Probationary Period Dismissal

In a recent case taken under Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1969 an employee who was dismissed during his probationary period was recommended compensation in the amount of €6,500. (Ref LCR21028)

It is often assumed that employees can be dismissed immediately and without due process during the probationary period and that such dismissals will not result in any compensation being awarded as they will not fall within the scope of the unfair dismissal legislation without 12 months service.

Whilst this is true and normally 12 months service will be required to take a case under the unfair dismissal legislation (there are exceptions) claims may be brought under the Industrial Relations Acts as happened in this case ( Ref LCR 21028). And once again the Labour Court confirmed that employers are still obliged to act fairly during a probationary period and an employee must always be put on notice that their employment is at risk of being terminated even when the disciplinary procedure specifically states that it will not be applied to employees who are on probation.

The employee was asked to attend a disciplinary meeting on the 13th May 2015 which did not proceed but was then called to another meeting the following day and without any notice.  The employee had no representation with him because he had no notice of the meeting and it was not clear until after the meeting took place that it was being held as a disciplinary meeting.  It was also outlined that other matters that were not specified in the original disciplinary invite letter for the meeting on the 13th May 2015 were factored into the decision to terminate employment.

The Labour Court determined that the employee had been treated unfairly in respect of the termination of his employment and recommended that he was paid€6,500 in compensation.

Whilst employers do not have to follow the full disciplinary procedure during the probationary period to avoid potential claims and compensation being awarded they must as a minimum alert employees to any issues and inform them of the consequence of termination of employment if the required improvement is not achieved.