HSE ordered to produce more detail on how it handled complaint by nurse

WRC adjudicating officer says organisation has must make clear if it met its obligations in relation to agency worker who believed he was discriminated against

An adjudicating officer has said she wants to hear from the Health Service Executive in the case of a nurse who claims he was fired from his position in a residential centre after raising concerns about patient care.

At the Workplace Relations Commission, Luke Woods has accused the HSE of treating him less favourably than a full-time employee by failing to investigate a complaint he made while working in a residential centre in Co Westmeath between September 2020 and April 2021.

His complaints under the Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act 2012 and the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 are both contested by the health service, which maintains it’s not answerable to the dismissal claim as Mr Woods was an agency worker.

At a hearing on Thursday, HSE HR officer Mary Quinn denied that Mr Woods had been dismissed at all, saying he was still working shifts in the same district and had performed an average of 147 hours a month since he started with the HSE residential care service for the intellectually disabled covering Longford and Westmeath.


Mr Woods said he had made a complaint about documents “going missing or being hidden, stolen” and thought when he was invited to a workplace meeting on April 13th last year his complaint would be addressed.

“I received a phone call from Nurse on Call prior to this meeting that I had been taken off the roster in Rahugh. They said they don’t know why. I said that’s strange because I haven’t even gone into the meeting yet,” he said.

“Something had been done without actually telling me why. Most of the meeting I spent on the defensive, they were asking me questions nothing to do with the question I had raised,” Mr Woods said.

“I came away that day thinking I had been dismissed from the whole HSE. Nobody told me otherwise,” he said, adding that his health suffered from the impact of the alleged sacking and he took a period of sick leave.

He said he approached the district allocations officer about five or six weeks after his dismissal seeking to get more shifts, calling it “some kind of a vague way to clear my name”.

He said he had been asked at one point by a manager to work in one particular centre only for the offer to be rescinded the following day.

Cross-examining the complainant, Ms Quinn said the HSE had a commercial agreement in place with the Nurse on Call agency and it was the correct employer, which should hold a contract of employment with Mr Woods.

Mr Woods said there had been a “long registration process” involving Garda vetting with the Nurse on Call agency but said he had no piece of paper covering his placement in the Longford-Westmeath intellectual disability services.

The HR manager also questioned Mr Woods on his working hours – putting it to him that he had done an average of 147 hours a month over the past two years, comparing that to the usual 150 a month performed by nurses directly contracted with the HSE.

However, adjudicator Janet Hughes said the average calculation of Mr Woods’ working time was “not sufficient” and instructed the HSE to produce more specifics.

“I’m going to say to you now Ms Quinn, an average isn’t going to be enough for me. There are net issues and they are about a reduction in hours,” she said.

Ms Hughes also said she wanted to hear more evidence on what happened with Mr Woods’ complaint.

“Really and truly, there are obligations on the HSE in relation to agency workers. That includes… an obligation to investigate complaints they’ve made. There was a complaint and I’m being told it wasn’t investigated and there was no feedback and I need to hear an account in relation to this,” she said.

“I need to hear the HSE on all of this,” she said.

Ms Hughes adjourned the hearing to a future date, to be confirmed in due course by the HSE.