Creche employee awarded 22224 for unfair dismissal

A MAYO creche worker who was sacked has been awarded €22,224 by an Employment Appeals Tribunal following hearings in Castlebar.

Helena Harrington had been working for Charlestown Community Childcare Limited, T/A Happy Feet Creche and Preschool, in July 2012, when she became involved in the alleged conflict which led to her dismissal.

The tribunal, which was chaired by Dr. Ann-Marie Courell, B.L., heard that the mother of two children, whom Ms. Harrington was caring for, became concerned about an excessive amount of text messages' the creche worker was receiving from her husband.

It was stated that Ms. Harrington admitted to receiving 1,500 text messages from the children’s father during working hours.

The mother alerted creche management.

The creche worker was later asked to apologise to the children’s mother and to 'consider her position'.

Following a request from the manager, the children’s father chose to relinquish his position on the creche board.

In addition, Ms. Harrington was told her actions breached the trust of the children’s mother and caused damage to the reputation of the childcare company 'in a small community'.

On July 30, 2012, management at the creche were alerted to an alleged incident in which 'words were exchanged' between Ms. Harrington and the children’s mother. The claimant denied any physical altercation had taken place.

As a result of this, the childcare worker was summoned to a meeting with management during her week off and was summarily dismissed.

Giving evidence to the tribunal, Ms. Harrington said questions raised in relation to the reason for her dismissal were met the response 'you know why'.

Management at the creche admitted the decision to sack her had already been made prior to a specially convened meeting, during which Ms. Harrington was asked to give her side of the story.

She was then told her P45 and any holidays due would be sent in the post, before being escorted to collect her belongings and ordered off the premises.

Ms. Harrington added she has looked after the children since July 2012 and she 'maintains a good relationship' with their mother.

She was not made aware of any specific allegations made against her until two months after she was let go by the company.

In the tribunal’s ruling, Charlestown Community Childcare Limited was found to have acted in a 'wholly unfair' manner 'both procedurally and substantially' in dismissing the claimant, and was ordered to pay its former employee €22,224.