Ger Wilkins v Colaiste Chroi Mhuire

CourtEmployment Appeal Tribunal (Ireland)
Judgment Date09 July 1998
Judgment citation (vLex)[1998] 7 JIEC 0901
Date09 July 1998

Employment Appeals Tribunal

Ger Wilkins v Colaiste Chroi Mhuire


Constructive dismissal - Terms and conditions of employment - Part-time worker - Holiday & sick pay entitlements - Irish speaking school –Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 1993





Ger Wilkins, Saorsinn, Furbo, Co Galway


Colaiste Chroi Mhuire, Spiddal, Co Galway



I certify that the Tribunal

(Division of Tribunal)


Ms. N. Faherty B.A. L.L.B. B.L.


Mr. P. O'Grady

Ms N. Kehir

heard this claim at Galway on 5th March 1998 and 6th March 1998

The claimant was employed as a part-time teacher in an all Irish speaking school working 12 hours and 30 minutes a week. Good standard of Irish was a requirement and while the claimant's Irish was sufficient, it needed improvement and she undertook to do so during her interview for the job. She encountered no difficulties in her job as a part-time art teacher until the latter part of her first school year. She raised the question of sick and holiday pay leave but the school principal declined to pay these. The claimant sought advice from the ASTI union and ultimately it was resolved with acknowledgement that it would be paid and back pay was discharged. The relationship with the principal deteriorated. Her competency in Irish was never commented upon by the principal. The claimant was informed by the principal that the keys to her classroom had to be collected each day from the school office which was contrary to the practice in the school for any other teacher. She was omitted from the Christmas exam rota, the consequence of which would deny her four days pay and other restrictions were imposed on the claimant by the principal which the claimant felt undermined her position. As the relationship between the claimant and the respondent deteriorated further, the respondent began to question the claimant's competency in Irish. The claimant was offered a “fixed term contract” in June 1997 which reduced her working hours in half and she declined. She was in regular contact with the ASTI during this time. She informed the respondent in writing that she would not accept the “fixed term contract” with the reduced hours. The respondent did not reply in writing to this or another follow-up letter but did so in a telephone conversation. As there was no agreement to the offer contained in the “fixed term contract” between the principal and the claimant, the claimant presumed she was not welcome back to the school in the following September. The respondent stated that it was an Irish speaking school and that the teacher's competency in Irish was essential and that the claimant's standard had not improved since the interview. She said she had spoken to the claimant about her concerns of her Irish speaking standard. The respondent denied that she had acted aggressively or in a threatening manner to the claimant. The Tribunal determined that the first issue that it had to decide on was what had been offered to the claimant in terms of hours of work in May/June 1997? The Tribunal accepted the claimant's evidence that she was offered 6 hours 40 minutes. The Tribunal rejected the respondent's contention that the reason the claimant's hours were being reduced was on an account of her incompetence in Irish. The Tribunal found that there was no formal documentation in existence to give grievance to that claim.

The absence of any correspondence regarding the level of the claimants Irish coupled with the offer made to her on 20 June 1997 contained in the “fixed term contract', led the Tribunal to the conclusion that the offer of reduced hours was made to the claimant because of the stance the claimant had taken regarding her entitlement to holiday and sick pay and other matters. The Tribunal awarded the claimant £17,680 compensation.

The determination of the Tribunal was as follows:-

The claimant was employed by the respondent as a part-time art teacher from 1st September, 1994 to 2nd September, 1997. It is the claimants case that she was constructively dismissed by the respondent. The respondent denies that the claimant was dismissed and it is the respondents case that by letter dated 2nd September, 1997 the claimant informed the respondent that she was unwilling to continue teaching in the school.

Claimants Case:

The claimants case is that she was obliged to terminate her employment with the respondent on the 1st September, 1997 because of the manner in which the terms and conditions of her employment with the respondent school had been altered. The claimant gave evidence that she commenced her employment as a part-time art teacher on the 1st September, 1994. She had previously worked in the school for a short time as a substitute teacher. She got the job in September, 1994 after being interviewed by the school Principal. She had been aware that the school was an Irish speaking school and indeed the issue of her competency in the Irish language had been raised at interview. The claimant told the Tribunal that while she had the ceard teasteis she did undertake in the course of the interview with the school Principal to brush up on her Irish. The claimants evidence was that she encountered no difficulties in her work as a part-time art teacher with the school until the latter half of her first school year. Difficulties arose when the claimant requested that she be paid sick pay. She was told by the Principal that no part-time teacher had ever asked for sick pay. At this time the issue of splitting the claimants hours with another teacher was raised by Bean Ui Churraoin, the school Principal. Some weeks later the claimant again approached the Principal regarding sick pay. In the course of her discussion with the latter the claimant referred to the ASTI handbook. The claimant told the Tribunal that after her second discussion she was met with the same response, namely that her hours could be reduced the following year. After this encounter the claimant documented the meetings with her school principal regarding the issues of holidays and sick pay. Copies of this documentation were furnished to the Tribunal. During her first year the claimant was not paid holiday pay or paid for bank holidays, nor did she receive pay—slips or...

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