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Creche which featured in Prime Time exposé appeals order to pay €12,800 to whistleblower

The owners claim they never received a protected disclosure.

A Hyde & Seek vehicle (file photo)
A Hyde & Seek vehicle (file photo)
Image: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

A DUBLIN CRECHE at the centre of an RTÉ documentary which exposed alleged breaches of childcare regulations is appealing a ruling which ordered it to pay €12,800 to a whistleblower.

Lawyers for Anne Davy and Peter Davy and their daughter Siobhan, the owners of Hyde and Seek crèches, claim they never received a protected disclosure made by childcare assistant Jade Byrne-Hoey.

The protected disclosure related to an incident at the company’s facility in Glasnevin on 11 June, 2019 during which it was claimed that children were frightened by the aggressive behaviour of another staff member.

The whistleblower told a hearing of the Labour Court on Wednesday that she was dismissed from her job shortly after raising concerns about her more senior colleague in a protected disclosure sent by e-mail on 16 June, 2019.

The childcare assistant alleged that another female co-worker was aggressively trying to open a door blocked by chairs while holding an infant.

Byrne-Hoey claims she told her colleague to calm down because she was frightening children when she started stacking chairs in an aggressive manner.

She alleged that the other woman reacted angrily and said “don’t tell me what to f**king do”, before threatening to kill her, screaming at her and pushing her arm away.

“I was in shock as I had a child in my arms,” said Byrne-Hoey. “I thought I was going to get hit”.

She also alleges that later that day, she was told by Siobhán Davy, the manager of the creche, not to say anything in future to her colleague, who had to go home early because she was upset. Siobhán Davy denies this conversation took place.

Hyde and Seek is appealing a ruling of the Workplace Relations Commission which awarded Byrne-Hoey €12,800 in compensation for a number of breaches of employment legislation.

The breaches relate to protected disclosures, the provision of a contract, discrimination on age grounds, and health and safety in the workplace.

Failure to follow instruction

Byrne-Hoey (21) claims she was issued with an informal warning on 12 June, 2019 by Davy for her behaviour on the previous day, which was described as “unacceptable and unprofessional” and showed failure to follow a reasonable management instruction.

She believed her treatment by Davy – after her colleague had not received any warning – indicated that she was being discriminated against on age grounds.

However, Davy said the warning was issued in relation to a separate matter on 11 June, 2019, when an administrator claimed that she was upset by the way Byrne-Hoey had demanded a copy of her work contract.

The childcare assistant said this was impossible, claiming she had only sought her work contract the day after the incident in order to establish how she could raise a grievance.

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The whistleblower said she was upset herself, but had no issue with the administrator and had never received a work contract.

In evidence, she claimed that the day after she made the protected disclosure, she was contacted by Davy and asked to work in another of the company’s creches.

Byrne-Hoey said she refused to work that day, as she was suffering from anxiety and panic attacks.

The Labour Court heard that she had her contract terminated by Davy on 19 June, 2019 for not showing up for work for a number of days, despite the fact that she had handed in a doctor’s note to say she would be out sick for two weeks due to work-related stress.

The hearing was adjourned until a later date.

In November 2019, Tusla ordered Hyde and Seek to close its four creches following an RTÉ Prime Time Investigates programme broadcast in July 2019.

The programme investigated the standards of childcare at the creches, although they are allowed to remain open pending an appeal by the company.

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Seán McCárthaigh

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