Midlands vet practice to pay €10,000 for unfair dismissal

By Gordon Deegan

A midlands-based veterinary practice has been ordered to pay €10,000 compensation for the unfair dismissal of an office manager.

Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudication officer, Eugene Hanly however found that the office manager contributed to her own dismissal.

The WRC officer stated that this arose “through what appears to be an inflated opinion of her worth to the practice and her working relationships with her colleagues”.

Hanly found that the quantum of the award to the former office manager reflects her own contribution to the dismissal.

Vet practice

The owner of the vet practice also owns a farm and Eugene Hanly found that the vets working in the practice “made it clear that they did not want to work with” the office manager and were “unhappy” with her.

In the case, the office manager drove to the farm of the vet practice’s owner to tender her resignation verbally on May 8, 2019.

However, 13 days later on May 21, 2019, the office manager withdrew her resignation verbally to her employer after deciding to stay on when hearing that a colleague had resigned.

Hanly found that the employer sought to reverse the office manager’s withdrawal of her notice and for her to leave her employment after receiving an ultimatum from the professional staff at the practice.

The WRC officer found that “this amounts to a dismissal”.

He stated: “I find that this dismissal was both substantively and procedurally unfair.”

‘Informal approach to management’

Eugene Hanly stated that the actions of the veterinary practice in the unfair dismissal “reflected an informal approach to management that went wrong”.

In his findings, Hanly concluded that if the office manager’s resignation had been accepted as alleged by the employer and not withdrawn, “then there would be no need for the vets to pressurise their employer to get rid of her, as she would be going anyway”.

“I must then conclude that in the respondent’s [employer’s] mind he had accepted her withdrawal, leading him then to terminate her employment, albeit in the guise of accepting her resignation, following the pressure from his professional staff,” Hanly said.

Hanly went on to find that there was a conflict of evidence and the lack of clarity in the case.

He stated: “On the balance of probability, I find that the [office manager] withdrew her notice and it was accepted by the [employer], albeit informally.”

Long-established practice

The long-established veterinary practice has been in business for over 45 years after setting up in 1977.

There are currently three vets in the practice which deals with both large and small animals in the midlands area.

The office manager had worked at the practice since September 2011 until August/September 2019.

The employer unsuccessfully argued that the office manager was not dismissed from the practice but rather resigned her position.

The former office manager told the WRC hearing that she has sought employment with very limited success.

She stated that she got some part-time work doing relief milking and she placed an advertisement in the local paper offering her services as an administrator.