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WRC Decisions Confirm That Covid-19 No Excuse To Not Follow Proper Procedures

It appears that many businesses considered that the huge economic difficulties faced by them due to the lockdowns imposed due to Covid-19 would explain the basis for not following proper procedures in relation to redundancies and/or inability to make payments due to employees. However, the WRC has confirmed in its decisions issued in March 2021 that this is not the case.

ADJ-00028929 A Service Technician v A Ventilation Company

Facts: A service technician had worked for a company installing and maintaining ventilation systems since April 2019. On March 13th 2020 he was placed on lay-off as a result of the pandemic and the Company’s financial positions. On May 11th he had received an indication that as the economy was reopening he would be returning to work but was subsequently told about a week later that he was instead being made redundant.

Dispute: The employee in this case claimed unfair dismissal and alleged that the employer had unfairly selected him for redundancy, that the apparent reason for his selection was that he was the employee with the least service but that this was not accurate and that no consultation took place. The employer responded arguing that they had applied a fair selection criteria and had been severely impacted by lockdown and had to make difficult choices to protect the business.

Decision: The Adjudicator accepted that the employer had likely been severely impacted by the pandemic, however he took the view this did not extinguish the employee’s rights under the Unfair Dismissals Acts and in particular their right to fair procedures when being selected for redundancy. The Adjudicator found a number of inconsistencies in how the employer approached the selection process and a general failure on the employer’s part to engage with the employee fairly and transparently. In general, while the Adjudicator took into account the backdrop of Covid-19, he did not view it as giving the employer exemptions from following the established law on dismissals. The employee was awarded €10,000.

ADJ-00026356  Engineer v Owner

Facts: The engineer had worked for the employer in this case for only a few months in 2019. The employment terminated after the employer became unable to pay the engineers wages.

Dispute: The engineer had been owed wages by the employer which the employer had been trying to pay. Following lockdown the employer experienced even worse cash flow issues and while they had attempted to pay the wages owed they had not been able to do so at the time

Decision: The Adjudicator was very sympathetic to the employer’s situation and was clear that he was of the view that the employer behaved honourably throughout the issue and had a genuine inability to pay. He made an order that the employer must pay the outstanding wages of €1,225.72 but that they had until 30th June 2021 to pay.


While these are just two cases involving very different disputes decided by two different adjudicators (Mr Pat Brady and Mr Brian Dalton), in both cases the adjudicator was willing to take into consideration the economic issues faced by the business resulting from the Covid-19 lockdown. However, in doing so they were not willing to undermine the employment law rights of the employee.




Authors: David Murphy and Anne O’Connell

29th March 2021

Anne O’Connell Solicitors

19-22 Lower Baggot Street, Dublin 2


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