ADJUDICATION OFFICER DECISION/RECOMMENDATION
Adjudication Reference: ADJ-00011978
A person caring for people with autism
A health services provider
Peter Hughes, Psychiatric Nurses Association
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: 05/03/2018
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Catherine Byrne
In accordance with Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts 1969, this dispute has been assigned to me by the Director General. I conducted a hearing on March 5th 2018 and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present any evidence relevant to the dispute.
The complainant was represented at the hearing by Mr Peter Hughes of the Psychiatric Nurses Association (PNA). The Employee Relations Manager attended for the respondent.
The complainant has been working as a Nursery Nurse for 24 years and in 2001, she took up a role in an autism respite unit in west Dublin. A number of staff at the grade of Assistant House Parent report to her. In October 2001, the top point of the salary scale for the Nursery Nurse was €911.67 per year more than the top point of the Assistant House Parent salary (€28,266 compared to €27,355).
In 2002, the grade of Assistant House Parent was eliminated and was assumed on to the pay scale of the Social Care Worker (without qualifications). The change resulted in a significant increase for the former Assistant House Parents, so that by July 2004 the maximum pay for this group was €38,829 compared to €32,738 for the Nursery Nurse.
The complainant has a level 6 NFQ qualification in autism studies, as well as a level 5 QQI health service skills qualification and she is the only person with a qualification in autism in the unit where she works. Her complaint is about the fact that her salary is €6,091 less than that of the Social Care Workers who report to her.
Summary of Complainant’s Case:
In 2015, when she became aware of this anomaly, the complainant wrote to the Director of Nursing for her area. In her letter, she stated her case clearly as follows:
“Having recently gone online to the HSE pay scale, I found that as a Nursery Nurse I get paid €6,019 euro less per annum than the Social Care Workers (without qualification) that are in our service. Up until 2011 they had less responsibilities than me and since 2011, they have the same responsibilities as me. I have more years of service than any of the Social Care Workers (without qualification). I would respectfully ask you to consider this reasonable increase adjustment to my pay scale.”
She got no reply to this letter, in January 2016 the complainant wrote to the respondent’s Area Manager, setting out her request as she had done in the previous letter. In March, she was informed that the matter had been referred to the Employee Relations unit. With no satisfactory response emerging, the complainant sought the advice of the PNA and in September 2016, the General Secretary, Peter Hughes wrote again to the Employee Relations unit of the respondent. In May 2017, he received a reply to the effect that the outcome sought by the complainant was a cost-increasing claim and outside the provisions of clause 1.27 of the Public Service Agreements, which means that a cost-increasing claim cannot be conceded. In the reply, there was a reference to a job-evaluation process which “may need to be progressed at national level.” No progress was achieved however, and in November 2017, the PNA referred the matter to the WRC under the Industrial Relations Act.
Summary of Respondent’s Case:
The respondent’s representative presented a comprehensive submission which set out the chronology of correspondence related to this claim from November 2015. Their position was outlined in correspondence in February 2016 and again May 2017 to the effect that concession of the claim would be cost-increasing and therefore outside the terms of the Public Service Agreements (Haddington Road 2013 and Lansdowne Road 2015).
In April 2017, HR Circular 011/2017 outlined the process of job evaluation for administrative grades III to VI and support staff. However, the role of Nursery Nurse was not included in this exercise.
Finally, the respondent argues that, if the claim was conceded, the increases that would apply to the complainant would have to be extended to other individuals at the grade of Nursery Nurse, of whom there are now 11 employed nationally.
Findings and Conclusions:
It is evident from the submissions presented at the hearing that this claim would be a cost-increasing one, on this basis it is outside the terms of the Public Service Agreements. Acknowledging this, it is my view that the pay scale of this complainant is at odds with the pay scale of the subordinate group of Social Care Workers (without qualification). From an organisational perspective, this must be contrary to what is intended by the organisation and it is certainly unacceptable to the employee. As there are now 11 Nursery Nurses employed by the respondent in Ireland, the impact of a knock-on claim is restricted. No information has been presented by the respondent about the roles of the other 10 Nursery Nurses and we cannot determine if these individuals could make a case for assimilation to a higher grade.
I note that in HR Circular 011/2017, the re-establishment of the Job Evaluation Scheme for Support Grades covers Health Care Assistants, Home Helps and Home Care Workers and that it applies to services across acute, care of the elderly, mental health and community. While the specific role of Nursery Nurse is not included in this grouping, the services in which the complainant is employed, that of mental health and community are covered. I note also that clause 1.2 of the Guidelines on the Procedure in Applying for Job Evaluation states that requests outside clerical grades 3 to 6 and analogous grades “will be dealt with by the Evaluation Board.”
Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts, 1969 requires that I make a recommendation in relation to the dispute.
I recommend that an exercise should be carried out by the respondent’s HR Department, to compare the specific role of the complainant, which is that of Nursery Nurse in an autism respite unit, with that of the Social Care Worker (without qualifications) and the Social Care Worker (with qualifications). If the exercise shows that the job carried out by the complainant is of equal value to that of one of the categories of Social Care Worker, I recommend that the complainant be placed on the appropriate pay scale. As the complainant has been engaged for almost three years in an attempt to resolve this matter, I recommend that this exercise is completed within 12 weeks from the date of this decision being issued.
Dated: 24th September 2018
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Catherine Byrne