Voluntary disability services provider must pay ex-worker €116k

A voluntary group providing disability services in the Midlands has been ordered to pay a former worker more than €116,000 after it unfairly selected her for redundancy.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal found that St Hilda’s Services for the Mentally Handicapped in Athlone, Co Westmeath, had wrongly fired its assistant general manager, Tina Brennan in Feb 2010.

Ms Brennan of Glamore, Taughmaconnel, Ballinasloe, Co Roscommon, who worked at St Hilda’s since Feb 2008 in a role that was funded by the HSE, was informed on her return to work in Feb 2010 after maternity leave that she was being made redundant without notice due to financial cutbacks in the organisation. She was given €3,384 for the termination of her job.

In its ruling, the tribunal said it accepted that a genuine redundancy arose as the HSE had notified St Hilda’s there would be budgetary cuts in its grant allocation.

However, the tribunal said the method followed by St Hilda’s acting chief executive in selecting Ms Brennan for redundancy was “procedurally defective” as she was denied any opportunity of engaging in the process and subsequently refused a right to appeal the decision.

Although Ms Brennan sought reinstatement to her former position, the tribunal said it was not applicable or appropriate as St Hilda’s had reorganised its services since her departure with various functions being reallocated to various personnel.

As a consequence, it awarded her a total of €116,616 in compensation.

In a similar case, a well-known country house hotel in Co Cork was ordered to pay €31,000 to a former assistant manger who was made redundant after returning from maternity leave in 2010.

The tribunal ruled the owners of Springfort Hall at Newtwopothouse, near Mallow, had unfairly dismissed Roisín Kelly, who had worked at the hotel since June 2006.

Ms Kelly of Mounthorgan, Rathmore, Co Kerry, said she had worked over 70 hours per week and was in charge of food/beverages, HR and marketing. She had also taken on the additional responsibilities of banqueting manager without additional pay before going on maternity leave in Jul 2009.

On contacting the hotel about her return to work in Jan 2010, Ms Kelly was told by general manager Paul Walsh that revenue at Springfort Hall was down and he could not afford to pay both her and the person who had taken over her role while she was on maternity leave.

Ms Kelly was offered a redundancy payment of €7,700 or some occasional, unspecified part-time work. Mr Walsh also informed her that he would be keeping on her replacement indefinitely.

Ms Kelly told the tribunal she was shocked and very hurt as she had put her “heart and soul” into the hotel.

Mr Walsh subsequently sent Ms Kelly a letter via a solicitor in which he stated there had been a misunderstanding and her job was still there if she wanted.

However, Ms Kelly said she believed the only reason she was offered her job back was because her replacement had left shortly after her meeting with Mr Walsh in January.

The EAT ruled that Mr Walsh had breached Ms Kelly’s rights and had handled the situation badly. However, it also found that Ms Kelly had not done everything she could to find new employment or that she had made full use of Springfort Hall’s grievance procedures.


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