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Worker sacked for clocking in and out remotely using phone awarded €26,000

Myles Byrne, a crane operator, was recently awarded €26,000 in compensation for unfair dismissal after being caught remotely clocking in and out of work using his phone when he was supposed to be clocking in and out on the building site. K&J Townmore Limited terminated Byrne’s contract in November 2022, ending his 19-month tenure with the company, during which he received a weekly gross wage of €1,000.

K&J Townmore Limited used an application named ClockIt, allowing workers to log their attendance using mobile phones. The app also featured the display of each worker’s location when clocking in or out.

During a WRC adjudication hearing, a company representative stated that Byrne had logged in remotely while off-site on 119 occasions and had logged out while off-site 60 times. This behavior had become more prevalent in his final three to four months with the company, leading to his dismissal on grounds of gross misconduct.

Byrne admitted to the remote clock-ins and clock-outs but explained that he did so because his old phone would often be dead by the end of the day. Furthermore, he occasionally used the app at his residence, located approximately 500 meters from the building site. He argued that this had minimal impact on his work hours, emphasizing that the site manager maintained a manual time sheet alongside the app, creating a “dual system.”

Byrne claimed that his dismissal appeared to be a deliberate action, potentially in response to him voicing concerns about underpaid wages the day before. Nevertheless, his legal representative argued during the WRC hearing that the dismissal was sudden and did not follow fair procedures.

WRC adjudicator Marguerite Buckley concurred that Byrne had not been given an opportunity to address concerns about his remote app usage for clocking in and out. She noted that he was never informed of any issues or the jeopardy of his job. Buckley declared, “I’m satisfied that the complainant’s dismissal fell far short of the standard of fairness expected from a reasonable employer.” Consequently, she awarded Byrne €26,000 as compensation for unfair dismissal.

What’s the difference between Gross misconduct and a fair dismissal procedure?

Gross misconduct refers to serious and unacceptable behavior by an employee that significantly violates the trust and obligations between the employer and the employee. Such behavior may encompass actions like theft, dishonesty, violence, harassment, or severe breaches of health and safety protocols, warranting termination without notice.

A fair procedure for dismissing someone from their job involves clear communication of the reasons for termination, providing the employee an opportunity to respond and defend against allegations, and conducting an impartial and thorough investigation. In addition, fair procedures typically include a progressive disciplinary approach, including a verbal warning, a written warning, and a final warning, allowing the employee a chance to rectify their behavior before termination. This approach ensures that the disciplinary process adheres to the company’s policies and legal regulations, offering the employee an opportunity to appeal the decision and maintaining a reasonable and respectful approach throughout.