INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
SISTERS OF CHARITY
(REPRESENTED BY IRISH BUSINESS AND EMPLOYERS' CONFEDERATION)
- AND -
Chairman: Mr McGrath
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Alleged unfair dismissal.
2. The dispute concerns one worker who commenced employment with St. May's Centre for the Blind, as a nurses aide, in March, 1992. Following a period of leave of absence, in late 1995/early 1996, she resumed her employment, in June, 1996. Subsequently, her employment was terminated with effect from 21st December, 1996, on the grounds that she refused to work weekends. She claims that when she re-commenced her employment it was on the understanding that she would be required to work Mondays to Fridays only. The employer's response is that it is the norm for workers in her position to work weekends and that the arrangement put in place on her resumption after her leave of absence was of a temporary nature.
The worker referred the matter to the Labour Court, on the 2nd of April, 1997, in accordance with Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. The Court carried out its investigation on the 1st of May, 1997.
3. 1. When discussing her return to St. Mary's, the worker indicated clearly that she would not be available to work weekends. This was agreed to by the employer.
2. The worker did not refuse to work weekends from June , 1996 to October, 1996. She was not actually rostered to work any of those weekends. It wasn't until November that she was rostered for weekends, at which time she indicated that she was not available to work outside of Mondays to Fridays, as previously agreed.
3. The reference furnished by St. Mary's is unacceptable as it contains inaccuracies and does not reflect the contribution made by the worker in her employment.
4. 1. St. Mary's was left with no option but to dismiss the worker for her consistent refusal to work weekends. She was aware that all care workers worked weekends and that there were no exceptions to this rule. When the arrangement was made with her with regard to her return to St. Mary's, the Sister in question stressed that the arrangement was of a temporary nature. The worker agreed to this measure and advised the Sister that she was probably moving to the country and would not be remaining in employment.
2. The disciplinary procedure at St. Mary's was used in full. The worker was made aware from the start that her continued refusal to work weekends would result in her dismissal. St. Mary's had no option at the end of the disciplinary procedure but to dismiss her. Before she had been granted a career break the worker had been rostered on, and worked, weekend duty. She was aware that remaining at St. Mary's would mean working weekends. St. Mary's facilitated her by giving her employment before the end of her career break and she refused to comply with her obligations.
3. No new contract of employment was issued when the worker resumed at St. Mary's and it was the contract which was drawn up when she commenced employment in 1992 that stipulated the conditions under which she was to work.
The Court has considered all of the views of the parties as expressed in their oral and written submissions and finds that the claimant had a liability to work weekends.
The Court finds that on her early return from a career break a short-term arrangement was put in place which required that she work only Monday to Friday.
In the circumstances, and given that the service and her terms and conditions of employment required that she work weekends as required, the Court does not find the action of management in dismissing her was unreasonable.
The Court finds that the employee gave every satisfaction in carrying out duties required of her. However, the reference given to her did not reflect this.
The Court is of the view that the reference was couched in such terms as were likely to reflect badly on the claimant when seeking a job.
The Court recommends that she be given a suitable reference (copied to the Court) which clearly reflects the satisfactory manner in which she exercised her duties since 1992 and that she be compensated in the amount of two weeks' pay.
The Court, noting the satisfactory manner in which she carried out her duties, and her desire to work again in St. Mary's, further recommends that, subject to her accepting the liability to work weekends, she be given sympathetic consideration in the event of a vacancy arising.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
26th of May, 1997______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Michael Keegan, Court Secretary.