HSE to pay €25,000 to nurse off work due to alcoholism

Woman claimed she had been unnecessarily unable to return to work for two years

The nurse was seeking compensation for loss of income, reinstatement of holiday entitlement and her pension protected. Photograph: Frank Miller

The nurse was seeking compensation for loss of income, reinstatement of holiday entitlement and her pension protected. Photograph: Frank Miller

 

The HSE has been ordered to pay €25,000 to a public health nurse who claims that she has been off work for over two years unnecessarily.

In the case before the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), the nurse returned to work only in March of this year. She had been on sick leave for more than two years as a result of an incident on January 7th, 2015 where management claim she turned up to work under the influence of alcohol and sent her home.

Commission adjudication officer Eugene Hanly described the fact the investigation into the incident had not yet taken place as unacceptable.

“Far too much time has been spent on agreeing terms of reference, methodology of the investigation and putting in place investigators. I find that both parties have to accept blame regarding this.”

However, Mr Hanly said the employer “must drive this situation and be seen to deal with it with a degree of alacrity. Nevertheless I find that there has to be a shared responsibility regarding this whole matter.”

Mr Hanly ordered the HSE to pay the nurse €5,000 in compensation for the manner in which it conducted itself regarding the matter and the delays in bringing the matter to a closure.

He recommended that the HSE pay the nurse half of her pay lost for 2016 to March 29th, less any social welfare received. This is estimated to be about €20,000, based on the nurse’s annual salary of €54,426.

In her submission to the WRC, the nurse claimed that management never accepted that she was in recovery from alcoholism.

She claimed management failed to support her and breached confidentiality by speaking to colleagues and asking them to report any suspicions.

The nurse claimed she was out of work for over two years unnecessarily.

She said that her pay was reduced to half for three months in 2015 and she received no pay for all of 2016 up to March 29th, 2017.

The HSE argued the nurse could have minimised her loss had she been willing to accept to return to work conditions in June 2015, which she accepted in March 2017.

Management also rejected that any stress or suffering was caused by their actions.

In the case, the woman was seeking compensation for loss of income, reinstatement of holiday entitlement and her pension protected. She was also seeking compensation for the stress caused.