ADJUDICATION OFFICER RECOMMENDATION
Adjudication Reference: ADJ-00002710
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: 28/11/2016 and 16/01/2017
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Marguerite Buckley
In accordance with Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts 1969 following the referral of the dispute 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.
The Complainant is employed by the Respondent as a paramedic.
She seeks resolution of a dispute pertaining to the Respondents refusal to pay her an injury grant under articles 49 and 109 of the Local Government Superannuation Consolidation Scheme 1998.
The terms of the scheme were furnished to me and in particular clause 3.1 of the long term absence benefit scheme’s guidelines which defined injury grant scheme and an allowance that is paid to employees injured in the discharge of their duties, without their own fault and by some injury attributable solely to the nature of their duties.
To qualify for the scheme employees must satisfy full compliance with the provisions and conditions of the procedure set out in the guidelines.
Summary of Complainant’s Case:
In July 2013 the Complainant was involved in a road traffic collision while driving an ambulance and applied for an injury at work grant. She sustained injuries to her right hip and knee and also some soft tissue injuries to her neck and back.
The Complainant contended that the vehicle which she was driving was defective and that the brakes failed operate appropriately when applied causing her to collide with the vehicle travelling in front of her.
The Complainant was out of work from the date of the accident 12th of July 2013 until her return to work in January 2016.
The Compliant brought her application for an injury grant on the 21st of January 2014. Initially the Respondent agreed to pay the Complainant’s injury grant but the application for the grant was refused by the operations performance manager on the 11th of March 2014. The grounds for same was that “the incident in which you were involved in and sustained your injury was as a result of you driving into the back of another vehicle and therefore you contributed to your injuries”.
On the 26th of March 2014 the Complainant appealed the decision on the basis that liability for the accident had not been determined and she felt the decision was unfair and prejudiced her.
On the 30th of May 2014 the Complainant was invited to a meeting by the operations performance manager described as meeting/update on appeal. This meeting took place on the 9th of June 2014; the outcome of same was to refer the Complainant to the occupational health to assess her degree of impairment.
Ultimately occupational health issued a report on the Complainant and she was invited to a meeting on the 9th of June 2015 to discuss same via the operations performance manager. No minutes of this meeting were provided at the hearing however it would appear from reading subsequent correspondence that there was an agreement to process the claim at this meeting.
The Claimant enquired on the 13th of August 2015 as to the status of her claim. She was advised that the payroll section were working on the figures, HR would then review the file, the budget holder would issue a decision note for payment and it would be processed. The tone of the email was that everything was going according to plan that the operations resource manager did not expect any queries and that her claim would be sitting with payroll at the end of the following week for processing.
On the 21st of August 2015 the Complainant again queried the status of her injury grant application and the reply from the resource manager was that she was just waiting on sign off, she had been in contact with payroll regarding the commencement of the monies and that she should have something from HR by close of business, there was a signature required for the decision note and once signed off by HR she would let the Complainant know. A further email clarified that the budget holder needed to counter sign the decision and he was on annual leave.
There was nothing further on the matter until the Complainant received an undated decision from the operations performance manager received in November 2015 advising that the application was not successful. The reason for same was that the decision has been made in light of interaction with the legal team with the State Claims Agency. The Complainant was advised that if she was not happy with the decision she could raise a grievance at stage one with her line manager.
On the 17th of November 2015 the Complainant did so. The Complainant brought an appeal to her line manager who in turn passed in on to the chief operations manager for the area. The Complainant felt that she was entitled to the benefit as she was injured while performing her job. She set out that the occupational health officer advised her that she was entitled to the benefit and the operations performance manager in the head office had informed her that her application had been successful and that she was going to be paid. This was inferred in his letter of the 8th of July 2014. The Complainant relied on the email from the operation resource manager and was led to believe that it was only a matter of days that she would be paid. On foot of same she borrowed funds from family and friends to give her financial assistance.
There was a holding response 23rd of December 2015 stating that the assistant chief officer/operations would look into who would deal with any appeal.
The chief officer of the area made a decision that they would not approve the application. The basis for same was that the scheme refers to injuries incurred without their own fault. Liability would be determined in the High Court to which the Complainant has brought a claim for personal injuries and loss of earnings.
The Complainant was given an opportunity to bring a stage three grievance which she did.
Ultimately the appeal under the stage three grievance procedure was held on the 7th of November 2016 which upheld the decision to refuse the application for the injury grant.
Summary of Respondent’s Case:
The basis for a grant under the scheme is in the context of injuries incurred in the course of their duties, without their own default.
Liability will be determined in the High Court to which the Complainant has brought a claim for personal injuries and loss of earnings.
Findings and Conclusions:
I have reviewed the long term absence benefit scheme’s guidelines version number one approval dated 20th of November 2012. This is a collective agreement. This sets out the roles and responsibilities of both the employees and the employers and the procedure for implementing the injury grant scheme.
It appears that the terms of the scheme were followed by the Respondent and the stages required between line manager to senior manager/general manager to assistant national director of HR were followed albeit on a very extended and drawn out basis which should not be necessary in the normal course of events.
Once the decision was formally made the Complainant was advised of the right of appeal through the grievance procedure and again this appeal did take place however on a very drawn out and delayed basis.
As above my role is to ensure that the stages were completed and not to make any findings or fact as to the circumstances of the case. I note that the Claimant has brought a claim for personal injuries and as part of that claim is a claim for loss of earnings.
Therefore I make no recommendation in favour of the Complainant in this case.
However I would recommend that the Respondent review its procedures in cases such as this and timeline for making decisions and progressing to the next stage. Delays of this kind are not in the best interest of the parties or the organisation as a whole.
Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts, 1969 requires that I make a recommendation in relation to the dispute.
I make no recommendation in favour of the Complainant in this case.
Dated: 15th June 2017
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Marguerite Buckley
Industrial Relations, Injury grant