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Worker should receive €23.1k after having hours 'unilaterally and significantly' reduced

The worker brought her case to the Workplace Relations Commission.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/KieferPix

THE WORKPLACE RELATIONS Commission has recommended that a company pays a woman €23,118 after they reduced her weekly work hours from 33.5 to 21. 

The worker has been employed as a trainer with the company since 2010, and is paid €2,206 per month. 

In her case with the WRC, she has claimed that her hours of work were unilaterally reduced from 35 to 21 per week. 

She is seeking reinstatement of her full-time hours and full payment for her loss of earnings. 

The worker has a permanent contract of employment working 33.25 hours per week. 

She had raised a bullying and harassment complaint and was absent from work for a period of time. 

Upon her return in May 2016, she claimed she was told that her contracted hours would be reduced to 21 hours per week, working Tuesdays to Thursdays, with some flexibility required. 

She alleged she was also advised that the practice of two trainers giving the training was to be reduced to one. 

The woman refused to sign the revised 21-hour per week contract. 

She claimed she had to find alternative work to supplement her income following the loss of her hours. She had been expected to work the odd Saturday in the past, but she claimed this was not possible due to her supplementary work. 

The case was referred to conciliation in the WRC. Two meetings took place. The outcome was the same, her working days were Tuesday to Thursday and any additional days would be paid.

She was also required to deliver additional training days on Saturdays on an irregular basis. Additional training requirements would be met by using external trainers.

In her case, it was outlined that it is her position that “she is an excellent trainer and highly respected in her field”. 

She claimed the reason for the reduction in the hours was because of bullying allegations that she made and that she was the only worker in the company to have her hours cut. 

She alleged that she wasn’t offered fair procedures in the reduction of her hours. 

The worker said she has suffered huge financial losses and that she had been flexible and accommodating. 

The employer’s case

The employer said that the worker is one of a small number of trainers who delivers training for the company. 

They said that due to the financial crisis, funding was drastically cut and they had to take significant measures to ensure its continuance. In 2009, there were cuts to salaries and hours of work. 

The employer claimed that between 2013 and 2015 there was a considerable drop in funding and income into the training department fell significantly. 

They allege that changes were voluntarily accepted by staff. 

In May 2016, they said, the worker returned to work following a lengthy absence to a reduced working week from five days to three, initially on a trial period, which subsequently became indefinite. 

While her working days were Tuesdays to Thursdays there were requirements for Mondays and Fridays occasionally, while Saturdays were required once or twice a year, the employer claimed. 

When working Saturdays the practice was to swap the day and receive time and a half for the purposes of time in lieu, according to the employer. 

They claim these changes were accepted and worked until late 2017. They said that in October 2017, she raised a grievance and sought to revert to full-time working and that consideration was given to this request but due to financial constraints it was not possible to grant.

The employer also claimed the worker had proposed to revert to full-time five days a week or be paid for Fridays when worked and not swapped with a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.

The employer gave a detailed response to her union and herself on 20 November 2017.

She then informed the employer, they claim, that she was reserving her right to refer the matter to the WRC.

The employer added that in early 2018 there was a requirement for Saturday work but she declined. Following the conciliation conference on 30 May 2018 they put in place arrangements to address her concerns.

It was agreed to fix her days to Tuesday to Thursdays each week, according to the employer. She would be offered to work additional days for payment with no obligation to accept. 

It is the employers case that they do not have the funding to restore the hours of work and currently there is no demand for it. They argue they are not in a position to accede to her claim and despite their best efforts no solution has been found.

Decision

WRC adjudication officer Eugene Hanly found that there was a significant reduction in the worker’s hours and noted that no compensation was paid for this reduction. 

Hanly also noted that the worker had to take on additional duties outside the company in order to supplement her income. 

He found the employer made genuine attempts to address her concerns, including the offer of some additional hours on an irregular basis but this was not successful.

He also found no evidence the worker was signalled out for reduction in hours or that the reduction in hours was motivated by the grievance concerning bullying. 

Furthermore, Hanly found that the employer failed to appreciate the impact on the worker of the reduction in hours from 33.25 to 21 hours per week, having previously reduced the hours from 35 to 33.25.

“I find that it was wrong to unilaterally reduce the hours and not to have had meaningful discussions on the implication of the reduction. I find that the worker was entitled to compensation for having her hours reduced,” Hanly said. 

“I find that there is no possibility of reverting to full-time hours as there are neither funds nor a demand for them.” 

He recommended that the employer pays the worker compensation of €23,118 within six weeks of 8 February 2019.

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