SECTION 20(1), INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS ACT, 1969
SILICON & SOFTWARE SYSTEMS LTD
- AND -
(REPRESENTED BY MASON HAYES & CURRAN)
Chairman: Ms Jenkinson
Employer Member: Ms Connolly
Worker Member: Mr Hall
1. Alleged Unfair Dismissal
2. This dispute concerns a claim of unfair dismissal. The Worker referred this case to the Labour Court on 25 September 2019 in accordance with Section 20 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969, and agreed to be bound by the Court’s Recommendation. A Labour Court hearing took place on 13 December 2019.
The matter before the Court was brought under Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1969 and concerns a claim by an employee of unfair dismissal against her former employer.
In submitting her claim, the Claimant has in accordance with Section 20(1) of the Act undertaken to accept the Recommendation of the Court.
The Claimant commenced employment with the Company on 23rd October 2018 as a Clinical Consultant, a senior management position, initially on a fixed term contract and after two months she was placed on a contract of indefinite duration. She was dismissed on 5th July 2019. The Claimant referred a claim to the Workplace Relations Commission for a hearing before an Adjudication Officer, however the employer objected to an investigation by an Adjudication Officer.
Her contract of employment included a probationary period of six-months which was due to expire on 22nd April 2019. After three months, on 23rd January 2019, the Claimant had a three-month performance review and secured the highest rating“performing at high level”, her manager rated her as“contributing well, fantastic application to task and competes to high quality”. He rated her interpersonal skill as“solid performance”, stating that she was a clear communicator and was finding her place in a new team well.
On 25th April 2019, there was an unscheduled meeting with her manager who told her that her performance was very good but that he had concerns regarding the interpersonal dynamics of the consultancy team and made a number of recommendations to her. On 20th June 2019, she received her six-month probationary review from HR, which was rated“very good”and there were comments about her interpersonal skills. Overall it confirmed the end of her probationary period.
The Claimant refused to sign the review form on the basis of the comments made about her interpersonal skills which she contended were unfair, factually incorrect with no evidence to support them. She sought legal advice on the matter. A meeting to bring the matter to resolution was organised, however, it did not take place after the Claimant put her concerns in writing to management, instead she was invited to submit a grievance under its Grievance Procedure. A mediation meeting was set up on 2nd July 2019, where the Claimant raised concerns about dignity and respect in the workplace, however it did not resolve matters.
On 5th July 2019 the Complainant was called to a meeting where she was informed that the Company had decided to terminate her employment with immediate effect and she was requested to vacate her desk immediately.
The Claimant’s legal representative, Ms Elizabeth Ryan, Mason Hayes & Curran Solicitors, submitted that the Claimant was unfairly dismissed as her employment was sudden and unexpected, with no warning or substantial/ fair grounds for doing so. Ms Ryan said that the Claimant was not given an opportunity to respond to any concerns the Company may have had. Her legal representative contended that the employer had failed to abide by its own disciplinary procedure and the Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures S.I. No 146 of 2000. The Claimant was not given the right to be accompanied/represented at the meeting on 2nd July 2019. The six-month performance review form was not shared with the Claimant in advance of the review meeting on 25thApril 2019. She was dismissed with no warning, with no substantial or fair grounds to justify her dismissal. Her dismissal occurred 14 days after she passed her probationary period. She was not given any support in reaching the standard required, she was given no prior warning that her employment was in jeopardy and given no opportunity to state her case or mitigate her position.
The employer did not attend the hearing before the Court.
Having considered the submission made on behalf of the Claimant, the Court is of the view that the procedures adopted in the termination of the Claimant’s employment were seriously flawed. The Court notes that the Claimant had successfully passed her probationary period and consequently was covered by the Company’s Disciplinary Procedures, which the employer failed to abide by.
The Court has consistently held the view that it is imperative that an employer in a dismissal case must not only show that there were substantial grounds justifying the dismissal but also that fair and proper procedures were followed before the dismissal takes place. This requirement of procedural fairness is rooted in the common law concept of natural justice.
The Court has no doubt that the manner of the Claimant’s dismissal fell far short of the standards which would normally be expected of a reasonable employer. The Claimant was not notified that the meeting on 5th July 2019 was a disciplinary meeting, she was not warned that her employment was in jeopardy; she was not afforded an opportunity to have a representative present with her and was not provided with an opportunity to respond to any concerns the employer may have had. Therefore, the Court is satisfied that she was not afforded fair procedures in accordance with the Code of Practice on Grievance and Disciplinary Procedures S.I. No. 146 of 2000 and was denied natural justice.
In all the circumstances of this case and bearing in mind the level of remuneration the Claimant was earning; the Court recommends that the Claimant should be compensated by the payment of €39,000.00 to be accepted in full and final settlement of the claim.
The Court so Recommends.
Signed on behalf of the Labour Court
16 December 2019Deputy Chairman
Enquiries concerning this Recommendation should be addressed to David Campbell, Court Secretary.