A childcare manager has been awarded €30,000 in compensation on top of an almost €16,000 redundancy payment, after the Workplace Relations Commission determined her voluntary redundancy was actually a dismissal.
The woman had worked at the pre-school since 1999, initially as a childcare worker but later as a manager until her departure from the company in 2015.
She gave evidence that while she loved her job and had a great relationship with children and parents, in recent years she felt “constantly undermined and bullied by the board members”.
She gave evidence that earlier that year, permanent members of staff were offered voluntary redundancy by the board as the service had fewer numbers and the level of funding was decreasing. “However, following discussions with the board it was made very clear that the management position was the only position to be made redundant and I was the only member of staff affected,” she told the WRC. “I offered to give up my management hours of 15 hours each week however my offer was rejected outright.”
The woman said she was “upset, hurt and greatly concerned” that when the financial state of the organisation and the possibility of redundancy was raised and discussed with staff, she was told by the board that she was part of the reason they were losing money.
She said she made every possible effort to retain her job, but all suggestions and proposals from her were rejected by the company— it was clear to her that the respondent had decided to terminate her employment and would do so regardless of any proposal or suggestion made by her. She said she was told by the company that they intended to advertise and fill her job upon the termination of her employment and this is exactly what they did. She received €15,964.80 in statutory redundancy payments.
The company told the WRC it denied the complainant’s allegation that she was the only member of staff affected. It said on numerous occasions she was told that the redundancy being offered was voluntary and that it was open to all employees. It said this was specifically conveyed to her by email in February 2015; by letter twice in April 2015; and verbally at a meeting also in April 2015. It said the complainant stated at that meeting that she understood that voluntary redundancy was open to all employees.
However, the WRC’s adjudication officer; Sean Reilly; found the company was not willing to consider any alternative to the termination of the woman’s employment. He said the hearing established that she was the only employee made redundant and that supported the submissions that the process was targeted at her and terminating her employment. He also said the dismissal of an employee followed by their direct replacement by a new employee cannot be redundancy.
He found she was unfairly dismissed.
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