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Onus placed on employer in constructive dismissal award

On 14th November 2018 an employee was awarded €16,667 by the WRC in a constructive dismissal claim due to the fact that her employer could not show her grievance was properly addressed before she returned from maternity leave.

The Complainant was a finance officer of the Respondent, which is a charity providing services to migrant women in Ireland.
The Complainant, who was pregnant at the time, raised a grievance in respect of bullying on 8th May 2016. The grievance procedure had still not commenced on 28th August 2016 at which time the Complainant went on sick leave and applied for maternity leave the next day.

The Complainant called 2 witnesses to the stand, both who were former board members of the company who had resigned, citing the treatment of the complainant one of the reasons for their resignation. The Respondent had in fact replied to the complainant’s letter on 10th May 2016 seeking further clarification to her allegations. The Respondent claims that the Complainant never provided any specific instances in relation to these bullying allegations. The Respondent had an open door policy and made several attempts to discuss the matter before the Complainant went on sick leave on 28th August 2018. The Respondent stated they did not contact the Complainant regarding her grievance during her maternity leave as they did not want to put her under any further stress while she was pregnant.

The adjudicator found that the complaint was one of constructive dismissal. Although the Respondent had made some efforts to deal with the grievance it fell below what is expected of a “good employer”. By taking a more informal approach in attempting to deal with the Complainant’s grievance before going on sick leave was deemed insufficient by the adjudicator. The Respondent not contacting the Complainant during her maternity leave in relation to her grievance was construed by the adjudicator as not standing up to scrutiny. The employee had a problem and the employer chose to ignore it. In doing this the Respondent failed to follow its own procedures and the efforts of some of its members in an attempt to have the matter properly dealt with.

The Complainant had lost all faith in her employer dealing with her grievance fairly. The adjudicator did not think she had any other alternative than to resign from the Respondent’s company. The Complainant was awarded €16,667 by way of compensation. This case shows that employers must make serious efforts to address grievances and be able to show evidence of such efforts.


3rd December 2018

Anne O’Connell Solicitors
Fitzwilliam Hall
Fitzwilliam Place
Dublin 2

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