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A Hotel Employee Made Redundant Was Awarded Just Under 2 Years’ Pay For Unfair Dismissal

Facts: The Complainant commenced employment with the Respondent as Accounts/HR Administrator on 27th October 2015. On 26th April 2017, she was promoted to PA to General Manager/HR Assistant, with her Gross weekly pay of €634.62. The Complainant detailed a number of incidents with the General Manager (GM) of allegedly sexual harassment of her and that he sent inappropriate texts to her from November 2017 to January 2019. Following these incidents, there were payroll errors/omissions by the GM in relation to the Complainant. The Complainant’s employment was terminated by reason of redundancy on 11th October 2019. The Complainant was paid €5,353 Redundancy Payment, €1,704.84 in lieu of her notice and other monies due to her. The Complainant submitted her Complaint to WRC on 17th December 2019 and it was heard on 13th August 2020.

The Complainant provided evidence of two jobs which were advertised on the Company Website in September 2019, one of which was a role of Junior Accounts Assistant, which was consistent with the Complainant’s role. The Complainant claimed that if the redundancy was genuine, this advertisement fell short of reasonableness. The Complainant was the only person made redundant and hence there was no matrix provided to indicate the basis for her selection. The Complainant further claimed that the Respondent was aware of her pregnancy and that the Respondent’s behaviour is unfair and discriminatory. The Respondent submitted that the redundancy was handled and managed with full care and consideration towards the Complainant and all monies due were paid to the Complainant.

Findings: The Respondent at the hearing presented evidence that there was a cost and structure review and the outcome was that the role of the Complainant did not align with the plans. The Adjudication officer found that Complainant only became aware of the decision to make her role redundant only after the conclusion of the review process.

On considering the evidence presented by the Respondent in this case, the Adjudication Officer was not satisfied that there was a genuine redundancy. Furthermore, the Adjudication Officer noted that there was no minimum consultation involved, no engagement with the Complainant regarding alternate employment within the company and the Complainant was presented with a final decision rather than a proposal. Finally, the Adjudication Officer noted that the Complainant was not afforded an appeal process regarding the decision of redundancy. As there was no evidence from the Respondent to show that objective standards were used to make the Complainant redundant, the Adjudication Officer found that the Complainant was unfairly selected for redundancy.

Decision: The Adjudication Officer noted that the Complainant was on her maternity leave following her dismissal and despite her attempts to mitigate her loss, there were no prospects of employment in the sector. The Adjudication Officer awarded a compensation of €60,000 to the Complainant under Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 – 2015. This amounts to just under two years of the Complainant’s salary. The Adjudicator took into account her future loss that she was likely to incur due to the impact of Covid-19 on the hotel sector.

Takeaway for the Employers: This decision is particularly relevant in the current scenario as many employers are in the process of financial and business restructuring. The employers must be very cautious about following a full and fair process before finalising a redundancy. It is interesting that the lack of an appeal to a redundancy was taken into account in the above case. It is likely that future loss will be more readily awarded in hearings that will occur while the Covid-19 crisis continues and this increases the risks to all employers who fail to carry out fair procedures before termination of employment.

Link  – https://www.workplacerelations.ie/en/cases/2020/september/adj-00026127.html

Authors – Anne O’Connell & Chaitra Girish Mallya

27th October 2020

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

19-22 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2

www.aocsolicitors.ie

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