Dutch academic fired by UCC after struggling to find housing awarded €300,000

Third highest pay out ever made at WRC granted to economist Dr Wim Naude, who said his career had been ‘ruined’

A Dutch academic hired during the Covid-19 pandemic and then fired after telling University College Cork (UCC) that he was having trouble moving to Ireland to teach in person because of the housing crisis has won €300,000 for unfair dismissal.

It’s the third-highest award ever made at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) to an individual employee, and the record order by the tribunal against a public sector employer under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977.

Giving evidence on his complaint, Dutch economics scholar Dr Wim Naude said his career had been “ruined by UCC” and that he was working full time “trying to save my skin” since the dismissal.

Dr Naude was dismissed in August 2023, some 20 months after being appointed to UCC’s College of Business and Law as a full professor, because, the college said, he had failed to move to Cork in that time.


His barrister, Cillian McGovern, appearing instructed by Crushell & Co Solicitors, said it was always Dr Naude’s intention to move to Cork – but that the housing crisis in Ireland was a “significant factor” delaying his move.

The university’s head of HR, Barry O’Brien, said he thought that Dr Naude had moved to Cork during the second half of the previous academic year and it was “not acceptable” that he had not yet moved.

Mr O’Brien replied to Dr Naude on August 8th claiming the academic did not intend to move to Cork for the next academic year, had acted to “frustrate” his contract and that the university “deems your contract of employment to be null and void”, the WRC noted.

Mr O’Brien said Dr Naude had until November 30th until his notice expired and that he expected the academic to have “figured out what the corrective action” was on foot of his email.

“Surely, he could figure out: ‘If I emailed Barry back on August 9th and said I’ll see you in Cork on the 9th of September, there wouldn’t be an issue,’” Mr O’Brien said.

Questioned on his efforts to find new work and mitigate his losses, Dr Naude said: “Since I’ve been fired from UCC, I’ve worked harder than I ever have, to make sure that I am not destitute, that I don’t lose my house, as a result of the actions of UCC which seems to be blaming the victim now.

“I have been full time trying to save my skin,” he added.

Barrister Tom Mallon, for UCC, instructed by Arthur Cox, said Dr Naude was entirely responsible for the dismissal because it was “very clear that to perform the duties requires a physical presence”.

However, Mr McGovern said his client, and had been sacked with no fair process, and that the relocation issue could have been “cured or remedied through discussion”.

Adjudicator Lefre de Burg upheld Dr Naude’s complaint under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 and awarded him €300,000 – a sum equivalent to two years’ salary.