Mum let go on day she came back to her job

Appeals Tribunal awards woman €25k for unfair dismissal

A woman told she was being let go from her job on the day she returned from maternity leave has been awarded €25,000 by an employment appeals tribunal for unfair dismissal.

The tribunal was told that Astrid McCarey began working for accountancy firm Hugh Lennon and Associates in Cavan in January 2006.

The respondent, given the initials HL by the tribunal, said Ms McCarey’s duties were in the secretarial department and consisted mainly of filing company returns. He told the tribunal business in the area she worked decreased significantly during 2009 and 2010.

In November 2010, HL gave the claimant an option of taking a redundancy package or working a three-day week. She chose the latter.

HL said a year later, he consulted with his HR adviser and typed up notes for selection for redundancy. These notes included issues like “unable to work unsupervised” and “reluctant to adapt or attend courses to advance her position”.

Ms McCarey returned from maternity on December 5, 2011, to find that her work had been subsumed by other personnel and HL told her she was being made redundant.

The tribunal said that under cross-examination, HL agreed that no other person in the practice had their days of work reduced and that he hired his daughter before the claimant went on maternity leave.

A witness, CL, was subpoenaed by Ms McCarey’s representative at the tribunal. She confirmed that business in the practice had decreased and that every position was looked at.

CL said when Ms McCarey was on extended maternity leave, HL told her there was no work for the claimant.

“CL raised concerns that the claimant be made redundant while on maternity leave so discussions were had with a HR consultant,” the tribunal said.

“They were advised that maternity leave was on protected leave and CL also raised concerns about the hiring of the respondent’s daughter and how it would be perceived. She was told that all would be fine but she still felt uneasy about the situation.”

Ms McCarey told the tribunal that during busy periods, she did all the company secretarial work. She said on her return from maternity leave on December 5, 2011, it was evident that the respondent’s daughter was using her computer for emails, company returns, and so on.

The tribunal said it was not satisfied the respondent acted fairly and reasonably when addressing the need to reduce employee numbers, “or indeed if there was a genuine redundancy at all”.

The tribunal said:

“While there are no hard and fast rules as to what constitutes the criteria to be adopted, nevertheless the criteria adopted will come under close scrutiny if an employee claims that he/she was unfairly selected for redundancy. The employer must follow the agreed procedure when making the selection. Where there is no agreed procedure in relation to selection for redundancy, as in this case, then the employer must act fairly and reasonably.”

It said the respondent did not consider the claimant for any other position in the firm. “The claimant was told of her redundancy on the day of her return from maternity and no previous engagement with her took place. No selection criteria was discussed with her.”

The tribunal found Ms McCarey was unfairly selected for redundancy and unfairly dismissed. It awarded Ms McCarey €25,000.


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