A trainee teacher says the international fashion house Prada reneged on a promise to let her switch to part-time hours at its Kildare Village store when time came for her to do her seven-week school placement last year.
Hayleigh Hernon has lodged complaints under the Unfair Dismissals Act, the Payment of Wages Act, the Organisation of Working Time Act, and the Terms of Employment (Information) Act against the Prada store at the Kildare Village shopping centre, Nurney Road, Kildare.
She told the Workplace Relations Commission she waited months for an answer from her boss, who then told her just days before her placement was due to start: "It's been a no."
No representative from Prada appeared in order to defend the claims at a hearing this afternoon.
"So far, the respondent hasn’t arrived. Are they still trading?" adjudicating officer Pat Brady asked the complainant.
Ms Hernon confirmed the store was still open, adding: "I know they did say they didn’t receive letters."
Mr Brady said he was empowered to convene a hearing in the absence of the respondent, and that he would only reconvene the matter if there was an "explanation" from the employer as to why it had not attended.
Ms Hernon gave evidence that she was already studying to be a teacher before starting a job at the Prada store in Kildare Village on 31 October 2020.
"I said I’d have to do a placement. They told me they’d offer me a part-time position at that time," she said.
She told the tribunal that her placement was delayed from February 2021 to September that year due to the pandemic-related school closures, and that she approached her manager in late June or early July to ask him to make arrangements.
At this point he told her he would have to speak with the company’s HR department, she said.
"It’s a retail company?" the adjudicating officer Mr Brady asked. "It’s that Prada?"
"It’s that Prada," Ms Hernon said.
She said she heard nothing back as the weeks progressed and that her manager was "blasé about it" and "said it’d be fine".
"You were told that if it was likely to be a problem you would be told?" Mr Brady asked.
"Yes, I just wanted certainty," Ms Hernon said.
She said her manager was in meetings with HR around this time but that the only feedback she was getting at the time was "don't worry".
That changed on 27 August, just days before her placement was due to commence around 3 September that year, when she was pulled aside by her manager at the end of her shift and brought to a back room, she said.
"He said to me: 'It’s been a no. HR have said to me they’re not going to change the contract,’" Ms Hernon said.
She said was instructed to come in for work again the following Monday, when there would be an opportunity to speak with an area manager.
Ms Hernon said she was pulled aside again at the end of her shift and informed that the company had a policy of employing no more than one part-timer for every ten full-time employees.
"The policy only seemed to apply to me – it didn’t apply to the other two part-timers there," she said.
Mr Brady said he would have to consider whether she might have resigned rather than being dismissed.
"They told me to clear out my locker," she said.
"That’s normally a sign all right," Mr Brady said.
The complainant added that she continued to look for suitable work at Kildare Village and saw advertisements for two part-time staff at the Prada store there in October 2021.
"It’s not that they wouldn’t give me part-time work. It was that they promised me they would," she said.
"If they couldn’t fulfil it I would have had time to find another position in another store."
The adjudicating officer, Mr Brady, said he would deliver his decision in the next three to four weeks.