A bookkeeper says the company behind popular Dublin nightclubs Odeon, Dakota and 4 Dame Lane told her that her job was gone when she looked to come back from work after lockdown – but then advertised the same role two weeks later.
"I went to them after the pandemic hoping to go back to work and it just got shoved back in my face," she told the Workplace Relations Commission at a hearing this morning.
Amy Meredith has lodged a complaint under the Unfair Dismissals Act against Bolway Investments Ltd of 8 South William Street, Dublin 2, trading as the Odeon Group.
No representative of the company appeared to defend the complaint.
With the hospitality sector still under pandemic trading restrictions, Ms Meredith said she made her employer aware that she was pregnant between March and April 2021 – but that she would be "happy to help if they opened up".
However, she said she heard nothing until July that year, when her sister saw a post on social media from one of the bars in the group.
"They'd opened Dakota without letting me know," Ms Meredith said.
But when she contacted the company to ask if she could come back to work she was told there was no work for her as only one of the bars was open.
However, she said she sent her daughter back to creche from July 2021 in order to make herself available if she was needed.
Ms Meredith took maternity leave from the first week of August 2021, before asking again whether her position was back between October and December that year, she said.
She told the hearing she spoke with the WRC’s helpline and was advised that if her job was gone, she was entitled to redundancy and notice pay.
When she put the question of her statutory entitlements to the firm in November 2021, she was told: "No, we don’t have a contract here for you."
She said she had never been issued with a contract of employment by the company because the office manager position had been vacant when she was first hired.
"[The manager] was looking for this invisible contract which I’d already told them didn’t exist," she said.
She asked for pay in lieu of annual leave for her last year at work and received this in December 2021, she said.
When restrictions were lifted again after the January lockdown this year, she said she wrote to the company offering to come in to work again in March, as soon as her youngest daughter was old enough to be sent to creche.
She said the manager replied to her on 24 January this year.
"I was told there was no job," she said.
However, she said she then saw a vacancy at the firm on Jobs.ie just two weeks later.
"It was my old job. It said: 'A job you might like’ – I would have liked it!" she said.
She said she had since found part-time work as a bookkeeper at a higher rate of pay
"Could you go back?" adjudicating officer Breiffni O’Neill asked the complainant.
"I wouldn’t be in a rush – if they treated me like that once, what excuse would you get really. I went to them after the pandemic hoping to go back to work and it just got shoved back in my face," she said.
She confirmed she had lost trust in the firm.
Mr O’Neill asked her to submit evidence of her job search after the termination of her employment, and said he would deliver his decision in a matter of weeks.