Skip to main content


In a significant ruling, a Dutch academic, initially hired during the Covid-19 pandemic, was subsequently terminated after informing University College Cork about his challenges in relocating to Ireland for in-person teaching. This case marks the third-highest award ever granted by the Workplace Relations Commission to an individual employee and represents a record order against a public sector employer under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977.

Dr. Wim Naude, a Dutch economist, detailed how his career suffered due to University College Cork (UCC), leading him to strive tirelessly to restore his professional reputation after being dismissed in August 2023, almost two years after assuming the role of a full professor, allegedly for failing to relocate to Cork as expected.

Housing Crisis as a Barrier:

Dr. Naude’s lawyer, Cillian McGovern BL, highlighted the housing crisis in Ireland as a significant obstacle in Dr. Naude’s relocation plans. During the tribunal proceedings, it emerged that Dr. Naude began working at UCC in January 2021, fulfilling his teaching responsibilities remotely. He visited Ireland in June and July 2021, as travel restrictions eased, actively seeking housing but facing considerable challenges. Dr. Naude noted the provision of on-campus accommodation for another professor but lamented the absence of similar support for him. Personal challenges, including his wife’s health issues and his son’s autism, further complicated the relocation process.

Attempts to Address the Issue:

Dr. Naude diligently pursued avenues to resolve the relocation issue. He proposed either continuing in a blended teaching format, mostly remote, or taking a 33% reduction in his hours as unpaid leave.

Barry O’Brien, the university’s head of HR, expressed his belief that Dr. Naude had relocated to Cork during the latter part of the previous academic year. He deemed it unacceptable that Dr. Naude had not yet made the move, expecting him to be fully settled in Cork, integrated into campus life, and actively contributing. On August 8th, Mr. O’Brien responded to Dr. Naude, alleging that the academic had no intention of moving to Cork for the upcoming academic year. He accused Dr. Naude of deliberately obstructing his contract and stated that the university considered his employment contract null and void.


The tribunal highlighted UCC’s abrupt dismissal of Dr. Naude, noting the lack of a fair chance for him to defend himself or a proper understanding of his situation. Adjudicator Lefre de Burgh ruled in favour of Dr. Naude under the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, awarding him €300,000 in compensation, equivalent to two years’ salary. Importantly, the ruling acknowledged the negative impact on Dr. Naude’s professional reputation and his struggle to secure new job opportunities. Emphasising the importance of fair treatment and careful consideration of employees’ situations, especially in challenging circumstances like relocation during a housing crisis, Dr. Naude’s case shows the significance of employers fulfilling their responsibilities to their employees.