Background to Complaint
The Claimant (the employee) was hired as a homecare nursing advisor and was recruited through a nursing agency in 2002. The contract ran for one year and was renewed in October 2003 and also in October 2005.
The Claimant sent an email to the Respondent Company complaining that she had not received enough support when she was manning an information stand at a trade meeting. The Claimant felt that she was dismissed because of this complaint. The Respondent’s manager stated that she dealt with this complaint by telephoning the Claimant. The manager stated that she merely set out what was required from the Claimant.
The Claimant told the Tribunal that when the manager rang her to discuss her email that the manager was very upset that the email had been sent to others in the Respondent Company. The Claimant stated that the manager had told her that it would have repercussions on the renewal of the Claimant’s contract. Following on from this, a meeting was held between the Claimant and her manager. The Claimant explained that her email had only been sent to seek clarification on her role. However, the manager left this meeting. The Claimant sought another meeting with a third party present but this did not occur. The Claimant stated that she was not given any indication that her job was in jeopardy. She was then told that her contract was not going to be renewed.
Fixed-Term Worker Act
The employee in this case would be protected by the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Work) Act 2003. Section 9(1) states that “…where a fixed-term employee completes his third year of continuous employment his contract may be renewed on one further occasion for no more than one year”, thereafter the employee may become entitled to an open-ended contract.
It may be that the employer in this case was aware of the above and wished to avoid giving the employee an indefinite contract. The employer may have felt that it was entitled to dismiss the employee, however Section 2 (2)(b) of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 (as amended) states that dismissal occurring because of the expiry of a subsequent employment contract is subject to the Unfair Dismissals Act if “partly for or connected with the purpose of the avoidance of liability”. Therefore, the employer in this case could not avoid the provisions of the Unfair Dismissals Act through the use of successive fixed term contracts.
Compensation Awarded for Unfair Dismissal
The Tribunal found that the Claimant had been unfairly dismissed and held that no procedures of any kind had been implemented or applied by the Respondent. The Claimant was awarded €26,100 in compensation. The message from the Tribunal in this case is crystal clear. Where an employee is carrying out their functions and duties, the employer cannot summarily dismiss the employee without sufficient cause or notice.
Case: Ambrose v Serono Ltd, Employment Appeals Tribunal