Sacked hair salon boss wins €86,000 in unopposed WRC case

Commission told firm was ‘not contesting any of the complaints and would not be presenting any witnesses’

The former managing director of a hair salon company owned by the mother of his child has been awarded €86,000 for unfair dismissal after representatives of the firm dropped out of a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) hearing and said they would not be contesting the case.

The employment tribunal criticised the business for its approach to the matter – stating in its decision that the man’s employment rights claims “could have been concluded at an earlier date” as it declined to present a defence after the case was twice adjourned over 11 months.

However, the WRC stopped short of awarding a maximum award for lost earnings to its ex-managing director after ruling that he could have done more to find new work in the meantime.

The employee, Donal O’Meacair, secured the sum on foot of complaints under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, the Payment of Wages Act 1991, the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act 1973, and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 against Reynolds and Roche Ltd, trading as Zero One Hair Salon.

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When the case was first called in February 2023, the parties asked the tribunal to adjourn the matter for talks on a settlement, but these efforts failed to reach agreement.

A company motion for adjournment was granted on medical ground in October last year, and the matter resumed on January 22nd this year.

The company’s solicitor, David O’Riordan of Sherwin O’Riordan, told the tribunal on that date that the firm “was not contesting any of the complaints and would not be presenting any witnesses”.

He added that it was expected that the company would be placed into voluntary liquidation in the “near future”. Mr O’Riordan and a company director then left the hearing.

Mr O’Meacair said he had been earning €1,000 a week for the position at the time he was dismissed in April 2022 with no notice pay – having gone without his salary for a month by that point.

He told the tribunal that the business is owned by the mother of his child, but that his dismissal was effected by the owner’s mother, who was the other company director, while the owner was absent on extended sick leave.

Mr O’Meacair said that when the owner first took ill in 2021, her mother “began to request financial information” from him.

The director emailed him in January 2022 indicating there was “no longer a requirement for a managing director”, with a similar communication following in March that year, Mr O’Meacair said in evidence. His case was that he was unfairly dismissed on April 15th that year.

As well as claiming for unpaid salary and notice pay, Mr O’Meacair also said he was due pay in lieu for 15 days’ untaken annual leave at the time of his dismissal.

Adjudicator Maria Kelly wrote that since the dismissal claim was not being contested, “the only issue to be decided is the amount of compensation to be awarded”.

She noted Mr O’Meacair’s evidence that after his dismissal, he was solely responsible for caring for his child as the owner, the child’s mother, was still on sick leave, and therefore “unable to apply for other jobs”.

The complainant had taken a course on renewable energy and applied for various jobs between June and December 2022 – but had not secured a new job at the time of the reconvened hearing in January 2024, Ms Kelly noted.

Even with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the jobs market and the restrictions of childcare duties, Ms Kelly’s view was that Mr O’Meacair “should have made a greater effort to obtain other employment”.

The adjudicator noted particularly that there was “no evidence that he considered applying for jobs outside his immediate area of interest”.

However, Ms Kelly said she also had to consider the employer’s approach to the case, and wrote: “Given that the complaint was not contested, I am satisfied that this matter could have been concluded at an earlier date.”

She awarded Mr O’Meacair €78,000 for the unfair dismissal, and another €8,000 for non-payment of wages, non-payment of notice, and the failure to pay in lieu for annual leave on termination.