INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 13(9), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
(REPRESENTED BY THE IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY SERVICES INDUSTRIAL PROFESSIONAL TECHNICAL UNION)
Chairman: Ms Owens
Employer Member: Mr Keogh
Worker Member: Mr Rorke
1. Appeal against Rights Commissioner's Recommendation CW277/96.
2. The Company is involved in the manufacture of healthcare products and employs approximately 900 workers in 2 plants, Castlebar and Swinford. The worker concerned was employed by the Company in October, 1989. In April, 1991 she was involved in an accident at work which prevented her from working. She remained off work until her return in March, 1994, on light duties. One month later she went off work again because of illness and has not returned to date.
In 1992, the worker was made aware of the Company's disability benefit plan (plan). The plan is insured with Irish Life Assurance plc and it is their Chief Medical Officer who makes the final decision as to whether a worker qualifies for benefit. In May, 1995, the worker made an application for inclusion in the plan. The application was rejected following a medical examination in late 1995, in Dublin.
The worker referred her case to a Rights Commissioner and a hearing took place on 11th February, 1997. The Rights Commissioner's Recommendation is as follows:-
"I recommend that the worker and the Union accept that she has no dispute with the Company."
(The worker was named in the Recommendation).
The Union appealed the Recommendation to the Labour Court on 27th March, 1997, in accordance with Section 13(9) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. A Labour Court hearing took place on 14th May, 1997, in Castlebar.
3. 1. In 1991, following the accident, the worker's local doctor certified her disability and her inability to return to work. The worker was told that she was not eligible for the plan following a medical examination by a doctor in Dublin. This is contrary to the rules of the plan, which state that it is the Chief Medical Officer of Irish Life who makes the final decision on eligibility. The Company's own doctor found her unfit for work. As recently as 3 weeks prior to the Labour Court hearing she was again found to be unfit. The worker was recently told that if she did not return to work she must resign or her employment would be terminated.
4. 1. The worker took a claim against the Company which was heard in the High Court in Galway in October, 1995. She was awarded damages which included loss of earnings and loss of earnings for the future, and also took account of the amount of money already received from the Company and from Social Welfare benefits. The Company's plan is a benefit which it provides to all its employees at no cost to them. The decision as to whether an employee qualifies rests with Irish Life and cannot be influenced by the Company.
The Court notes the Company's agreement to retain the appellant in employment pending the outcome of her appeal against the decision not to grant her a disability pension.
In the circumstances as outlined, the Court rejects the appeal and upholds the Rights Commissioner's Recommendation.
The Court so decides.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
26th May, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Decision should be addressed to Ciaran O'Neill, Court Secretary.