ADJUDICATION OFFICER DECISION
Adjudication Decision Reference: ADJ-00002943
Complaint(s)/Dispute(s) for Resolution:
Complaint/Dispute Reference No.
Date of Receipt
Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969
Date of Adjudication Hearing: 19/09/2016
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Gerry Rooney
In accordance with Section 41(4) of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 and Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969 following the referral of the complaint(s)/dispute(s) to me by the Director General, I inquired into the dispute and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the dispute.
Attendance at Hearing:
An Office Secretary
A Religious Order
Complainant’s Submission and Presentation:
The Complaint, an Office Secretary, has been employed with the Respondent since 1st January 1998.
The Complainant contended that the Respondent is intent on reducing her working week from 41 hours to 20 hours per week. She maintained that the Respondent only provided her with two options which required her to either accept the reduced working week or take redundancy.
The Complainant argued that she did not believe a proper consideration of her actual workload had taken place and therefore there was no realistic plan on how her workload was to be redistributed. She also maintained that she found it difficult to complete her revised tasks within the reduced 20 hours. The Complaint believed there was more work for her to do than the 20 hours now being offered. The Complainant also argued that as traditionally she had been allowed attend Mass on a Friday morning during her working hours that she wished for this practice to remain.
Having exhausted the internal grievance procedures the Complainant has submitted her complaint to the WRC for adjudication where she advised that she was working within the reduced hours arrangement under protest until her complaint has been properly reviewed.
Respondent’s Submission and Presentation:
The Respondent advised that due to diminishing donations the original work that the Complaint had been employed to complete had significantly reduced, and this reduction of work was likely to continue into the future. As such it had no option but to reduce the working hours of the Complainant. The reduction in hours, to save costs, included some of the Sisters of the Mission completing the work themselves; where they believed some duplication of finance and postal related work that occurred would cease; and that the outsourcing of some of the work also eliminated the duplication of work and as such was more efficient in light of the financial situation.
Having identified that there was a need for the hours to be significantly reduced the Respondent offered the Complaint either redundancy, or to work the reduced hours. The Respondent maintained that they had completed a sufficiently thorough review of work practices and the 20 hour week represented the right hours for the workload that now existed. They also maintained that they had engaged in a consultation process with the Complainant. They regretted the decision but felt having reviewed all options they had no option but to reduce the Complainant’s work hours. As such they were not in a position to increase the workload beyond the revised hours. The Respondent also advised that in view of the changes that it also required the Complainant to depart the workplace through a fire exit door as the area of work was also a place of residence for some of its Sisters and that due to the changing hours of work it was no longer feasible to continue with the arrangements that existed previously.
Section 41(4) of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 requires that I make a decision in relation to the dispute in accordance with the relevant redress provisions under Schedule 6 of that Act. In accordance with Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act 1969 I am entitled to investigate the matter and make a recommendation to the parties setting forth my opinion on the merits of the dispute.
Having considered the matters and representations made by the parties, I make the following recommendations:
I am satisfied that a genuine need existed to reduce the work hours associated with the role of the Complaint.
I am satisfied that the Respondent did consult with the Complainant regarding the changing work demands.
Having reviewed the workload I am satisfied that the Complaint has more work to complete that the 20 hours per week.
I therefore recommend that the Complainant’s working hours be increased to 21.5 hours per week (an extra 1.5 hours per week) and that this be reviewed again in six months time to ascertain whether there is a requirement to continue at the 21.5 hours or to reduce the working time to 20 hours. I also conclude that it is reasonable for the Respondent to cease the practice of the Complainant attending Mass during her working hours, and that the Complainant leaves her workplace through the designated exit.
Dated: 7th December 2016