By Gordon Deegan
A new father was sacked by his employer just 11 days after the birth of his new born baby while he was on paternity leave.
At a meeting with his boss on January 12, 2017, the horticulturalist was first congratulated on the new arrival but ws the told he was being made redundant.
The shocked employee asked whether there were any other roles open to him, and he was told there were not.
The boss then told the man - who was employed as a Plant Area Manager and Buyer for the Garden Centre- to clear his desk and leave immediately.
The man sued for unfair dismissal and the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has upheld his claim and ordered his former employer to pay €2,461.
WRC Adjudication Officer, Pat Brady has described the employer’s conduct in the case as “seriously unacceptable”.
The compensation amount would have been much more as the worker's losses were minimal due to him securing alternative employment on March 3, 2017.
This was as a result of "extremely diligent job seeking" where the man now enjoys a higher wage than he did with the garden centre.
The man pointed out to the WRC hearing that any dismissal while on paternity leave is automatically unfair on foot of section 20 of the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act, 2016.
The employer told the WRC that he was not aware that the employee being on paternity leave was an issue and the decision to make the man redundant was due to a re-organisation of the business.
The re-organisation involved making the man redundant and creating a new position of ‘Assistant Manager’.
WRC Adjudication Officer, Pat Brady, said that the employer in the case had adopted a cavalier attitude to the Paternity Leave and Benefit Act.
The employer stated that a decision was taken in October 2016 to make the horticulturalist redundant and Mr Brady said that it is incredible that that decision was taken but no conversation took place with him about it, or the fact that he may have been at risk of it.
Mr Brady added: “Then, in circumstances which could scarcely have been more insensitive, he was given one day’s notice of a meeting at which his employment is terminated and he is told to leave the premises and not to return.”
“However, it is the total absence of any procedures which is of more concern; the lack of proper or any notice, the lack of a selection procedure or consideration of alternatives.”
Mr Brady said: “He may well be qualified for a new role in the business but that does not relieve the respondent of the need to follow a fair procedure in respect of the complainant.”
Mr Brady added: “He did not do so, and indeed his conduct was at the extreme edge of unfairness, as well as insensitivity to the complainant.”
Mr Brady also stated that it was clear that the employee “was motivated by what he considered to be the injustice of the respondent’s behaviour towards him and a finding that he was unfairly dismissed may be of value to him and in respect of his curriculum vitae and future career”.