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Record award for lecturer who didn’t relocate post-virus
Pic: RollingNews.ie

07 May 2024 / employment Print

€300,000 award for prof who didn’t relocate post-virus

Record-breaking compensation awards at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is the subject of commentary by Mason Hayes and Curran LLP.

The lawyers point out that the latest large pay-out comes on top of a recent award of compensation in excess of €400,000.

The subsequent adjudication, delivered on 2 May, made a landmark award of €300,000 for the unfair dismissal of a university academic.

The case hinged on the relocation of a lecturer who was initially hired to work on a remote basis because of pandemic travel restrictions.

His employer subsequently said that the college was a “physical-presence university”, and that he was expected to be present for the 2021-2022 academic year.

The complainant stated that he had difficulty relocating due to housing issues.

He was subsequently dismissed by his employer’s head of HR by email because he had not relocated.

Unfairly dismissed

The WRC adjudication officer (AO) found that the complainant had been unfairly dismissed, the MHC lawyers point out.

The officer pointed to the Irish legislative framework that meant that any employee facing disciplinary sanction was entitled to fair procedures and natural justice.

The AO found that the complainant had:

  • Right to be notified that he was at risk of sanction,
  • Right to investigation and disciplinary process,
  • Right of representation,
  • Right to present case,
  • Right of reply, and
  • Right of appeal.

The employer asserted that the employee had committed a fundamental breach of contract and relied on the catch-all “other substantial grounds” clause in the Unfair Dismissal Acts.

The AO said that, prior to the complainant’s dismissal, there had been no correspondence suggesting that he was breaching his contract, or giving him an opportunity to remedy it.

The AO stated that she would have reinstated the employee, as the dismissal lacked “dignity, decency and responsibility”.

The high compensation award reflected the complainant’s stated inability to mitigate his losses and his belief that his career was “ruined” by his employer.

He could not use the title ‘Professor’, which made it difficult for him to obtain consultancy work, as he was no longer attached to a university, and had only earned €17,000 since August 2022.

The MHC lawyers warn that employers should note this decision when dealing with employees who refuse to work in the jurisdiction.


Fair procedures and natural justice should be applied even where no disciplinary issue has arisen, but where an employee refuses to attend the workplace.

The AO noted that the employer did not present any argument on frustration of contract that could have led to a different outcome.

It remained to be seen if the employer would appeal the decision to the Labour Court, the MHC lawyers said.

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