IT engineer gets half year’s pay over redundancy that did not ‘exhaust all options’

PFH Technology cleared of operating sham redundancy process by WRC but will still have to pay out close to €18,000

An IT engineer facing redundancy who was deemed “unsuitable” for an alternative job, in part because he didn’t have a level 8 college degree, has won close to €18,000 for unfair dismissal on top of his statutory severance pay.

The Workplace Relations Commission rejected claims by the worker’s lawyers that he was put through a “sham” redundancy process, but found that his employer, the PFH Technology Group, “fell short” on its legal obligations.

A senior recruiter at the company told the tribunal that some of its US clients had vacancies but would not consider an employee who lacked a level 8 honours degree.

The tribunal made its findings in a decision on a complaint by Paul Atkinson under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977.


Mr Atkinson had worked on site for a client of his employer as an infrastructure business integrator – an IT engineering and implementation role – for about 6½ years until he was told the contract would be ending in November 2022, the tribunal heard.

He was let go in March 2023 following a series of redundancy consultation meetings – a process his lawyers contended was a “sham” brought about by a “client-imposed decision”.

Giving evidence, Mr Atkinson told the WRC he had gone from a five-day week to four and taken a cut in salary from €3,407 a month to €2,971 in October 2021, following a bereavement. He had been asked to go back to five days, but refused, and believed the four-day work pattern “wasn’t welcomed” by the client company and that his relationship with his manager “deteriorated”.

He pointed to the appointment of two interns at the firm, calling them a “cheaper option” for his employer – adding that references had been made to his performance when he was informed the contract was ending.

His barrister, Byron Wade, appearing instructed by Healy O’Connor Solicitors, argued that the redundancy had not been impersonal and amounted to a “misuse of the redundancy process”.

The company and its witnesses denied that there had been any consideration of Mr Atkinson’s performance.

Cara Jane Walsh, appearing for the respondent instructed by Ronan Daly Jermyn Solicitors, submitted the firm had given Mr Atkinson the details of 38 open roles at PFH Technology while he was on notice of redundancy.

The tribunal heard Mr Atkinson had turned down some potential roles because they offered lower pay or involved more travel. While his CV had been given to two client companies, neither came through – one of them calling nobody to interview, while another deemed Mr Atkinson’s CV “unsuitable”.

The evidence of PFH Technology’s head of recruitment, Carmel Holmes, was that there was “no clear contingency” in the company on where an employee would go next when a contract ended and “circumstances enter a fluidity around re-hire”, the tribunal noted.

Ms Holmes explained that she was concerned during the consultation process that “US companies set a required prerequisite for a level 8 qualification” – an honours bachelor’s degree. Mr Atkinson’s reluctance to return to working a five-day week was also a factor, she added.

Adjudicator Patsy Doyle noted in her decision that the company understood its obligation to “scope out alternative employment” and did so – but that these “did not work out” as they were either offering lower pay, headcount was not approved, or a “mandatory level 8 [qualification] was not visible in the complainant’s CV”.

In her decision, Ms Doyle found that “insufficient regard” was paid by PFH Technology to Mr Atkinson’s permanent status and that the “rush to redundancy was too hasty”, as her view was that the complainant could have gone on lay-off.

The company “fell short” when it “accepted impediments placed by other clients” as having more weight than the mobility clause in Mr Atkinson’s contract of employment.

Ms Doyle found it was not a case of “sham redundancy” as alleged by the complainant and his legal team. The redundancy had been “genuine”, she wrote, but as it had been carried out without “exhausting all viable options” or providing Mr Atkinson with an appeal, Mr Atkinson’s dismissal was unfair.

She awarded him 26 weeks’ pay, €17,831.29, for a breach of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977.

This award provided for the fact Mr Atkinson had already received a statutory redundancy lump sum of €6,372 and the fact that the firm had paid him his salary and pension entitlements on the basis of a five-day week between January and mid-March 2023, Ms Doyle added.