ADJUDICATION OFFICER DECISION
Adjudication Reference: ADJ-00012844
A Payroll/Office Manager
An Electrical Engineering Company
Complaint/Dispute Reference No.
Date of Receipt
Complaint seeking adjudication by the Workplace Relations Commission under Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977
Date of Adjudication Hearing: 25/06/2018
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Andrew Heavey
In accordance with Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 - 2015,following the referral of the complaint to me by the Director General, I inquired into the complaint and gave the parties an opportunity to be heard by me and to present to me any evidence relevant to the complaint.
The complainant was employed by the respondent since June 2014 as a Payroll/Office Manager and was paid €528.84 gross per week. The complainant’s employment ended when she was made redundant on 21st November 2017. The complaint relates to alleged Unfair Dismissal as the complainant contends that it was not a legitimate redundancy situation. The complainant contends that she was unfairly dismissed having raised a number of grievances against the respondent’s Financial Controller.
The parties furnished written submissions at the adjudication hearing. Further information was sought and was submitted to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) on 6th July 2018.
Summary of Respondent’s Case:
The respondent stated that the complainant was not unfairly dismissed. The respondent contends that the complainant’s role was made redundant in November 2017 and that she received all monies owed to her at the time.
The respondent contends that when it employed a new Financial Controller in May 2017 a number of issues of concern arose which would affect the continued viability of the organisation. The respondent stated that it was in a difficult financial position at the time and a planned expansion was cancelled and a cost reduction plan was put in place which included the sale of vehicles and machinery, cost reductions in phones, energy, IT, travel and materials, the elimination of five roles within the organisation through natural wastage and two redundancies; the Payroll/Office Manager and the Human Resources and Business Development Manager.
The respondent stated that the complainant had a good employment record prior to the redundancy. The respondent stated that in 2017 the complainant lodged two grievances against the Financial Controller; the first was resolved at mediation and the second was investigated formally and was not upheld. The complainant did not appeal the findings in relation to the second complaint.
The respondent stated that it issued an invitation to the complainant to attend a meeting on 10th November 2017 in relation to the possibility of her position being made redundant and to provide the complainant with an opportunity to put forward any proposals that would achieve financial savings. The respondent contends that the suggestions of the complainant were considered but the decision to make the role redundant was upheld. The respondent stated that an appeal was lodged and was conducted by an independent third party. The respondent confirmed that the decision to make the complainant’s role redundant was upheld on appeal.
The respondent stated that, in compliance with Section 6(4)(C) of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977, the dismissal of the worker is not unfair as it resulted wholly from the redundancy of the complainant. The respondent contends that the complaint should be dismissed.
Summary of Complainant’s Case:
The complainant submits that she was unfairly dismissed and that her role was not redundant. The complainant stated that she had experienced difficulties with the Financial Controller since he joined the Company in May 2017. The complainant confirmed that she had lodged a grievance after she was given a formal written warning in July 2017 in relation to performance issues. The complainant stated that following mediation, she withdrew her grievance and the formal written warning was removed from her personnel file. The complainant stated that at a subsequent performance meeting in September 2017, the Financial Controller again raised all of the issues that had led to the previous written warning despite those issues having been dealt with at mediation. The complainant confirmed that she lodged a further grievance on 25th September 2017 which was the subject of a formal investigation. The complainant stated that a grievance meeting took place on 12th October 2017 and she was not provided with any notes or minutes of the meeting. The complainant stated that she did not receive any decision on her grievance until 13th November 2017 at which point she had already attended a meeting with the Financial Controller on 10th November 2017 and informed of the possibility that she would be made redundant. The complainant stated that she was subsequently absent from work on sick leave for one week and when she returned to work on 20th November 2017 she was asked if she intended to appeal the findings of the grievance which she received on 13th November 2017. The complainant confirmed that she was not appealing the grievance findings the next day and she was then informed that she was being made redundant. The complainant confirmed that she was asked to leave the premises immediately on that day and was observed by the Financial Controller as she finished her work and gathered her belongings.
The complainant contends that her redundancy was not legitimate and that she was in fact unfairly dismissed by the respondent. The complainant is seeking compensation in relation to her complaint.
