A recent award of €6,000 to a Sales Representative who falsely claimed that he had a Masters Qualification and was subsequently dismissed by his employer during probation has raised very important issues for employers managing employees during probation.
The Sales Representative was employed by a signficant technologies company and was working through his 6 month probation. He had claimed that he had been conferred with an MSc in engineering by a Dublin university in 2013. The employer uses a background checking company to check new employee details and they issued a report to the employer 10 days after the employee commenced work. This stated that the employee had never been conferred with the degree. The employee was out sick several months into his probation, and on his return, he was invited to attend a meeting with HR which he assumed was a return to work meeting. In fact, it turned out to be a disciplinary meeting that he had not received notification or advance warning of. The employee could not prove that he had an MSc, and he was dismissed at the end of the meeting with two weeks’ pay in lieu of notice.
The Labour Court ruled that – although the employee had significantly contributed to his own dismissal – the Company had not followed due process or abided by the principals of natural justice and the Labour Court outlined the following:
– The employee was not informed of the Disciplinary meeting in advance so was totally unprepared
– The employee did not have any notice from the employer regarding their concerns about his alleged qualifications
– The employee was not offered the opportunity of being accompanied by a colleague to the discplianry meeting
– The employee was not given a copy of the disciplinary procedure during the meeting
– The employee was not given advance warning that he was at risk of being dismissed before the meeting
– It was not clear that the employer took any time during the meeting to consider and/or reflect on the employee’s defence
– the letter of dismissal did not offer any form of appeal
This important case highlights the importance of rigidly following procedures -even in the case of a probationary employee. The right to natural justice and fairness must be applied at all times to ensure there are no risks for employers.