Civil servant 'on full pay during year's absence'
Published 26/01/2011 | 05:00
A FORMER civil servant remained on full pay despite failing to show up for work for over a year, the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) heard yesterday.
Labour inspector Frances Carew (59) was dismissed for serious misconduct in 2009.
A personnel officer for the Department of Enterprise insisted that, while the 15-month absence was "lengthy", correct procedures had to be taken to address the "misconduct" of Ms Carew.
The hearing was given details of how the civil servant, who is herself a former employee at the EAT, didn't even show for the disciplinary hearing into her poor attendance for a five-year period to 2009.
Ms Carew claimed she was chastised after she took a case against a "major retailer" at the beginning of 2003. She has now taken an unfair dismissal case.
The Department of Enterprise is refuting the claim, describing her behaviour as "serious misconduct" which led to her dismissal in 2009.
Ms Carew, who represented herself at the tribunal, failed to attend work at the department from August 2007 to November 2008 and was finally taken off the payroll after her last written warning.
Her exact salary is not known but based on government pay scales she would be earning more than €40,000 a year.
A department personnel officer, Maureen O'Sullivan, admitted yesterday that the 15-month period was a "lengthy time" but it had no alternative other than abide by the dismissal rules so the problem could be addressed.
"The department had no other choice but to work through the official procedures," she said.
The tribunal heard that while Ms Carew had a bad record of attendance as far back as 2003, the dismissal case refers only to the period starting August 2007.
Ms Carew, from Lansdowne Village, Sandymount, Dublin 4, joined the civil service in 1973 and became a labour inspector in 1981.
She was moved to the EAT in May 2003 -- another division of the department. She took a grievance procedure following the move and after mediation was transferred back to the labour inspectorate the following year. Ms Carew was then moved to the new labour inspectorate -- the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) -- in 2007.
However, the tribunal heard that from 2004 Ms Carew had not been in compliance with department rules -- failing to clock in and out and not reconciling attendance records.
Despite regular correspondence from the department, she consistently failed to abide by these rules and due to her irregular attendance at work the department was not in a position to give her work.
Ms Carew received her first verbal warning relating to attendance on October 2005, under the disciplinary code.
Following her appointment to NERA in 2007, Ms Carew stopped attending work and also failed to show up for any of the numerous disciplinary interview she had been requested to attend to discuss her ongoing absence.
She received a written warning in October 2007 and was told that her behaviour could involve "dismissal" but she still refused to respond.
At no point did the issue of sickness arise until after Ms Carew received a final written warning the following month.
More correspondence ensued but in April of 2009, Ms Carew was told of the department's decision and given two weeks' notice. She then lodged her case.
Ms Carew told the tribunal yesterday that she had been "mistreated" in the original transfer from the labour inspectorate at a time when there was a shortage of inspectors in the country. She did not accept that another labour inspector had been transferred to the EAT at the same time as her to address the backlog.
A spokesperson from the department refused to comment on the case yesterday.
It continues on April 19.
How the warning system works
- Public sector employers have to adhere to strict procedures before a dismissal can be made.
- There are four stages in the procedure starting with a verbal warning and a formal disciplinary interview with a personnel officer.
- If the verbal warning fails to achieve improvement, stage two involves written warnings and further interviews.
- And if the offence reoccurs or others emerge, a final written warning is sent.
- Stage four is when a case of serious misconduct or underperformance is discovered -- it is after this that a dismissal is made.