Teacher in fee-paying Dublin school dismissed after raising concerns

French teacher was subject to 'dismal treatment' commission found

A French teacher who was employed at Rathdown School, a private girls’ school in Glenageary, Co Dublin, has been awarded compensation of €34,000. File photograph: Google Street View

A French teacher who was employed at Rathdown School, a private girls’ school in Glenageary, Co Dublin, has been awarded compensation of €34,000. File photograph: Google Street View

 

A teacher in a south Dublin fee-paying school was unfairly dismissed after drawing attention to concerns over boarding students’ living conditions, the Workplace Relations Commission has found.

The French teacher who was employed at Rathdown School, a private girls’ school in Glenageary, was awarded compensation of €34,000.

The teacher said she had alerted school authorities to a number of concerns over the health and safety of students at the school in 2015 and 2016, which she claimed were ignored.

In a grievance letter in May 2016 , the teacher said she highlighted a number of complaints she had received from students regarding “freezing temperatures, dirty toilets and general cleanliness standards around the school”.

The following August, the teacher – who had been a permanent staff member since 2008 – said she was dismissed by the school just days before the start of the new term.

The school told the commission it was a genuine redundancy arising from a 'substantial drop' in the number of students enrolling

The teacher believed the school made a decision to “get rid of her” because of a number of issues between herself and management, including the health and safety concerns.

Genuine redundancy

The school, however, told the commission it was a genuine redundancy arising from a “substantial drop” in the number of students enrolling.

This, the school said, was partly due to the discontinuation of an EU programme which sent foreign students to English-speaking schools.

The school said the fact that she had raised a grievance “did not come into the equation”.

It added that there were no alternative positions available because the number of international students had dropped so dramatically.

In its decision on the teacher’s unfair dismissals claim, the Workplace Relations Commission said it was not convinced by the school’s argument.

The commission said that the teacher had been treated “shabbily” by her former employer. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw
The commission said that the teacher had been treated “shabbily” by her former employer. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

“It would seem to me that other matters were at play, including the grievance raised by the complainant in May 2016,” according to the commission’s adjudicator.

The commission said that the teacher had been treated “shabbily” by her former employer.

The commission found it took the school almost seven months to pay her statutory lump sum redundancy payment of €11,400

“The manner in which she was dismissed was unfair, procedures were non-existent and the rules of natural justice ignored, no notice of redundancy was given, no consultation took place, no alternative rules were subject to debate, the complainant was not offered the opportunity to appeal the decision to make her redundant.”

It said there was a requirement for fair and open procedures in redundancy cases, However, it said the teacher has been subjected to “dismal treatment” .

Lump sum

In addition, the commission found it took the school almost seven months to pay her statutory lump sum redundancy payment of €11,400.

Also, it found that the teacher had been “left in a state of limbo” from August 2016 to March 2017 due to a delay receiving a P45. This created problems for the teacher seeking social welfare assistance or another job.

In a separate complaint, the teacher argued that there had been breaches involving the school of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act (2005). The teacher argued that concerns over students’ living conditions has been “ignored.”

The school, however, pointed out that not one student had withdrawn and it was liable to regular State inspections.

The adjudicator found that while there was enough evidence to indicate that the teacher was “penalised on foot of the complaints she made regarding safety, health and welfare”, the complaint had failed.

Another complaint by the teacher made under the Protected Disclosures Act was not upheld.

Attempts to contact Rathdown School for comment over the weekend were unsuccessful.