On 17th September 2013 a former employee of a coach hire company referred his case under Section 20 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969 to the Labour Court and agreed to be bound by the Recommendations of the Court.

Unfair-Dismissal

The case revolved around the alleged Unfair Dismissal of the claimant at his probationary meeting.

An employee with less than 12 months’ service cannot avail of the protections offered by the Unfair Dismissals Acts, however, as this particular employee did, employees with less than 12 months’ service can refer a claim under the Industrial Relations Act as the amount of service is irrelevant in these instances.

The employee claimed that he was made aware that he was being dismissed at the meeting but stated that no issues about his performance were raised at that time. The employee described how he was denied his right to appeal the decision as his employer either claimed to be “unavailable” or simply “failed to respond” to any correspondence relating to an appeal process.

A Labour Court hearing was scheduled for, and took place on, January 10th 2014.

The employer, who was notified of the hearing, did not attend and did not appoint any representation to attend on his/her behalf.

Given his opportunity to speak, the worker claimed that throughout the course of his probation, he was never told of any issues with his performance. He went on to describe how he was not afforded his right to query why he was dismissed and was not given any opportunity to appeal the decision made by his employers to terminate his employment at that time.

As there was no representation on the part of the employer the employee’s claims went uncontested.

With the evidence presented to it, the Court decided that the process used in deciding to dismiss the claimant fell short of the standards of fairness that a reasonable employer should exhibit.

The Court, satisfied with the evidence of the claimant, ruled that he be compensated in the amount of €10,000. This figure was in full and final settlement of all claims arising from this dismissal.

The determination in this case should encourage all employers to ensure that they follow Labour Court approved procedures with extreme care when dismissing an employee – even when doing so during a probationary period.

Employers should note from this case that all employees, including those who are dismissed during probation, are entitled to be afforded details of the reasons why they are being let go and should also be offered the right to appeal the decision to terminate.

As should be the case all employees, even employees on probation, are entitled to natural justice.

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