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Healthcare worker awarded almost €14,000 in unfair dismissal finding

Cheshire Foundation – Cheshire Ireland must pay the €13,650 compensation to Vanessa Byrne for her unfair dismissal by way of constructive dismissal.

A HEALTHCARE WORKER devastated by the alleged “appalling treatment” from a charity over ‘vexatious complaints’ made against her has been awarded €13,650 for her unfair dismissal.

In the case, Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudicator Gaye Cunningham has ordered the Cheshire Foundation – Cheshire Ireland pay the €13,650 compensation to Vanessa Byrne for her unfair dismissal by way of constructive dismissal.

Cheshire Ireland provides services to disabled people and highly skilled healthcare worker with over 30 years experience, Byrne told the WRC hearing that she had no choice but to resign in July 2022 due to a lengthy and unfair investigation by Cheshire Ireland into vexatious complaints made against her.

Byrne told the hearing that she had no choice but to resign as she needed to safeguard her mental health as her name and reputation had been ruined due to the lengthy and flawed process.

The investigation fully exonerated Ms Byrne of any wrong-doing – but only after she remained on paid suspension for over nine months.

In her findings, Cunningham found that Byrne “was subjected to an intolerable, long, stressful process which could have been halted at an early stage when the two main ‘witnesses’ cited by the employee who made the allegations did not corroborate his allegations”.

Cunningham commented: “There appears to have been some ‘bad blood’ in the employment.”

Cunningham stated that while Cheshire Ireland “had a responsibility to investigate, it is clear that at an early stage the matter could have been closed”.

Cunningham stated that “the fact that the whole process took some eight or nine months was not acceptable for a reasonable employer”.

Cunningham found that Cheshire Ireland failed to discharge their obligations to Byrne, in particular the failure to make contact with her to provide the definite arrangements for a return to work.

Cunningham stated: “Instead they referenced some more complaints coming up for the Complainant on her return.”

An outline of Byrne’s case stated that an allegation was made against Byrne in April 2021 and it was not brought to her attention until September 2021.

Byrne remained on paid suspension from work from 24 September 2021 for around nine months before a report was issued in relation to the investigation.

Byrne told the WRC that the allegation was baseless and yet her employer did not facilitate her return to work.

Throughout the investigation Byrne informed management of the volatile environment in the employment and expressed her concern about possible fictitious complaints to no avail.

The allegations concerned a supposed conversation in which Byrne is supposed to have been giving tips on how to avoid caring for certain service users.

Byrne never worked with the male who made the allegations and two witnesses he named had not concurred with his allegations.

Byrne stated that the investigation should have stopped there as there was no case to answer.

Instead six more witnesses were interviewed and all but one gave excellent account of the care Byrne provided.

Byrne was interviewed a second time on 10th March 2022 and by this point she “was in shock and devastated by the appalling treatment”.

Byrne wrote to her employer on March 21st 2022 setting out her position that she had effectively been subjected to bullying and harassment, by way of vicious and unfounded rumours and allegations.

No follow up action was taken by her employer and an investigation report was issued in draft form on 25 April 2022.

The final report was issued on 23 May and again by the Regional Manager on 30 June 2022 when she stated that she would be in touch about a return to work.

No one contacted her to offer an apology or talk to her about returning to work.

Cheshire Ireland unsuccessfully argued that the claim of constructive dismissal cannot succeed as Byrne did not utilise the grievance procedure to process her grievance.