06 Dec 2021

High Court challenge to pay award refusal to woman who lost job at Kildare pharmaceuticals company

Challenge lodged in the High Court

High Court challenge to pay award refusal to woman unfairly dismissed by Kildare pharmaceuticals company

File photo

A High Court challenge has been brought over the State's refusal to make a payment from the Social Insurance Fund to a woman who lost her job at a pharmaceutical company, which operated as a partnership.

Indira Attride was refused the payment by the Department of Social Protection after she received awards from a rights commissioner arising out of the termination of her employment in respect of her claim she was unfairly dismissed. 

Ms Attride had worked in an administrative role for a partnership trading as Canopus BioPharma Ltd, located at Straffan, Co Kildare between November 2012 and March 2014.

The awards, which totaled €28,513 could not be enforced, as the business she worked for ceased trading, one of the two partners she worked for went bankrupt, and the partnership has no assets.

She sought payment out of the Social Insurance Fund. She was told she was not entitled to payment from the fund because only one of the two partners in the business went bankrupt.

Ms Attride, represented by John Kennedy SC, claims the State's position in regards her claim breaches EU Directives on workers' entitlements.

Counsel said the situation his client found herself in was unfair, and that relevant Irish legislation failed to provide for circumstances where an employee is employed by a partnership.

The Minister for Social Protection, counsel added, was under a duty to put into effect EU regulations to remedy this defect in national law but has failed to do this.

Ms Attride, a homemaker from The Downings, Prosperous, Co Kildare, could not afford to bring legal proceedings seeking to have the other partner in the business she was employed adjudicated as a bankrupt.

In reply to a question from Mr Justice Sanfey, counsel agreed that the Minister's approach seemed to be that if a partnership comprised of 30 people went out of business all of them would have to be made bankrupt before it would make a payment out of the fund to employees in the same situation as Ms Attride. 

In proceedings against the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Ireland and the Attorney General, Ms Attride seeks various orders including that the Minister pay her the awards from the Social Insurance Fund, and that Irish law is brought into compliance with EU law.

She further seeks declarations including that the Irish State is in breach of EU Directives by requiring that employers order to pay an award to an employee must be made bankrupt before paying an award from the social insurance fund.

Permission to bring the challenge was granted on an ex-parte basis by Mr Justice Sanfey on Friday. The judge adjourned the matter to a later date.

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