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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 18 September, 2019
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Clerical officer sacked by public body after missing almost 300 days in one year

The WRC said there were substantial grounds for the worker’s dismissal.

Workplace Relations Commission
Workplace Relations Commission
Image: Google Maps

A PUBLIC BODY dismissed a ‘work shy’ clerical officer in March of last year after he showed up for work for only 10 days in 2018 after missing 400 work days during 2017 and 2016.

In the case before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), the worker – who missed almost 300 work days alone in 2016 – sued for unfair dismissal.

However, WRC Adjudication Officer, Davnet O’Driscoll found that the decision of the public body to dismiss the worker “is within the reasonable band of responses given the gravity of the conduct, the length of time over which it extended and impact on the service”.

Ms O’Driscoll said that the public body “accepts that the absences were not monitored as carefully as they should have been the case”.

She said, however, that there were substantial grounds for the worker’s dismissal which were wholly or mainly related to his conduct.

The public body dismissed the worker on 9 March 2018 due to his absences, his failure to comply with the sick-leave policies and his inability to provide regular and effective service to his employer.

The public body told the WRC that the officer – employed since 2006 – had taken significant amounts of unauthorised uncertified leave where sick-certs were never furnished.

As a result, there were substantial overpayments of salary to him which was over €19,000 through sick pay at the date of his dismissal.

To deal with the scale of sick leave, the public body put the worker on a a scheme in September 2017 where he was paid only on attendance, which caused an administrative burden for his managers.

According to the public body, the worker consistently failed to attend work and repeatedly failed to inform his managers when he was on sick-leave, not making contact or providing certificates.

His absences began to increase significantly in 2014 and the employer stated that he regularly requested holiday pay and uncertified sick-pay be used after the event.

According to the employer, the worker had absences from September 12th 2016 to February 19th 2017 and from 11 September 2017 to 17 November 2017.

In September and October 2017, Human Resources (HR) contacted him on six occasions. The worker indicated he would return to work on five dates in September and October 2017 but failed to do so.

In November 2017, the employer wrote to the worker telling him that it proposed to hold a disciplinary meeting to address excessive sick-leave, unacceptable attendance levels and unauthorised absences – however due to ongoing absences by the worker this meeting did not take place.

‘Disciplinary meeting’

The worker eventually returned to work and a disciplinary meeting was held on 16 January 2018.

At the meeting, the worker attributed his poor attendance to stress, depression and some personal tragedies. He said that he was taking anti-depressants and getting counselling.

He said that he would mend his ways, sought another chance and promised a fresh start. He was advised his attendance was being monitored and any slip would be looked at very severely while this was under consideration.

However, on 30 January 2018 the worker went out on sick-leave with a similar pattern of notifying return dates but not adhering to these.

At this stage, a recommendation to dismiss was given.

The worker did not make representations about the sanction or appeal to the Appeals Board and he was dismissed on 9 March 2018.

In evidence, the worker said that his sick-leave dramatically increased following an assault on him on 10 February 2012.

In the assault the worker sustained a head injury and broken bones and he then suffered from stress.

He also suffers from alcoholism and addiction which were exacerbated by the assault and sick-leave.

The worker’s representatives claimed that the employer made no attempt to treat the worker’s condition as a disability pointing out that his  GP says he suffered from low mood and anxiety.

The worker’s representatives claimed the employer failed to recognise the worker’s disability before dismissing him.

It was argued on behalf of the worker that dismissal on grounds of excessive sick-leave is discrimination on the grounds of disability. 

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Gordon Deegan

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