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EAT Decisions sent 23.08.12 – Fixed term employee and redundancy – cessation of purpose of role

In the case of Nora Doyle v Department of Education and Donard National School UD 390/2012, RP 681/2011 the claim of unfair dismissal was withdrawn at the outset and the case focused on the issue of redundancy and entitlements when employment for a particular purpose ceased.BackgroundThe Principal of the Second Respondent in this case (Donard National School) was asked by an existing full-time special needs assistant to job share. The relevant government department gave permission and the Claimant was employed as a part-time special needs assistant.The Claimant was employed from September 2003 to August 2010 on a series of fixed term contracts and her salary was paid from the relevant government department. The Tribunal was informed that there was no specific contract for job sharing special needs assistants in place. The job sharing arrangement remained in place until the child to whom they were assigned to entered into their final year of primary school in July or September 2010.The original post holder applied for return to full-time hours from 1 September 2010 and the Claimant’s employment was terminated on 31 August 2010. The Claimant stated that she was entitled to a redundancy payment. Subsequently the full-time post holders role became redundant and she was paid redundancy based on her full week’s wages for the entirely of her continuous service with the school.The Board of Management employed the Claimant in this case and the School paid her salary. For the purposes of the statutory lump sum payment, the Department of Education was deemed to be the Claimant’s employer. The Department claimed that the Claimant was employed on a temporary basis to cover the absence of an existing post holder on a week on/week off basis and therefore in terms of Government circular 58/06, a reduced situation existed whereby the post ceased to exist however the post did not cease to exist as at 31 August 2010.DeterminationIn its determination the Tribunal referred to Section 9(1) of the Principal Act (i.e. the Redundancy Payments Act 1967) as amended by the 2003 Act (i.e. the Redundancy Payments Act 2003). It states that an employee shall be taken to be dismissed by his employer if:

(b) “where, under the contract under which the employee is employed by the employer, the employee is employed for a fixed term or for a specified purpose (being a purpose of such a kind that the duration of the contract was limited but was, at the time of its making, incapable of precise ascertainment), that term expires or that purpose ceases without being renewed under the same or similar contract, ..

The Tribunal found that the Claimant’s specified role of special needs assistant on a job sharing basis became redundant when the post holder returned to full-time employment, as the requirement for the Claimant’s work on a part-time shared basis ceased at that time. Hence the Tribunal found that the Claimant was entitled to a statutory lump sum payment based on the relevant criteria.

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