Tuesday 20 August 2019

Sinn Fein TD settles unfair dismissal case with a former parliamentary assistant

Maurice Quinlivan. Photo: Mark Condren
Maurice Quinlivan. Photo: Mark Condren

Anne-Marie Walsh

SINN Fein TD Maurice Quinlivan has settled an unfair dismissal case with a former parliamentary assistant.

This is despite the fact that he won the case at its first hearing at the Workplace Relations Commission last year.

Mary Roche had appealed the Workplace Relations Commission decision to dismiss her claims to the Labour Court.

Mr Quinlivan attended a Labour Court hearing today, where it emerged that Ms Roche had withdrawn her claims. Sources said the parties had settled.

"The appeal has been withdrawn," he said after leaving the court.

"I’ve no further comment to make."

Mary Roche pictured leaving the Labour Court
Mary Roche pictured leaving the Labour Court

When asked if he had made a financial settlement with his former employee, he declined to comment.

Ms Roche also declined to comment as she was leaving.

The settlement was reached following a two-hour adjournment of the court.

Ms Roche originally took a case at the Workplace Relations Commission against three employers.

They were Mr Quinlivan, Sinn Fein and the Houses of the Oireachtas, which oversees the delivery of secretarial services to members.

However, adjudication officer Catherine Byrne ruled that Mr Quinlivan was Ms Roche’s employer in a determination last year.

Ms Roche provided secretarial services for the newly-elected deputy following the general election in 2016.

She had previously worked for a number of Sinn Fein TDs and senators from June 2012.

In January 2017, Mr Quinlivan wrote to her to notify her that instead of employing her through the Oireachtas scheme, he planned to hire contractors.

He said he was transferring to a "vouched allowance" option.

This arrangement is available to politicians and permits them to hire contractors to work for them for up to €41,092.

In a letter on January 19, Mr Quinlivan asked her to collect her belongings and go on "gardening leave" as he did not wish her to work her notice period.

"I would like you to use tomorrow to take any personal belongings with you as I wish you to take gardening leave for the duration of your notice period i.e. you will be on full pay but will not be required to attend the office," he said.

"I wish you all the best in your future."

Mr Quinlivan claimed she was made redundant due to his decision not to employ a PA anymore.

He said he received the approval of the Ceann Comhairle to change from employing a PA to the vouched allowance option before he wrote to her.

The WRC adjudicator found he was entitled "to change the way he availed of secretarial support".

She said a redundancy payment of €22,297.27 was in excess of her statutory entitlement.

Ms Roche also made complaints about her contract of employment, hours of work, breaks, annual leave, public holidays and minimum notice.

However, her claims were dismissed.

Her unfair dismissal claim was dismissed because she only had eight months service.

The adjudication officer noted that a full year’s service is needed in order to qualify for protection under the Unfair Dismissals Act.

Chairperson of the Labour Court, Caroline Jenkinson, said a key issue for the parties is continuity of employment.

She adjourned proceedings to allow them to consider their position.

After two hours, both parties confirmed Ms Roche was withdrawing her appeals. There was no indication given to the court that a financial settlement had been made.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News