ADJUDICATION OFFICER RECOMMENDATION
Adjudication Reference: ADJ-00020774
Health Service Technician
Health Service Provider
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: 11/11/2019
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Thomas O'Driscoll
In accordance with Section 41 of the Workplace Relations Act, 2015 and Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts 1969following 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 Worker is seeking a recommendation whereby his employer would comply with a contract and job specification he signed in 2018. The worker claims the employer is seeking to deploy him to outlying bases which are not alluded to in the signed contract. The employer’s position is that the worker’s contract allows it to deploy the worker in line with service requirements.
Summary of Complainant’s Case:
The Worker was redeployed to a location in April 2012 which was some distance from his original employment location with the Employer. He worked in the new location as a specialised health technician. His previous location of employment was relatively near his residence. His new permanent role involves him working from his adopted location and providing services at two outlying clinics at two locations, X and Y. He had been working at these locations on a continuous basis since 2012. He received an acting allowance for this post.
The job specification and permanent contract he signed in August 2018 stated that the purpose of the post was to provide services from his adopted location, as well as to locations X and Y. He signed the new contract on the understanding that X and Y would be the only outlying areas that he would be required to work, as he lives 60 miles away.
His manager proposed to rotate technicians to all outlying clinics which would include a new location Z. This will add a minimum of 5000 miles and over 100 hours commute time to him every year. He claims that this new work pattern is not allowed under his August 2018 contract. He had utilised the grievance procedure and now seeks adjudication on his dispute.
He wishes that the terms of this contract would be upheld and that his only outlying work areas should be X and Y, and not an additional Z location.
Summary of Respondent’s Case:
The Employer’s position is that it can contractually require the Worker to service other locations and that in the interests of service provision and fairness, a roster of equal rotation is both necessary and desirable.
The Employer submitted there was a need to widen the scope of the specialist service the Worker was providing and in the interests of fairness, decided that there would be a roster which would see the Worker and his two other colleagues rostered on an equal basis over a set time period to locations X, Y and Z. The Worker indicated his unhappiness with this arrangement and utilised the grievance procedure.
The Worker signed his contract on the 13th of August 2018, but it states quite clearly with regards to ‘location’ that: “…you may be required to work in any service area as the need arises”.
The outcome of the grievance procedure was that it was the Employer’s position that it can contractually assign the Worker to other locations on a roster. Furthermore, there was a service need and in the interests of fairness and transparency the roster should be applied equally to the Worker and his two other colleagues.
The Worker requested that the status quo would be maintained until the adjudication process had concluded but unfortunately, he went on certified sick leave in September 2019 and a contingency rotating roster had to be put in place amongst his two colleagues, covering locations X, Y and Z.
Travel and subsistence are paid to the Worker outside his normal place of work, as per national guidelines for that grade.
The Employer put forward a suggestion that the Worker attends to location X in a roster and that his two other colleagues could cover locations Y and Z, which could be operated weekly, monthly or quarterly or on any other equal rotation that might be submitted.
Findings and Conclusions:
I understand the worker’s concern about the extra mileage he would incur in travelling to a new clinic at location Z, but I am also cognisant of the he fact that he has a long journey journey to his present base; a location which he voluntarily applied for on a permanent basis to fill the role he desired. Any extra journey from that location would be covered under subsistence and mileage rates as nationally applied.
The Worker’s dispute is that the provisions of the contract, as he signed up for in August 2018 is applied. As with any contract of employment, an a la carte approach cannot be adopted where only specific clauses or phrases, or parts of sentences, are applied in isolation without context, or reference to any other proviso in the same clause or sentence; in this instance with identifying locations X and Y only. The contract clearly states at Clause 4 regarding ‘location’ that “You may be required to work in any service area as the need arises.” I conclude that the Employer is entitled to extend the boundaries of operation to location Z, as according to the contract the Worker seeks to uphold, or indeed to any other reasonable location as the service need arises. I therefore find that the Worker’s claim cannot be upheld.
I welcome the fact that the Employer is prepared to go one step further in this dispute by suggesting a roster whereby the Worker would cover his primary base and location X only, which is nearer his residence, with his two other colleagues covering Y and Z, as suggested at bullet point four, page seven of the Employer’s submission. I believe this is a fair solution for all parties given the circumstances as described to me above.
Section 13 of the Industrial Relations Acts, 1969 requires that I make a recommendation in relation to the dispute.
I recommend that the Worker’s original specific claim is not upheld and that the Employer can require him to work in any service area as the need arises, as is clearly stated in his contract.
However, I further recommend also, in the interests of fairness and in contemplation of a signalled acceptable resolution of this dispute, that the Worker would accept the rotating roster as outlined in the employer’s submission as referenced above, whereby he rotates only between his primary base and one outlying clinic. In this regard, I recommend that the employer would commence discussions with the Worker with the purpose of getting the roster in place as soon as possible. Such discussions should conclude within seven weeks of receipt of this recommendation, whereupon the suggested roster can be introduced by the employer.
Dated: 17th December 2019
Workplace Relations Commission Adjudication Officer: Thomas O'Driscoll
Industrial Relations, Re-Location