ADJUDICATION OFFICER RECOMMENDATION
An Internal Auditor V An Education Services Provider
Adjudication Recommendation Reference: ADJ-00003334
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: 09/09/2016
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Gerry Rooney
In accordance with Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Act 1969 (The Act), following the referral to me by the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission 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.
There was consent from the Respondent to the investigation of this dispute by an Adjudication Officer. The Complainant was represented by his Trade Union and the respondent was represented by a Barrister and Solicitor.
I heard the dispute on 9th September 2016 and adjourned the hearing to enable a submissions regarding certain matters under review to be made by the Complainant’s Trade Union and the Respondent.
In arriving at a recommendation, I carefully considered all of the submissions, documentation and evidence presented at the hearings.
Attendance at Hearing:
An Education Training Board
Summary of Complainant’s Submission:
This complaint refers to the outcome of an internal grievance raised by the Complainant, an Internal Auditor, against his employer. In accordance with Section 13 of The Act the Complainant was seeking a recommendation from the Adjudication Officer to the parties to the dispute.
By way of background the Complainant has been employed as an Internal Auditor since 20 June 2005, and where the Complainant provided internal audit support services to a number of educational establishments nationally, but on a regional basis. Changes took place in July 2013 where the Complainant’s employer aggregated with another employer. This necessitated changes in relation to, inter alia, the management and delivery of the work, the organisation of the office, and associated matters in which the Complainant was aggrieved. In an attempt to address his concerns, the Complainant maintains that grievances were submitted to management under a nationally agreed grievance procedures, that a grievance investigation was carried out under stage 3 of the procedures, and where the Complainant is dissatisfied with the determination made. The Complainant has therefore submitted his grievance to be considered by the WRC in accordance with the grievance procedures.
The key elements raised in the grievance included:
- Lack of access to bullying and harassment at work policies, and clarification on what policy applied.
2. Consultation regarding Terms of Reference in relation to revised operation of the Internal Audit Unit.
3. Consultation in relation to the review of structures for the internal audit unit.
4. Implementation of a policy in relation to the auditors work onsite with regard to the conduct of their duties as auditor, and associated protocols.
5. Participation in a mediation process with the Director to resolve matters.
6. Supports in relation to working environment to address stress related issues.
7. Office facilities.
8. Payment for professional fees to be a member of ACCA where the Complainant explained that he had to hold a professional qualification to complete his work as per his job description and contract of employment. The Complainant’s professional fees were paid by the Respondent until 2014.
9. Issues related to annual leave.
10. Pension entitlements.
Summary of Respondent’s Position:
The Respondent maintained that it had considered all matters raised in the internal grievance and had made its findings which in part required it to adhere to Circular Letters from the Government Department under which it operates. The res maintained that these regulations were binding and included decisions it has to make in relation to the Terms of Reference regarding the operation of the Internal Audit Unit and the associate matters regarding the work of the Complainant. The Respondent advised that it’s adherence to the regulations and Circular Letters impacted on aspects of the Complainant’s working conditions and arrangements; and which contributed to the grievance. The Respondent outlined that it has to adhere to its obligations under these instructions and therefore the Complainant’s case was handled fairly within that context.
With regard to the professional fees the Respondent maintained that it was advised by the Department that there is no provision for the Respondent to pay such membership fees on behalf of staff, and accordingly it is not in order for the Respondent to pay such fees. It was on that basis the Respondent stopped paying the fees from 2014.
The Respondent was agreeable to explore the matters with the Complainant with a view to seeking a resolution. It also appeared that some matters associated with the original grievance had progressed since the complaint was submitted to the WRC and before the hearing on 9th September 2016.
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:
- The Respondent makes available to the Complainant copies of all the relevant HR policies that apply to the Complainant.
2. That the May 2015 version of the Terms of Reference be implemented following consultation with the Complainant. In the interim I recommend that the complainants continue to work and complete their tasks as per their working arrangements prior to the May 2015 Terms of Reference. However, it is noted that the Terms of Reference are set by the Department and as such the consultation must be set within that context. As advised by the Department in its letter of 25th May 2015 to the Respondent, any consultation in reality should only be concerned with the terms and conditions of the Complainant rather than the de facto operation of the Steering Committee (including work plans and targets) under its role and mandate from the Department.
3. That the Complainant is consulted in relation to the review of structures for the Internal Audit Unit.
4. That the policy which addresses concerns in relation to the auditors work onsite (specifically with regard to the conduct of their duties and associated protocols) be agreed with the Complainant and issued as soon as possible. I recommend the Complainant continues to complete his work while this policy is being developed and implemented.
5. That a mediation process is reconvened between the Complainant and the Director, and if possible that the previous Mediator from the Workplace Relations Commission who has provided mediation services be appointed to facilitate the mediation process.
6. That the agreed supports in relation to the working environment to address stress related issues remain in place unless otherwise agreed between the parties.
7. That the agreement to address the office facilities as agreed between the parties is implemented.
8. Having reviewed the Job Advertisement and the Contract of Employment, I note there is no requirement for the Internal Auditor to be a member of a professional body, or to specifically be a member of the ACCA. Although the Job Description does state that the candidate should have a relevant professional qualification, it does not state that membership of a particular professional body or association is required. It is further noted that the Complainant’s professional fees were paid by the Respondent until 2014, at which time the Respondent was advised by the Department that there is no provision for the Respondent to pay such membership fees on behalf of staff, and accordingly it was not in order for the Respondent to pay such fees.
Whilst Circular Letter 47/01 leaves the decision for local management to determine whether to reimburse the membership fees of a particular professional body/association, in making such a decision management need to be satisfied that the continued membership is necessary for the performance of official duties (e.g. if there is a legal requirement that the officer be on the register of a professional body/association, or if membership enables an officer to keep abreast of developments in a particularly relevant area of a profession).
Having reviewed the matter, I am not satisfied that there is a legal requirement for the Complainant to be a member of a professional body to fulfil the role of an Internal Auditor. It is however evident that membership of the ACCA does enable the Complainant to keep abreast of developments in a particularly relevant area of his profession; and as the role of Internal Auditor is onerous and where the Internal Auditor operates in an autonomous role, I am of the view that the Complaint’s membership of the ACCA would particularly benefit him in keeping abreast of the relevant area of his profession. I therefore recommend that the Respondent pay the Complainant’s professional fees for ACCA membership and that such professional fees be backdated to 2014 when the respondent ceased the payment. It should be noted that this recommendation is purely based on the specific requirements of the Complainant’s role and job description, and the nature of his role where he operates as an Internal Auditor and as such this recommendation should be deemed unique to their specific role of the Complainant within the Respondent’s organization.
9. That the arrangements which have been agreed in relation to the Complainant’s annual leave be implemented by the Respondent.
10. That the agreement in relation to the pension entitlements of the parties be implemented and maintained unless otherwise agreed by the parties.
Dated: 12th December 2016