Foreign workers more likely to take unfair dismissal action

Foreign workers are more likely to take a claim for unfair dismissal against their employer than their Irish counterparts, according to new research on the rulings of the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT).

However, they are marginally less likely to be successful in winning their case. The study shows 48% of Irish claimants were judged by the EAT to have been unfairly fired compared with 41% of migrant workers.

It reveals foreign nationals are also less likely to engage a barrister to represent them and they are rarely reinstated to the former job even when the EAT rules they have been unfairly dismissed.

Employers also seem to treat cases taken by Irish staff more seriously as they failed to contest claims for unfair dismissal by a foreign employee in a third of all cases. In contrast, they failed to attend EAT hearings involving claims by an Irish worker in just 17% of cases.

Migrants are far more likely to have their claim for unfair dismissals dismissed due to a failure to attend an EAT hearing or a failure to submit their claim within a six-month time limit of losing their job.

The Irish Examiner analysed more than 1,000 judgments issued by the EAT in 2012 on applications brought under the Unfair Dismissals Act which went to a public hearing before the tribunal.

The research examined the outcomes of 1,067 unfair dismissal cases of which 57.6% involved claims by Irish workers and 32.3% by foreign nationals. However, migrant workers account for just under 16% of the 2.2m-strong labour force in Ireland. The nationality of the applicant could not be determined in 10.1% of cases.

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland said the research findings would reinforce the view that migrant workers feel more pressure than Irish staff in times of recession.

“Migrant workers are generally more vulnerable and are likely to have their workplace rights violated in tough economic times,” said MRCI spokeswoman Grainne O’Toole.

Employment law expert Richard Grogan said the findings would support the common perception that migrants are targeted by employers when they want to get rid of staff.

* Supported by the Mary Raftery Journalism Fund

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