Findings and Conclusions:
In relation to this complaint I find as follows:
In June 2017, the complainant was alleged to have made some errors which resulted in a formal written warning being issued to her. The parties themselves resolved the issue informally and the warning was rescinded and the grievance was withdrawn.
The complainant then stated that a further grievance was lodged in September 2017 due to what she perceived to be an unfair performance review and unfair reference to previous performance issues that were resolved as part of the first grievance.
A grievance meeting was held on 12th October 2017 and by email dated 13th November 2017 the grievance was not upheld. The complainant attended a meeting on 10th November 2017 and was told of the possibility that her position would be made redundant and was asked for alternatives that would result in savings to the Company.
I find it was inappropriate that the Financial Controller was the person who attended the meeting of the 10th November 2017 to inform the complainant that her role may be made redundant, especially in circumstances where the outcome of the grievance meeting was awaited.
The notes of the meeting as submitted by the respondent show an urgency in making savings and the possibility that the complainant’s role would be made redundant and partly outsourced. The complainant, at that meeting, provided alternatives to her redundancy which the respondent said it would consider but there was no evidence submitted that it had given any real consideration to the proposals that the complainant had put forward.
I note that the complainant was subsequently absent on sick leave until 20th November 2017 and on her return, was asked to clarify if she intended to appeal the findings of the grievance investigation. When the complainant confirmed she was not appealing the findings she was informed the next day that her position was being made redundant.
When the complainant was notified of her redundancy she was informed that she was not required to work her notice period and that she should leave the premises immediately. I find that the actions of the respondent on this issue to be akin to summarily dismissing an employee and escorting them from the premises.
In addition, the Financial Controller provided a reference to the complainant and also to the HR/ Business Development Manager. The contents of the complainant’s reference are as follows:
[Complainant’s Name] was employed by [Respondent’s Name] from 16/06/2014 to 21/11/2017. Her role as Office and Payroll Manager ended due to the role being made redundant in the context of a company restructure during a cost reduction programme. We wish [Complainant’s First Name] every success in her future career.
Name of Financial Controller
The contents of the HR/Business Development Manager’s reference are as follows:
[HR/Business Development Manager’s Name] was employed by [Respondent’s Name] from 03/04/2017 to 14/11/2017. In her role as Human Resources / Business Development Manager, [HR/Business Development Manager’s First Name] did an excellent job in two very different functions. [HR/Business Development Manager’s First Name] demonstrates a very professional approach to her work and would be an asset to any organisation. I would have no hesitation in recommending [HR/Business Development Manager’s First Name] for a role in either Human Resources or Business Development and wish her every success in her future career.”
Name of Financial Controller
I note the significant difference in the contents of both references and the minimal approach to the reference given to the complainant who was employed by the respondent for almost 3 and a half years. I also note that the Human Resources/Business Development Manager worked in the organisation for approximately only seven months and would have had no statutory entitlement to a Redundancy lump sum payment.
On balance, I find that notwithstanding the need to restructure the business and secure financial savings, it was the previously raised performance issues, the poor relationship between the complainant and the Financial Controller and the fact that the complainant had raised a number of grievances against him that appears to be motivation behind making the complainant redundant. Accordingly, I find that, in all of the circumstances of the complaint, the complainant was unfairly dismissed as claimed.
The complainant stated that her employment ended on 21st November 2017 and she commenced in new employment on 28th January 2018. The complainant was unemployed for approximately 10 weeks.
The complainant submitted written confirmation that she had applied for a number of positions (approximately 5 or 6) and had registered with a number of employment agencies. I am satisfied that the complainant’s efforts to mitigate her losses resulted in the commencement of new employment within a relatively short period of time.
Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Acts, 1977 – 2015 requires that I make a decision in relation to the unfair dismissal claim consisting of a grant of redress in accordance with Section 7 of the 1977 Act.
Having considered the submissions of both parties to this complaint and all of the evidence adduced at the adjudication hearing, I find that the complaint of alleged unfair dismissal is well founded. The respondent is directed to pay the complainant compensation in the amount of €4,230.72 which equates to 8 weeks gross pay. Payment should be discharged to the complainant within 42 days of the date of this decision.
Dated: 20th September 2018
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Andrew Heavey