Dublin restaurateur fails in unfair dismissal action

PBR ordered to pay Padraic Hanley €5,500 for not providing written contract of employment

Padraic Hanley had established the group in 2008 with just one restaurant at Ouzos in Dalkey, Co Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Padraic Hanley had established the group in 2008 with just one restaurant at Ouzos in Dalkey, Co Dublin. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

A Dublin restaurateur, who once led a restaurant group with annual revenues close to €5 million, has failed in an unfair dismissal case against the firm that now runs his former food businesses.

Restaurateur Padraic Hanley’s unfair dismissal action against PBR Restaurants Ltd was dismissed by Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) adjudicator Catherine Byrne. 

However, Ms Byrne has ordered PBR Restaurants Ltd to pay Mr Hanley €5,500, the maximum amount of compensation, for not providing him with a written contract of employment.

Mr Hanley was employed as general manager of the restructured restaurant business from December 2019 until August 2020.

Mr Hanley had co-owned the business as a majority shareholder but an examiner was appointed to PBR Restaurants Ltd by a High Court judge in August 2019 due to cash flow pressures and other issues.

Mr Hanley had established the group in 2008 with just one restaurant at Ouzos in Dalkey and, at one stage, 95 people were employed with an annual turnover of almost €5 million across the group. 

At the time of entering examinership, PBR Restaurants operated Ouzos, Kelly & Coopers gastropub in Blackrock and Fish Shack in Dún Laoghaire’s East Pier.

Mr Hanley has also played a leading role in the Dalkey Lobster Festival.

In her report, Ms Byrne said that when entering examinership, Mr Hanley’s business was made up of five restaurants and a mobile takeaway.

In December 2019, the business exited examinership with two of the restaurants sold.

As part of the restructuring process, Mr Hanley resigned as managing director while his shares were sold to a holding company and he assumed the role of general manager, reporting to the company’s directors.

Ms Byrne records that Mr Hanley’s salary from December 9th, 2019 was €71,500 while his salary prior to the examinership was €97,500.

In March 2020, the business shut down due to Covid-19 and in August, the company directors decided that the GM role was no longer required and Mr Hanley was made redundant.

Represented by well-known Dublin-based lawyer Gerald Kean in the case, Mr Hanley claimed his job was not made redundant and that his dismissal was unfair.

Length of service

PBR Restaurants Ltd argued that Mr Hanley was unable to take an unfair dismissal action as his employment dated only over eight months from December 2019 to August 2020. 

Employees need to be employed for one year to take an unfair dismissal case and Mr Hanley argued that he was employed by the business since 2008.

Dismissing his action on the preliminary issue, Ms Byrne found that Mr Hanley didn’t have the requisite service to bring a complaint under the Unfair Dismissals Act and that she didn’t have jurisdiction to adjudicate on the complaint.

Ms Byrne stated that in his prior MD role with the company, Mr Hanley was not an employee of the business but was the employer and a self-employed company director.

Ordering PBR Restaurants Ltd to pay Mr Hanley €5,500 for not providing him with a written contract, Ms Byrne stated that in their failure to do so, “the directors failed to treat him seriously, and with the respect to which he was entitled as a senior manager”.

Ms Byrne said the failure to provide Mr Hanley with a contract left him in a position of uncertainty, which the requirement to issue a written contract was intended to avoid.