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dismissal claim Employer who rejected Covid-19 remote working proposal ordered to pay worker €3k

The woman, who was not named in the Workplace Relation’s Commission decision, worked as an operations manager at a university’s accommodation facility.

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A STUDENT accommodation manager who had to resign from her job during the first Covid-19 lockdown after her employer rejected her request to work remotely has won a constructive dismissal claim.

The woman, who was not named in the Workplace Relation’s Commission decision, worked as an operations manager at a university’s accommodation facility.

She claimed her employer had ignored a suggestion to reduce contact between co-workers by alternating weeks spent in the office.

When the pandemic began last year the woman and her colleagues who worked for a contractor running the facility were under severe pressure as students left for home.

It was stated the woman and colleagues who shared an office suggested working on-site alone each for week, taking turns working from home.

However, when this proposal was ignored she resigned her position and claimed compensation for the five weeks she was out of work before finding a new job.

In its decision, the WRC stated in a finding published this week that “Covid-19 constitutes a biological hazard.”

It described the suggestion to rotate a presence in the office between workers as an “eminently sensible suggestion.”

“This was for one operations coordinator to attend the office and the other two to work remotely. They would rotate their presence at the office.”

“It is striking that the respondent did not, at least, trial this suggestion,” it was stated.

Any work that had to be carried out on-site “was covered by the rotating presence of operations coordinators and the significant online work” could have been done remotely.

“That proposal would have eliminated the risk of transmission between the three operations coordinators and reduced their risk of contracting or of transmitting the disease to others.”

“In this case, the risk could have been readily eliminated or reduced through ‘reasonably practicable’ steps, as suggested by the complainant.”

Finding in favour of the woman the commissioner said: “She articulated a clear grievance and suggested how the work could be done in the safest way possible. This was not adequately considered by the respondent, leaving her with no real option but to resign.”

The decision concluded: “The complainant is entitled to compensation equivalent to five weeks of pay, consisting of a 45-hour week and an hourly rate of remuneration of €16.50. This amounts to €3,712.50.”


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