INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACTS, 1946 TO 1990
SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
DR JOHN MEEHAN
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY SEAN MACKELL)
Chairman: Mr Flood
Employer Member: Mr Pierce
Worker Member: Ms Ni Mhurchu
1. Alleged unfair dismissal.
2. The dispute concerns a worker who commenced employment as a medical receptionist on the 19th June, 2000. The worker was dismissed on the 2nd November, 2000. She claimed that her dismissal was unfair and sought to refer the issue to a Rights Commissioner for investigation. The Employer, through his legal representative, objected to such a referral, and stated that the claimant's employment was terminated during her probationary period on the grounds that the job was too stressful for her. The employer declined an invitation to attend a conciliation conference under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. On the 7th March 2001, the claimant referred the dispute to the Labour Court under Section 20 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969 and agreed to be bound by the Court's recommendation. The employer declined an invitation to attend the hearing, reiterating the statement made to the Rights Commissioner. A Court hearing was held on the 19th April 2001.
3. 1. On the 2nd November, 2000, the worker was summoned to the employer's office and dismissed. The employer stated that he was dismissing her because the job was "too stressful" for her. This was the first time that the worker had been told that the job was too stressful. The worker was devastated when she was sacked and was preparing to go on holiday when the incident occurred. The worker then discovered that, on the day the employer sacked her, he had earlier interviewed someone else for the job and offered it to her.
2. The employer breached the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act, 1973 by not giving the worker her statutory notice. The dismissal procedure was neither reasonable nor fair and the employer failed to meet the accepted standards in relation to the burden of proof on an employer in dismissal cases. The claimant received no warnings in relation to her performance. The employer did not express concern about the worker's ability to do her job. She was dismissed in an arbitrary and unfair fashion and seeks compensation in the amount of £10,000.
The employer did not attend the hearing but his representative wrote to the Court indicating that he did not wish to take part in the Court's investigation or to be bound in any way by the Court's recommendation. The employer in a letter supplied to the Court claimed that no dismissal took place, that the claimant was given notice 6/7 weeks prior to completion of her probation that her employment would not be extended beyond her probation, as it was felt that the job was too stressful for her. The employer claimed that she could have worked out her probationary period while she made alternative arrangements. The claimant had no Contract of Employment and claimed that there had been no indication of problems prior to her being dismissed.
There was no question of her being stressed and she claimed it was made clear to her that she was no longer required, the employer telling her to go on holidays and "not to come back". She further argues that her replacement was interviewed before she was dismissed.
While the question of misinterpretation of the conversation between the parties is one the Court must consider, the fact that the claimant was sent her documents, including her P45 during the week of her holidays and that no one contacted her from the employer's side when she did not return after her holidays would seem to support her case that she was told to go by the employer.
While the employer is not legally obliged to participate in the Court investigation, his decision not to participate is regrettable.
The Court, having considered the information before it, finds that the dismissal was unfair and that the claimant was denied the opportunity to defend herself.
In the circumstances the Court recommends that the employer pay the claimant £4,000 (5078.95 Euros) in full and final settlement of this dispute.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
27th April, 2001______________________
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to Marian O'Connell, Court Secretary.