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Dublin: 4 °C Wednesday 23 January, 2019
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'One of the worst years of my life': Woman awarded €8k in unfair dismissal case

The woman criticised the firm’s attitude towards her mental health, as she had postnatal depression after her child was born.

Image: Shutterstock/aslysun

A MOTHER WHO had postnatal depression following the birth of her second child has been awarded €8,000 after winning her unfair dismissal case against her former employer.

In the case, the team leader at the un-named distribution firm resigned from the company in early 2017 and has now won her constructive dismissal case at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

In her resignation letter, the woman stated that she was ‘appalled’ at how her employer “behaved toward me and the bully tactics that have been used ‘to manage me out of the company’ which is a saying I’ve heard too often in my time there”.

The woman told her employer in the letter: “I feel I have no other option but to tender my resignation as of immediate effect after nearly 11 years as an employee … The next contact from me will be litigation.”

Two weeks before resigning, the mother of two emailed the company to state that she has been through “one of the worst years of my life” and the constant pressure and harassment from work have not helped.

The woman referred to the firm’s “flippant” attitude to her mental health and “that every day is a struggle for me”.

Letter from company

In response, the company wrote to the woman a day after her letter and warned her if she failed to meet for next appointment with the company doctor “the company may be left with no other option but to terminate your employment”.

The woman resigned the following day.

In his ruling, WRC Adjudication Officer Kevin Baneham found that the complaint of unfair dismissal was well founded and has ordered the firm to pay the €8,000.

He said that the firm’s conduct broke the term of mutual trust and confidence in the employment relationship in not engaging with the significant issues raised by its employee.

The woman commenced working for the firm in 2006 and was promoted to Team Leader in 2009.

The woman had her first child in 2013 and returned to work without issue.

However, after the birth of her second child in August 2015, the woman was diagnosed with postnatal depression.

The woman was due to return to work on in early 2016, but was certified as unfit for work due to her postnatal depression that was diagnosed three months earlier.

Over the 12 months of her absence due to postnatal depression, the woman submitted 13 certificates from her own GP.

The woman also attended a local mental health service and four consultations with an occupational health physician engaged by the firm on dates in May, June and September in 2016 and January 2017.

Anxious

The conclusion of the occupational health report in mid-2016 recorded that the woman “became quite visibly anxious during the conversation when I discussed returning to work, even though I reassured her that I did not think she was currently fit to return, and that, when she returns, we can arrange for her to come back gradually”.

The firm had an income protection policy with an insurer and a psychiatric assessment of the woman on behalf of the insurer in October 2016 found that the woman was not totally disabled from returning to work and was as a result unable to admit the claim.

The woman did not learn of the insurer’s doctor’s findings until February 2017 when she stated that she “was startled and appalled” to find that the insurance company doctor had advised the firm she was fit for work.

A month earlier in January 2017, the firm’s occupational health doctor found that the woman “remains unfit for work duties” and that “she feels that the pressure to get back to work is not helping her”.

The woman stated that a colleague had a similar illness but was not brought by the employer to four medical appointments and two welfare meetings in 11 months.

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About the author:

Gordon Deegan

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