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Managing complaints when an employee is out sick – €17,500 awarded to an ex-employee.

In a recent ruling by the Labour Court (as outlined in IRN), a compensation payment of €17,500 was awarded to an ex-employee of a company.

The employee had experienced some difficulties in the workplace and, following two meetings with the Directors of the company in March 2015, the employee had gone on extended sick leave for up to 6 months with a medical certificate stating workplace related stress. The employee – through his solicitors – then invoked the company’s bullying and harassment policy and requested that an investigation be initiated.

The company responded by stating that they would wait for the employee to return to work, and which stage it would ‘discuss any issues you may have, in line with your contract of employment’.

The employee again requested that the policy request be activated. There was no further response from the company and the employee resigned with immediate effect on 10th June 2015.

Although there were several issues with the employee’s performance at work, the employee claims that he made repeated informal complaints of bullying and harassment.

The Court concluded that no investigation was ever undertaken and that certain claims made by the company at the hearing had never been put to the employee when he was in employment.

Because no investigation was instigated (in any form), the Labour Court viewed it reasonable for the employee to resign and effectively take constructive dismissal.

This is a very important judgement which establishes that it is not enough for a company to just wait for the return of an employee who has made an official bullying complaint. Employers need to be pro-active and – at the very least – plan for a complaint to be heard on the return of the employee from sick leave. Other employment issues cannot override the employer’s approach to an employee who makes a bullying complaint and should be treated as separate issues.

Voltedge Management can offer support, advice and independent investigators if required.  Just email us on info@voltedge.ie or call the office on 01 5252914.

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