Cantillon: RSA to appeal €1.25m dismissal award

RSA ‘astonished’ by amount of award by tribunal and said finding created ‘dangerous precedent’

The decision by RSA to appeal the employment appeals tribunal decision in favour of its former chief executive is unsurprising and not unwelcome. Given the size of the award made to Philip Smith – €1.25 million – it was inevitable that RSA would appeal the finding that he was constructively dismissed.

Yesterday RSA group general counsel Derek Walsh said RSA was "astonished" by the amount of the award made by the tribunal, adding that the finding created "a dangerous precedent".

The merits of Mr Smith’s case will now be decided by the courts – starting with the circuit court – and this is a good thing. Not because the EAT was wrong – only the courts can decided that – but because arguably it should never have gone to the EAT to begin with.

The EAT was set up in 1967 to adjudicate in disputes about redundancy. It describes itself as “an independent body which allows individuals to use this informal and inexpensive way to obtain redress for infringements of certain employment rights”.


It is a reasonable assumption that nobody ever imagined back in 1967 that the chief executive of the State’s largest insurance company would be availing of the EAT to argue that he was being made the fall guy for a €262 million hole in a company balance sheet.

Mr Smith was manifestly within his rights to take his case at the EAT. It would not have been heard if they did not believe it fell within their purview, but the incongruity of his action is obvious in any casual perusal of the EAT decisions on the website of Workplace Relations, the super-quango into which it has been subsumed. Awards in the single digit thousands involving low-paid workers are the norm.