Irish Water ordered to pay €35,000 to woman employee.
Woman left tearful and suffering panic attacks when job changed after maternity leave
Irish Water has been ordered to pay €35,000 to a new mother after its discriminatory treatment of the woman left her tearful, suffering panic attacks, unable to sleep and shattering her professional and personal confidence.
The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has made the compensation award for the distress suffered after it found that the State utility discriminated against the female employee on the grounds of gender and family status.
WRC adjudication officer, Niamh O’Carroll Kelly found that after returning from maternity leave, the woman’s role with Irish Water “was substantially different and less favourable”.
Prior to going on maternity leave, the woman was in charge of her own projects, she wrote her own reports and worked two days a week from Cork.
However, post maternity leave, Ms O’Carroll Kelly found that the woman was not given any of her own projects, wrote no reports, had little or no work to do and was continually pressurised into working five days a week from Dublin or resign.
Ms O’Carroll Kelly found that Irish Water discriminated against the worker under the Employment Equality Acts as it failed to allow her return to the same job after maternity leave. She found that discriminatory treatment “has had a very significant effect” on the woman’s health.
She said: “She is suffering from panic attacks. She isn’t sleeping, she is tearful all the time. Her confidence both professionally and personally has been shattered and a dormant neck tremor has returned. The tremor was visible during the hearing.”
The woman gave birth to her baby in November 2015 and took unpaid leave after her maternity leave expired.
However, prior to returning to work, her line manager contacted her to say that there had been extensive changes and she would now be required to work in Dublin five days a week.
The woman was shocked. She was still breastfeeding and couldn’t work five days a week in Dublin.
The woman returned to work in October 2016 and agreed an arrangement to January 2017 where she would take one day leave, work in Dublin two days a week and Cork two days a week.
This would expire in January and she would then work five days a week in Dublin.
The woman found the return to work experience as ‘very upsetting’. She said that she was getting up in the middle of the night and leaving her baby to travel to Dublin to do nothing. She felt that she was being pushed out.
The woman became ill due to stress and was certified unfit to work from March 2017 and hasn’t yet returned to work since.
Irish Water did not attend at the WRC hearing to contest the employee’s claim.
A spokeswoman for Irish Water said on Monday: “Irish Water cannot comment on this case pending appeal.”
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