€15k for creche worker sacked after child played in toilet bowl
A CRECHE has been ordered to pay €15,000 to a worker who was dismissed after a child in her care was found playing in a toilet bowl.
The owner of the centre told the Employment Appeals Tribunal that she considered the incident major, and that "it could have led to anything from e-coli to drowning".
But the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) ordered Clevercloggs Full Day Care Nursery to pay €15,000 to Paula Fox as it deemed she was unfairly dismissed.
The EAT report states that "the same child again left the room unaccompanied on at least two occasions" at the creche in Drumbear, Co Monaghan.
On the day in question, March 11, 2011, five incidents were outlined that led to Ms Fox's dismissal.
The EAT report stated that Ms Fox did not deny that the incidents occurred - but contended that staff to child ratios were not adhered to by the creche, and gave evidence of arriving that morning and being told that people were off.
Ms Fox said that the incident of the child going to the toilet happened when her colleague was on a break.
She admitted that it was neglectful, but she stated that someone should have been in the room with her at that stage as she had five children in the sleeping room and four awake.
Ms Fox said that she never considered that she might lose her job, and was left devastated by the entire incident.
At a disciplinary meeting on April 5, 2011, statements were read out to Ms Fox and she didn't refute any allegation - but said that it had been a stressful day and if someone had been working with her it would have happened.
But an assistant creche manager told the tribunal that nobody who works at the creche is left isolated "and if you say you need help there is always somebody there".
She checked ratios for the day in question and said Ms Fox's figures "didn't add up".
In its determination, the EAT found that Ms Fox was unfairly dismissed and found that in each incident too much blame was apportioned to Ms Fox.
It said her part in each matter did not individually or collectively amount to misconduct.
The EAT found that the creche "had failed to provide any or any adequate childproof door closing mechanism to ensure that the children could not escape from the rooms in which they were present".
A spokeswoman for Clevercloggs said yesterday that child-staffing ratios "were correct on the day in question" and the EAT, in not making any references to child-staffing ratios in its determination, supports that fact.
She said that "there is a strong chance" that Clevercloggs will appeal the EAT decision to the circuit court. She pointed out that to have closing mechanisms on the childproof doors, highlighted by the EAT, would be contrary to regulations.
She said: "We are in business seven years. We have always strived to provide a very high standard of care for the children here and we have always achieved that."