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Tuesday 23 September 2014

Checkout worker who inhaled 
insecticide loses case

Gordon Deegan

Published 12/08/2014 | 02:30

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The woman was employed in Tesco when she inhaled the insecticide
The woman was employed in Tesco when she inhaled the insecticide

A supermarket check-out worker who became ill after accidentally inhaling insecticide while scanning the item, has lost her claim for unfair dismissal.

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Caroline Wrenn inhaled the substance at her Tesco check-out in April 2010. She was out of work as a result and didn't return until July 2010.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) report stated that in February 2011 Ms Wrenn left work because she had a constant fear of insecticide.

"Every time a transaction involved (insecticide) she was worried. She was afraid of coming into contact with the insecticide," the report said.

During the hearing, which was held in Castlebar, Ms Wrenn was asked why she left work.

"She explained that it was because she did not get assurances regarding the insecticide. She felt that every time that she brought up the subject in work about the insecticide no-one would talk to her about it," the report stated.

Ms Wrenn told the tribunal that the recurrence of a foot spurs ailment was also a factor in her leaving work in February 2011.

The retail giant has a sick-leave policy which allows for eight weeks paid sick leave and a period of six months during which an employee receives support and encouragement to enable them to return to work.

However, after this six-month period has expired if the employee is not fit to return to work and is unable to provide a likely return to work date, Tesco may move to dismiss that employee.

When Ms Wren reached the end of her six month sick absence she was referred to the company doctor who found that she would not be fit to resume normal working for the foreseeable future due to her chronic foot spurs ailment.

The EAT report recorded that Ms Wrenn was given an opportunity to submit a second medical opinion but after a number of weeks and several meetings she failed to provide such an opinion. Ms Wrenn told Tesco that she could not give a return to work date because she was still in treatment.

Another meeting was planned with Tesco on August 16, 2011, however, around this time Ms Wrenn left matters in the hands of her solicitor because she was not getting guidelines regarding insecticide material/matters. In its determination, the EAT found that Ms Wrenn failed to furnish a medical certificate and being unfit for work, was not unfairly dismissed.

Irish Independent

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