Creche worker awarded €15,000 for maternity leave discrimination

Workplace Relations Commission finds in favour of worker who was offered ‘relief work and cleaning duties’

A creche worker who said she was told “You stupid f***ing b**ch, I told you I don’t have the hours” when she asked to return from maternity leave has been awarded €15,000 in compensation by the Workplace Relations Commission.

She also said the same director turned up to her home at 10pm demanding she put a date on her letter of resignation.

Niamh Moloney’s discrimination complaint under the Employment Equality Act against Little Treasures Creche & Playschool Limited, trading as Little Treasures Creche & Playschool, was upheld in a decision published by the WRC on Tuesday.

The company had claimed Ms Moloney “did not turn up for work” when initially offered part-time hours and later full-time hours. However, the WRC found that the complainant was offered a combination of relief work and cleaning duties unlike her role before maternity leave.

Ms Moloney said in evidence to a hearing last month that she had worked 38-40 hours per week before going on maternity leave in January 2020. She had sought a written assurance before taking maternity leave that she would be allowed to go back to her job in the toddler room.

“In the past the roles of colleagues were changed after they came back from maternity leave,” she told the WRC.

She looked to go back on July 22nd, 2020, and met a company director, Anita O’Dwyer, in her office, she said. Ms O’Dwyer told her the company had “no work for her at that time” and that “all hours for employees would be reduced as a result of the pandemic”.

The complainant said she was told she could go back to work from early September 2020. In August 2020, Ms Moloney said she texted Ms O’Dwyer to confirm the exact date she was to go back to work.

Ms O’Dwyer phoned her and said, “You stupid f***ing bitch, I told you I don’t have the hours”, she said. Instead she was offered a “discretionary relief position” from Tuesdays to Thursdays and work as a cleaner on Mondays and Fridays, Ms Moloney said.

The complainant said she wasn’t put back on the roster until she put a complaint in to the Workplace Relations Commission in October 2020.

In January 2021, when Ms Moloney went to look for a reference, she said Ms O’Dwyer told her she would have to resign first, so she resigned. The complainant said she was promised a good reference but that “as it turned out she got two bad references”. She managed to secure new work and started in another creche in March 2021.

In his decision, published on Tuesday, adjudicating officer Breffni O’Neill did not accept the suggestion that other staff had to be kept on full-time because the children were “used to them”.

He said the complainant’s direct evidence was “compelling” and that it was backed up by the correspondence between the parties in September and October. He found Ms Moloney was treated less favourably than another employee who was not on maternity leave and that she had therefore been discriminated against on the grounds of gender and family status.

Mr O’Neill awarded €15,000 in compensation.