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Administrator wins case against nursing home

Dara Bradley

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An administrator who was unfairly dismissed from her job at a County Galway nursing home has been awarded €55,000 in compensation.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal, following two hearings, ruled that Oranmore Nursing Home wrongly dismissed one of its employees, an administrator who had responsibility for payroll and finance. The hearings took place last year and the ruling was issued this week by the Labour Court.

In September 2012, a chartered accountant was hired by the nursing home on a consultancy basis to review the business, which was “struggling”.

During the review, the accountant found “irregularities” in relation to the claimant’s recorded hours of work and payments processed.

There were three systems in place for recording the hours worked, including a clock-in finger point system, a sign-in book and a roster system. He reviewed the system and investigated dates in 2012 and 2013.

After this process, the worker was issued with a letter on December 10 suspending her on full pay following the outcome of further investigation.

She was told of two issues: falsified timesheets on time-point system when she was absent from work and processed payroll to account for her being at work when she was on holidays.

The worker was asked to respond to the issues raised at a meeting on December 13. Further meetings took place in January and February, and she was dismissed for gross misconduct on February 19, 2014.

Patrick Keane, the owner, gave evidence the business was experiencing “serious financial problems”, which is why he hired the financial consultant, who brought concerns to him about the worker’s attendance at work and time sheets.

Mr Keane was of the view that all employees were required to clock in/sign in and clock out/sign out and he “found it incredible that the claimant had not done this as she was aware of the policy”. He met with the claimant and examined her written explanation as well as the evidence put forward by the consultant and decided to dismiss her.

The claimant, who lived in an apartment on site and was on-call as security for residents, had no disciplinary issues prior to receiving the December 10 letter. That day she was told of the investigation and was suspended.

She recalled how she had noticed some changes in work practices in early December including the removal of residents’ accounts from her responsibility. A notice appeared for all employees to clock in while previously the system was loosely observed, she said.

The system required the manual correcting of the clock-in system to provide for breaks and leave. The claimant was conscious that the system was open to error and had raised this as an issue but no changes were made. Her role involved manually entering hours on the system for all employees by using the rosters and time sheets. This information was then transferred to the payroll system. When entering times on the system the claimant was responsible for calculating and adjusting times taking into account breaks. This ensured employees were paid for the hours worked.

She said she never premeditated entering times on her clock when she was not in the workplace. She provided the nursing home with her own personal diary to support her case, and it hasn’t been returned.

In order to prove her attendance at work on the dates in dispute, the claimant requested that CCTV and cash receipt books could be checked but this was not done, the tribunal heard. When she attended the office to examine the books she established proof that she had made a lodgement on January 2 which was one of the dates she was accused of not attending work.

She said the appeal of her dismissal was not independent and the appeal officer was a personal friend of the owners.

The tribunal ruled that the nursing home had “failed to provide convincing evidence of the claimant’s non-attendance at work on the dates disputed.”

It ruled that the nursing home conceded at the hearing that she was in attendance at work on January 2 and 4, after she provided proof that she was in the workplace on those dates.

It expressed concern that minutes of meetings held with the worker were not taken and was “particularly concerned” that “no independent appeal was offered to the claimant initially although an appeal was eventually offered.”

It ruled she was unfairly dismissed and awarded €55,000 in compensation.

CITY TRIBUNE

Galway City publican in heroic River Corrib rescue

Francis Farragher

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A city publican who last week helped save the life of a woman who had entered the waters of the Corrib off Wolfe Tone Bridge has made an appeal for young people to ‘look out for each other’.

Fergus McGinn, proprietor of McGinn’s Hop House in Woodquay, had been walking close to Jury’s Inn when he saw the young woman enter the river.

He then rushed to the riverbank on the Long Walk side of the bridge, jumped into the water, spoke to the woman and stayed with her until the emergency services arrived.

The incident occurred at about 3.45pm on Friday last, and a short time later the emergency services were on the scene to safely rescue the woman.

“She was lucky in that the river level was very low and she didn’t injure herself on the rocks and stones just under the water.”

He also appealed to the public to support in whatever they could the work being done by groups like the Claddagh Watch volunteers.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Pubs face court – for serving booze on their doorsteps!

Dara Bradley

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – Gardaí have warned city publicans that alcohol cannot be served outside their own premises – even in newly-created on-street spaces designated by Galway City Council as suitable for outdoor dining.

Councillor Mike Crowe (FF) said three Gardaí visited a number of city centre pubs on Thursday afternoon informing them that drinking outdoors was not allowed under licensing laws.

“They warned publicans and restaurants that the area outside their premises is not covered by the licence, and therefore under national legislation, they are breaking the law, because they are not entitled to sell alcohol in non-licensed areas.

“The operators were told that this was an official warning, and they will be back again in a few days and if it persisted, they [Gardaí] would have no option but to issue a charge and forward files to the Director of Public Prosecution. You could not make this up.

“All of the big operators were visited, and received an official warning, and they will be charged if they persist. According to the guards, they’re getting instructions from [Garda headquarters in] Phoenix Park,” he said.

The matter will be raised at a meeting of the Galway City Joint Policing Committee on Monday.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Call for 50% affordable homes in new Galway City Council estates

Stephen Corrigan

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From this week’s Galway City Tribune – The next Galway City Development Plan should include a greater provision for affordable housing than that recommended by Government, a meeting of the City Council has heard.

Cllr Declan McDonnell (Ind) told the meeting that while it was the Government’s intention to introduce a stipulation that new estates should have 10% affordable housing, Galway should go further – building anything up to 50% affordable in developments that are led by the local authority.

The Affordable Housing Bill, which is currently working its way through the Oireachtas, proposes that all developments should have 10% affordable and 10% social housing as a condition of their approval.

Affordable housing schemes help lower-income households buy their own houses or apartments in new developments at significantly less than their open market value, while social housing is provided by local authorities and housing agencies to those who cannot afford their own accommodation.

The Council meeting, part of the pre-draft stage of forming the Development Plan to run from 2023 to 2029, was to examine the overarching strategies that will inform the draft plan to come before councillors by the end of the year and Cllr McDonnell said a more ambitious target for affordable housing was absolutely necessary.

“It must be included that at least 50% of housing must be affordable [in social housing developments],” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by Cllr Eddie Hoare (FG) who questioned if the City Council was ‘tied down’ by national guidelines, or if it could increase the minimum percentage of affordable housing required locally.
This is a shortened preview version of this article. To read the rest of the story, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. You can buy a digital edition HERE.

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