THE Employment Appeals Tribunal will hold a hearing today involving a former employee of Combined Insurance in a case which could open the floodgates to dozens of similar claims against the insurer.
The case involves a long-term sales agent for the company, who lost his job last year and was allegedly told that as he was not a full-time employee of Combined he was not entitled to the standard settlements a permanent staffer could expect.
While this is the first case involving an employee taking action against Combined over this scenario, there are thought to be at least 25 other people preparing similar moves. The result of this case will be seen as having wide-ranging ramifications for those cases.
Combined Insurance slashed more than 200 of its 450 sales agents in 2010 as part of an internal restructuring amid ongoing investigations by the Financial Regulator into its 'sales and governance' practices, following complaints.
The insurer then suspended its sales in May of last year, before confirming that it would end all sales here permanently and laying off 51 of its 64 full-time staff.
The decision to end door-to-door sales of its policies resulted in about 60 agents with the firm having to seek alternative work. The group disputing their employee status are thought to come from this pool of agents.
The specialist insurer, which offered hospital-benefit, sickness-income plans and accidental-disability plans, had been the subject of an investigation by the regulator since 2010.
In one case, the family of a 77-year-old farmer claimed that he had been sold nine unnecessary policies over 15 years. The company took in about €40m in premiums in 2009.
Formerly part of Aon, Combined Insurance is now owned by Ace Group, a US-listed firm headquartered in Switzerland.
The company declined to comment, citing that the matter was under legal adjudication.