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Dublin: 16 °C Tuesday 25 June, 2019
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Woman awarded €15k after claiming she was dismissed because of her pregnancy

The case was brought before the Workplace Relations Commission.

Image: Shutterstock/Syda Productions

A WOMAN HAS been awarded €15,000 after claiming she was dismissed from her job because of her pregnancy following a hearing before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

The complainant was employed as a training coordinator by a healthcare trainer on 1 November 2016. She worked 35 hours per week and was paid €420 gross and €379.99 net per week.

Her employment ended on 30 November 2017. She is claiming that she was dismissed as a result of her pregnancy.

The complainant alleges that she was told because there was a downturn in sales, the company could not afford to retain her and she was, in turn, made redundant.

Complainant’s case

In April 2017, the complainant’s co-worker (Ms A) went on maternity leave and another person (Mr B) was employed to replace her, according to the complainant.

In September 2017, the complainant told her employer that she was pregnant.

She said she suffered complications with her pregnancy in October 2017 and, as a result, was out sick from work for three weeks.

She said she returned to work from sick leave on 1 November 2017. She claimed she learned that the person employed for maternity cover had been offered a permanent position and that he accepted the post.

The complainant alleges that shortly thereafter she was called to a meeting and told that because there was a downturn in sales, the company could not afford to retain her.

Mr B was retained in the employment and the complainant claims that when she questioned this decision she was told that this employee was carrying out different duties.

The complainant alleges that Mr B, who was covering Ms A’s maternity leave, was offered a permanent contract after he indicated that he was going to take up an alternative role on better terms with a different company.

The complainant claims that she had done about seven months work experience in the company’s reception, and that shortly before she was let go the receptionist resigned, but she was not offered that role either.

The complainant claims Ms A was appointed to the role when she returned from maternity leave in January 2018, but claimed that she had more experience in reception than Ms A.

She claims she was never made aware that her position was in danger of being made redundant.

It was submitted that the respondent failed to seek out an alternative position for the complainant.

Her solicitor submitted that the role now occupied by Mr B and the complainant’s role were administrative in nature and were interchangeable.

“There was also a vacant position in reception and the complainant was best placed to take up that position as she had worked there when she started with the company,” her case states.

Respondent’s case

The respondent submitted that the complainant had been on a back-to-work course with the company and that she was then successful in her application for her role, which she took up on 1 November 2016.

The respondent’s case outlines that the training area was headed up by an occupational and healthcare training specialist (TM) and she had two staff. The training was separated into two areas – training which includes both public and private training in health care to individuals, and then occupational healthcare which provides occupational healthcare service for employees to private business.

They claim that in November 2016, it was decided to create a new position of training coordinator to assist the training manager, which the complainant was appointed to it.

They claim that in March 2017, the TM had a quarterly review and the complainant and she was commended on her performance. It was discussed with her that the revenue was poor and the public training sales were still not covering cost, the respondent claims.

The TM met again with the complainant on 12 July 2017 to discuss ways the revenue could be boosted in training.

Then on 7 November, the respondent claims, the TM met with the complainant and explained there had been no improvements in the performance of the public training area since the meeting in July.

The TM advised the complainant, the respondent alleges, that she would be meeting with the CEO in two weeks to review the future of the training coordinator role.

The complainant, it was submitted, was on notice that her role was at risk and that she could, if she wished, propose any alternative measures in advance of the TM’s meeting with the CEO.

The complainant was invited to a meeting with the TM on 23 November during which it was explained that due to the loss-making situation in the public training area for the last five months, that her position was no longer viable.

Ms A and Mr B

It is the respondent’s case that Ms A was recruited in August 2016 to the role of occupational healthcare coordinator (OHC) – a new role created in January 2016. The TM said this was a completely different role that of the complainant’s.

It was claimed that the OHC role involved going out selling healthcare to clients and developing new business and that prior to joining the company, Ms A was a fitness instructor, so her skills were appropriate.

The complainant’s role, it was claimed, was an administrative role for training courses run by the the respondent and had no business development role, therefore, the roles were not interchangeable – unlike what the complainant had claimed.

The respondent’s case stated that Ms A went on maternity leave in April 2017, when Mr B was recruited. Ms A indicated in September 2017 that she was extending her maternity leave and did not want to return to her role.

The OHC position was advertised internally and Mr B was appointed to the role permanently, the respondent claimed.

They also claimed the receptionist manager role became available in October 2017 and that it was offered to Ms A in November – there was an obligation to keep a position for her.

The TM said she knew the complainant was pregnant at the time she was made redundant.

The respondent claimed the complainant was “not selected because of her pregnancy, but because there was a decline in revenues at the public training desk”.

It is the respondent’s case that the complainant never applied for any of the vacant positions.

CEO’s stance

The respondent’s case claims that the CEO discussed the fact that the complainant’s role was set up on a temporary basis and was relatively new. In order to be fair, he decided he would have to give it time before deciding on its future.

The CEO later decided, it was claimed, that the role which was loss-making would have to be ended.

“This was the first time in 18 years he had to make a position redundant,” the respondent’s case said.

It continues:

[The CEO] said that he would have considered the complainant for any vacancies within the company as he had an interest in seeing her accommodated with a position within the company.
He said that he did not ask the complainant if she was interested in travelling to Dublin for a post as he was aware that she had family commitments.

The case claims he had asked for a list of the vacancies within the company.

The CEO claimed he did not instruct TR to tell the complainant that they were looking for another job for her, but that he intended to discuss it with TR the following week.

He said he did not instruct the dismissal of the complainant on 23 November and he asked for a summary of the meeting in early December. He claimed he learned at that time the complainant had been made redundant.

The respondent submitted a number of legal argument’s with their case.

Decision

In his findings, WRC adjudicator Marian Duffy said she was “not satisfied from the reports of the meetings submitted in evidence that the complainant would have known that her position was in jeopardy”.

Duffy added that it was significant that Ms A, who requested a change in roles following her maternity leave, was prioritised over the complainant’s need for an alternative position following her role being made redundant.

She said it has not been established to her satisfaction that the complainant’s role and that of the OCH were not interchangeable.

Duffy also noted that the evident of the CEO was that he did not instruct TM to dismiss the complainant.

She found that the complainant was unfairly dismissed.

The complainant was awarded €15,000 net compensation.

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