AN Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has ordered a creche to pay €15,000 to a childcare worker it deemed was unfairly dismissed.
Paula Fox was dismissed by Clevercloggs Full Day Care Nursery Ltd of Drumbear, Co Monaghan in 2011 after a child or "wobbler" under her care at the creche made its way into the toilet area and was playing in a toilet bowl.
The EAT report records that "the same child again left the room unaccompanied on at least two occasions".
The owner of the centre told the tribunal that she considered the incident major, where a child was able to make its way into a toilet and said that "it could have led to anything from e-coli to the drowning of the 'wobbler'".
On the day in question, March 11, 2011, five incidents were outlined that led to Ms Fox's dismissal.
The EAT report stated that Ms Fox did not deny that the incidents occurred but contended that staff-to-child ratios were not adhered to by the creche and gave evidence of arriving into work that morning and being told that people were off.
Ms Fox confirmed at the hearing that the incident of the child going to the toilet did occur when her colleague was on a break.
She admitted that it was neglectful, but she stated that someone should have been in the room with her at that stage as she had five children in the sleeping room and four were awake.
Ms Fox said that she never considered that she might lose her job and was left devastated by the entire incident.
At a disciplinary meeting on April 5, 2011, statements were read out to Ms Fox and she did not refute any allegation but said that it had been a stressful day and if someone had been working with her none of it would have happened.
A creche manager told the tribunal that regardless of staff days off or sick leave, there is always cover taken from a relief panel and at no time would they have been over ratio.
An assistant creche manager told the tribunal that nobody who works at the creche is left isolated "and if you say you need help there is always somebody there to come to your assistance".
In its determination, the EAT found that Ms Fox was unfairly dismissed and found that in each incident too much blame was apportioned to her and her part in each matter.
The EAT found the creche "had failed to provide any or any adequate childproof door-closing mechanism to ensure that the children could not escape from the rooms".