christmas bonus should be paid in cash rather than supermarket vouchers.

The warning follows a ruling by the Irish Employment Appeals Tribunal against Dunnes Stores.

The case was brought by staff member Eileen Buckley, who is also an official of shopworkers' union Mandate. She was unhappy that the Cork branch where she worked paid her a €295 bonus in vouchers, and that the company had refused her request for cash, arguing that she had accepted vouchers in the past.

However, in a decision last week, the tribunal ruled that bonuses have to be paid in legal tender and that vouchers are not a substitute.

"It is extremely doubtful that the nominal value of a gift voucher has the same value in cash," it added.

The company refused to comment on the ruling. Two of its competitors, Tesco and Superquinn, said they already paid staff their Christmas bonuses in cash.