IT salesman awarded €120,000 for unfair dismissal

Workplace Relations Commission finds Econocom Digital Finance unreasonable over redundancy sum

A salesman for a UK-based IT company has been awarded €120,000 in redress for unfair dismissal because of the way he was made redundant when the business closed down his department.

Ray Walsh alleged in a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission that his redundancy from Econocom Digital Finance Ltd in July 2020 was a "sham". He submitted that his manager was treated differently to him by receiving an enhanced redundancy package while he was left with the statutory minimum.

He had no earnings for 54 weeks despite an attempt to launch his own firm with his former manager and only returned to employment in August 2021 at a salary of €60,000 with no expectation of earning a full commission in the first year in his new role, his submission said.

In evidence, Mr Walsh described being invited to a Microsoft Teams meeting on April 27th, 2020, with the subject line “Ireland Team Meeting”, but that his manager was uninvited from the call and the firm’s HR director added.

The call lasted 10 minutes, with the managers telling him his job would be made redundant, the sales operation in Ireland would be closed and that the decision had been made centrally.

On May 7th, 2020, he sent a letter addressing the terms of his redundancy, arguing the payment of just statutory redundancy was “derisory and devaluing” for a company with turnover of €3 billion a year “in light of the outstanding service I have given”.

* Frances Weston, Econocom managing director for North America, UK and Ireland, said in evidence that her priority had been to “generate cost-saving initiatives and regain stability for the group” when she joined in March 2020. She said the decision to close the Irish business down had already been made by her predecessor.

In her evidence, Ms Weston said Mr Walsh’s manager, who was also made redundant, had asked for an ex-gratia payment on top of the statutory redundancy lump sum, and received it. “If your client had asked, I would have been happy to give it,” she said.

Mr Walsh’s solicitor, Alastair Purdy, put it to her that Mr Walsh had written to the firm in May 2020 seeking four weeks’ pay per year of service based on his salary plus commission, along with allowances and pension payments.

Ms Weston said she did not interpret the email as asking for an ex-gratia package, and that she had paid Mr Walsh commission which was allocated. She said she thought this was fair.

She also said it was not possible to offer an alternative role, and that the company’s Irish clients are now handled by a single administrator.

Mr Walsh, who had worked for the company since 2004, calculated his loss at €124,895 due to the loss of his wages, and an ongoing loss of €34,000 because of the delay earning a full commission.

Adjudicating officer Catherine Byrne said she accepted that Mr Walsh’s job was redundant but found that the firm “departed from the standard of reasonableness” that ought to have been shown.

“No evidence was submitted that the complainant made any contribution to his dismissal,” she said, ordering payment of €120,000 in compensation, a sum equivalent to a year’s salary, taking into account the payment of a redundancy lump sum of €19,152.

* This article was edited on Wednesday, January 26th, 2022