Friday 15 December 2017

Maintenance worker at Ballydowd claims unfair dismissal

Ballydowd special care unit in Lucan, Co Dublin
Ballydowd special care unit in Lucan, Co Dublin

Sam Griffin

A former maintenance worker at a juvenile detention facility, described as being "akin to a prison", says he was unfairly dismissed after he was asked to prove he was insured to carry out his work.

Dermot Comerford, from Dublin, had his contract for work with Ballydowd special care unit terminated in 2013.

He had worked in that capacity since 2006 and was previously employed to carry out maintenance work through an external agency.

He is taking the case against the HSE, who were the operators of the centre.

The centre is a high-security detention facility for children with severe behavioural and emotional difficulties.

Mr Comerford maintains he was an employee of the health service. However, the HSE is arguing Mr Comerford was an independent contractor.

An Employment Appeals Tribunal heard that Mr Comerford performed duties including cutting grass, painting, fixing windows and changing locks.

The centre's acting director John Fox said: "I wouldn't describe him as a full-time employee.

"It was important we had the service there all the time but I wouldn't say he was full time."

He also said Mr Comerford took holiday time but would not be paid, and did not need to "request" time off but rather to inform the centre as a courtesy.

In 2012 the management at the centre asked him to produce proof of public liability insurance and documentation relating to tax compliance.

The tribunal heard that when he did not produce these, his contract was terminated.

In closing arguments, representatives for the claimant said Mr Comerford was taxed as a self-employed person but that was to "avoid having him on the head count of the HSE".

Counsel for the HSE said Mr Comerford did not have a contract of employment and said an investigation by the Department of Social Protection had found that Mr Comerford was self-employed. He has since appealed this finding.

The tribunal retired to consider the evidence and will receive written submissions before its makes a decision.

Irish Independent

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