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Worker who bumped into boss on holiday wins tribunal

Maloney bumped into his bosses while on a holiday they said was unauthorised

A worker who bumped into his boss while on holiday in Portugal has won his unfair dismissal tribunal.

Gary Maloney, a used-car salesman at Bill Griffin Motors in Dublin, was awarded €12,500 (around £10,600) for loss of earnings as he was unemployed for five months following his dismissal.

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Maloney claimed he had asked for annual leave three months in advance for his holiday to Portugal. He said this had been approved by the company’s sales director who said: "It should be okay."

The sales director, Dave Griffin, said he never approved the leave request as he wanted his full sales team at work while he and another director, Robert Griffin, were to attend a family wedding, also in Portugal.

However, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in Dublin heard that Maloney returned from his holiday in October 2022 to find his employment had been terminated.

The WRC heard that Maloney bumped into Robert Griffin while on holiday. The pair took a selfie and sent it to a colleague. Robert Griffin said that Maloney approached him at a bar and asked: "Is Dave here?" – miming a ‘hiding’ gesture.

David Griffin said that he had already been sent the selfie when he touched down in Portugal and found himself across a restaurant dining room from Maloney later in the week.

Following the incident, there were conflicting reports about whether Maloney resigned or had been fired.

Upon his return, Maloney said he was challenged by another employee, David Fleming, who asked him where he had been.

Maloney said: “Number one, well, he knew where I was, I was away in the sun because I had a tan. Number two, I was aware that the person I’d sent the photo to had circulated it to all the other staff.”

He said he was told to go home and leave his laptop on the premises to await contact from one of the directors.

However, Fleming said Maloney had shrugged his shoulders and said: “Don’t worry about it, I’m done. Make sure I’m paid.”

Read more: Office workers discouraged from taking leave

Marie Scullion, partner at Eversheds Sutherland, said the case is a reminder to set clear guidelines on requesting leave.

She told HR magazine: “Employers can set out guidelines for employees on annual leave in their employee handbook.  

“Steps to request annual leave should be clearly set out, such as who to make the request to, how much advance notice is required, any parameters on when leave can be taken, and what considerations will be taken into account when assessing the request, such as whether other employees are also on leave at the same time.”

She added that Irish employers can direct when leave should be taken so long as it is in line with the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997.

She said: “For example, employers can specify that employees must take time off during Christmas or during the summer holidays. In the retail and hospitality industry, employers might try to limit annual leave requests during busy periods like Christmas.

“That said, an employer must be mindful of ensuring that employees take rest and have time with their families.

“If an employee does take unauthorised leave, the policy should be clear that the employer may take disciplinary action.”