In one of the first cases of its kind an office worker who felt she had no choice but to resign after her employer refused her permission to work from home has won an unfair dismissal case.

The court heard that the unnamed worker sent an email to a university-based Facilities Management Service Provider in April 2020 stating that her employer’s refusal to accept home-based working conditions had increased the infection risk with COVID-19 for all three team members. She stated: “In the event one of us gets sick I will also be putting at risk my husband who is asthmatic.”

Ruling in favour of the worker Judge Mr. Baneham found that the member of staff had “no real option but to resign” after her employer failed to take reasonably practicable steps to mitigate the risk posed by Covid 19 in the workplace. He also ruled that employer failed to implement the proposals made by the three team members that would have eliminated the risk of transmission of Covid-19 in the workplace.

Small office to blame

The court was shown a photo taken on April 17th last showing her and her colleagues working in close proximity in the small office. In another sent, the worker told her employer that she was not able to socially distance from her two colleagues in the workplace.

They stated that these concerns were brought to the employer’s line manager attention numerous times at the start and during the Covid-19 outbreak “but nothing was done about it and zero care and consideration was given back”.

The court further ordered the employer pay the Operations Co-Ordinator €3,712 in compensation for unfair dismissal. Employment law expert, Richard Grogan, described the ruling as “a wake-up call’ for employers.