Tuesday 26 September 2017

Quinn daughter sacked while on maternity leave

Legal threat over firm's 'breach of mother's rights'

Laura Noonan

Laura Noonan

SEAN Quinn's eldest daughter has been sacked from Quinn Insurance for failing to turn up for work for more than a year -- even though she claims she was on approved maternity leave.

Documents seen by the Irish Independent show Ciara Quinn was sent her P45 in recent days, with a letter attributing the sacking to her "continual absence" since May 2010.

It is the first public revelation of any attempt to oust the children of tycoon Sean Quinn from the multi-billion-euro empire of which he has now lost control.

Ms Quinn has hit back against what she described as the "unlawful, discriminatory" termination of her employment.

She has threatened legal action unless the insurance company's bosses reinstate her and allow her to return to work on July 19.

But the court-appointed administrators who run the company insisted last night that while they could not comment on individual cases, all their human-resources (HR) policies "strictly adhere to relevant laws of the land".

The administrators are expected to vigorously defend their position by pointing out, among other things, that Ms Quinn's maternity leave was more than double that outlined in the company's HR policies.

Ms Quinn, who worked as a claims reviewer, was notified of her dismissal on June 24 -- more than a year after she had stopped attending work.

She was "shocked and horrified" to receive the dismissal notice, according to a letter sent by her lawyers, Eversheds, to Quinn Insurance's administrators on Wednesday.

Eversheds said the dismissal letter, which included Ms Quinn's P45 and the reasons for her sacking, was "grossly inaccurate". They described it as a "breach of our client's most fundamental rights as an employee and as a mother".

The Eversheds letter, which was sent to a fax machine that can be accessed by several Quinn Insurance employees, outlined the circumstances surrounding the maternity leave.

Ms Quinn, who married solicitor Niall McPartland in late 2007, returned to work in November 2009 after her first stint on maternity leave. She was already expecting her second baby at that time.

Pregnancy

Eversheds' letter said that it had been "expressly agreed between our client and her employer that in respect of her second pregnancy, she would be entitled to, and would take, 52 weeks' paid maternity leave".

Ms Quinn also claims to have agreed that she could take accrued holiday leave immediately afterwards, giving her a total maternity leave of about 14 months.

Quinn Insurance's HR policy states that employees are entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave on 70pc pay and a further 26 weeks of unpaid leave, plus any holidays that accrue.

Ms Quinn's maternity agreement in November 2009 was drawn up when her family still controlled Quinn Insurance, prior to the insurer's descent into administration in March 2010.

Eversheds say the company's administrators were "well aware of the reason for her absence" since it was "notified to and agreed" with management.

They also insist Ms Quinn was not "continually absent for a period of 13-and-a-half months", since she attended work for "some considerable period of time" due to important developments at Quinn Insurance.

The letter adds: "Your suggestion that our client made no contact whatsoever with her employer and therefore that it must be assumed that she has abandoned her employment, is untenable and outrageous.

"Had there been a shred of merit to your claim, at a minimum, you would have contacted our client long before now, querying the fact and duration of her absence, as opposed to simply paying her without demur."

It is understood that the letter of June 24 marked Quinn Insurance's administrators' first attempt to deal with the issue of Ms Quinn's absence, even though the administrators have been in place for over a year.

They are believed to have been reluctant to take any action against Ciara Quinn or any of the other five Quinn family members employed by Quinn Insurance until the insurer's ownership was resolved.

A recently inked deal will see Anglo Irish Bank and US insurer Liberty Mutual take over the company.

This has triggered a review of several elements of Quinn Insurance's business, including employee matters. It is understood that all employees who do not report for work will now face similar treatment.

Three of Sean Quinn's other children -- Sean Quinn Jnr, Aoife and Brenda -- are also employed by the insurance company, as are two of his sons-in-law, Stephen Kelly and Niall McPartland.

In a statement last night, the insurer's administrators said: "Quinn Insurance, as a responsible employer, will make no comment in relation to any particular employee matter.

"Quinn Insurance has clear employment polices and standards, which strictly adhere to relevant laws of the land."

Irish Independent

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