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Returning From Maternity Leave

The complainant had been the defacto General Manager of the hotel for 4 years prior to going on maternity leave in January 2015. The complainant ran the hotel on a day to day basis and reported into the Deputy CEO of the wider hotel group and had been assured after the hotel was taken over by a new owner that her role and reporting relationships would not change. At an informal meeting in December 2015 prior to her return to work in January 2016 the HR Manager informed her that she would be reporting into a new senior management role within the hotel which was necessary from a business perspective as the hotel was being upgraded to a four star hotel. The complainant sought clarification as to how the new arrangement would work with two "General Mangers" and was issued with a revised job description and organisation chart, but was refused a copy of the job description for the new senior management position.  The complainant complained that she had not been consulted about the changes and that she also would no longer be responsible for her own rostering and had in effect been demoted.

The complainant returned to work on January 11th 2016 but no IT facilities or work station were available for her nor any handover file. The complainant also said that the proposed roster was not suitable both from an operational and personal point of view. A meeting with the new senior manager failed to resolve her issues and she went on sick leave on 12th January from which she did not return with her resignation being tendered on April 4th 2016 due to her demotion since returning from maternity leave.

The respondent employer outlined that significant plans were in place to upgrade the hotel and develop its business due to the takeover by a new owner, and that the complainant's salary and responsibilities would have remained the same. The respondent outlined that the complainant did not give them any time or opportunity to work through her issues with the new roster and had referred her complaint to the WRC before she had even returned to work.

The Adjudication Officer found that there was no case of discrimination proven in respect of the complainant not being able to compete for the new senior management role, as the decision was based on the new manager meeting the needs of the business with his previous four star experience and not because he was a male (although best practice would have indicated an open recruitment competition was more transparent and effective than the closed head hunting exercise the hotel undertook). The Adjudication Officer also accepted that there was no discrimination occurring on foot of the complainant's new roster, as it had barely crystallised into an issue before she went on sick leave and the respondent did not have an opportunity to address it.

In respect of the right to return to the job immediately held prior to going on maternity leave the Adjudication Officer outlined that terms and conditions of employment are not confined to salary and job content and that status and level of responsibility are important and he agreed that the revised reporting arrangement amounted to a demotion and a diminished role even though many of the duties were the same. A sum of €12,000 was awarded in compensation.

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