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pandemic layoffs Dublin hotel owners ordered to pay former manager €27,760 after unfair dismissal

Mr Brennan's annual salary was €90,000 at the start of his employment but had been reduced to €49,920 by the time of his redundancy

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The Address Connolly. Photo: Google

The Address Connolly. Photo: Google

The Address Connolly. Photo: Google

The owners of a well-known Dublin hotel have been ordered to pay its former general manager €27,760 in compensation after the Workplace Relations Commission ruled he had been unfairly dismissed.

The WRC upheld a complaint by Peter Brennan that a flawed process was used by the owner of The Address Connolly - formerly known as the North Star Hotel - on Amiens Street to select him for redundancy when the hotel suffered a major reduction in revenue due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The hotel is part of the McGettigan Hotel group that owns a number of hotels in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Donegal and Wicklow as well as Dubai.

Mr Brennan had worked as the hotel's general manager for almost three years when he was informed at a meeting with the owner and HR manager on January 18 last that his position was being made redundant.

Mr Brennan's annual salary was €90,000 at the start of his employment but had been reduced to €49,920 by the time of his redundancy.

The hotel's owner claimed its operations had been severely affected by the pandemic and it had been closed in line with Government and HSE guidelines for more than three months, while it had also suspended all food and beverage services for long periods after it had reopened due to ongoing restrictions.

The owner said the pandemic had led to revenue falling almost 94pc.

He told the WRC that staff numbers were radically reduced as lay-offs were required for the hotel to survive.

The WRC heard total staff numbers went from 115 before the pandemic to 25 by early April 2020 and to 12 by the end of January this year through temporary lay-offs.

The owner said this was the context of how Mr Brennan had been temporarily laid off from October 1, 2020 before the decision to make him redundant from February 1 this year.

In evidence, Mr Brennan said he was asked to attend a meeting in the hotel on January 18 last without any indication of its purpose.

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Mr Brennan said he was informed in the space of five minutes that the decision to make him and his position redundant had been taken.

He claimed he had been given no offer of representation and no consultation or appeal had been allowed.

Mr Brennan said no mention was made about the selection criteria used in making him redundant apart from a reference that his salary was too high, trading was not improving and the owner would complete his duties as a general manager going forward.

He told the WRC that he was given no opportunity to discuss alternatives to redundancy or dismissal, while no other staff were considered for being let go.

Mr Brennan said he believed the decision to make him redundant was already taken before the meeting took place.

The WRC heard Mr Brennan had applied for 29 other jobs and had secured work after retraining as a driving instructor earning an average of €500 a week.

Awarding the claimant compensation of €27,670, WRC adjudicator Jim Dolan said the actions of the hotel owner were not those of a reasonable employer.

Mr Dolan said it was important that employers "identify and explore the feasibility of pursuing less drastic measures to redundancy" as failure to do so could render any subsequent dismissal as unfair.

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