Belfast firm ordered to pay £60k to employee it unfairly dismissed
A Belfast fit-out firm has been ordered to pay almost £60,000 in compensation to a former employee after a tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed.
Kieran Robinson took the case against Portview Fitout Ltd, where he had worked for six years as a systems manager.
Portview has been operating since 1975 and is an interior fit-out contractor for leading brands across the UK, Republic and France.
Mr Robinson (51), who had 34 years' construction industry experience, began working for Portview in January 2012.
In December 2015 Portview's managing director Simon Campbell announced by email the appointments of three employees to the board of directors, all of whom were younger than Mr Robinson.
Mr Robinson had believed he was discriminated against when the three internal managers were promoted.
By 2017, as systems manager, Mr Robinson was in charge of three major areas of the business: health and safety, quality environmental business continuity, and information security and pre-qualification questionnaires.
In October of that year Mr Campbell announced plans to restructure the systems department "to meet the growing needs of the business", which could result in redundancies. The three particular areas within that department which Mr Robinson had managed were to be split into three separate units, each with its own manager.
But Mr Campbell had not discussed his proposed restructure in any way with Mr Robinson prior to proposing it at a board of directors meeting.
The restructure plan meant there was uncertainty around where the three people currently working the systems department, including Mr Robinson, would end up and their roles "may be under the threat of redundancy".
At a later meeting Mr Campbell produced two job descriptions for management roles as part of the restructuring. He told Mr Robinson that he did not think he was suitable for the third new managerial post but he would send the job description to him if he was interested in it.
When he raised a grievance, Mr Robinson was informed that he was welcome to apply for any of the three new posts, which embraced jobs that he was already doing. However, he was never told of salary, bonus and any other associated benefits of these new roles.
Mr Robinson later informed Mr Campbell that he would not be applying for the newly created roles as he believed it was "unreasonable to strip away the duties he was carrying out in his existing post".
At further consultation meeting on December 8, 2017, Mr Campbell asked Mr Robinson if he would be reconsidering applying for any of the alternative roles. When Mr Robinson confirmed that he would not, he was informed that the board would meet in order to conclude the process. He was also warned that a possible outcome was that his position may be at risk of redundancy.
One week later Mr Robinson was told he was being made redundant from that day and would be paid notice of 12 weeks.
Mr Robinson alleged that Mr Campbell told him that the decision to make him redundant was agreed at the board unanimously. However, there had not been a board meeting at which this was decided.
Mr Campbell said there were telephone calls between board members but the tribunal was informed that not all board members were involved in this consultation process.
The nine-day industrial tribunal sitting in Belfast later ruled that Portview had unfairly dismissed Mr Robinson.
Portview was also ordered to pay compensation totalling £57,609 to Mr Robinson.
Yesterday Mr Campbell told the Belfast Telegraph: "The company is seeking a review of the decision on the grounds it disagrees with the findings on some fundamental points of law and the judgment is silent in addressing some key legal arguments put forward in the tribunal."