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Probationary Periods and Dismissal – Employers Be Warned!

In the recent Labour Court case of Blue Tree Systems Limited and A Worker LCR22245 the employee referred a case to the Labour Court under the Industrial Relations Acts claiming compensation for dismissal during her probationary period.The employee had been dismissed during her probationary period with two weeks written notice as set out in her contract of employment. The employee argued that she had not been given any warning that she may be dismissed and had not received any previous oral or written warnings.The employer claimed that it was entitled to terminate the contract at any stage on a no fault basis and this was particularly so during the probationary period but had argued that the employee had sent a series of emails during her employment which it found to be unacceptable.The Labour Court accepted ….”that an employer has the right, during a probationary period, to decide not to retain that employee in employment”. The Court noted however that an employer must “adhere strictly to fair procedures”. It noted that the company had failed to observe any fair procedures before arriving at the decision to terminate the employee’s employment.In respect of the emails sent by the employee, the Court found these to be “abrasive and unprofessional” but  that “the worker should have been counselled as appropriate and given a reasonable opportunity to adapt her communication style to better fit with the culture of the Company“.The Court concluded that the employee should receive compensation of €4,000 due to the Company’s decision to dismiss being “hasty and devoid of any semblance of fair procedures”.#EMPLOYMENT LAW CASE LEARNING – Employers should be wary of dismissing employees during their probationary period without ensuring that proper and fair procedure is followed first. Many employers think that if an employee has less than 12 month’s continuous service that it is simply fine to dismiss because the employee does not have the requisite service to bring a claim for unfair dismissal under the Unfair Dismissal Acts 1977 (as amended) (with certain exceptions). The reality is, as outlined in this case, that the employee can still bring a claim under Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1969 (as amended). Whilst the “recommendation” of the Court is simply a recommendation only, it is still a very important win for the employee. Employers should tread carefully!

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