Jessica has been Working as an Accountant for a Top Accountancy Firm: Employment Law Assignment, UCC, Ireland

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University University College Cork (UCC)- Ireland
Subject Employment law

Case Study

Jessica has been working as an accountant for a top accountancy firm, Conn and Artiste Accountants, since 2015. From the start, she has been working in the ‘Acquisitions and Mergers’ department, where she works alongside two other accountants and reports to a senior accountant in the firm, Harold Conn. She works from the firm’s main office in Grand Canal Dock, where she has been given a computer, desk and chair, and access to an array of accountancy software.

Like her colleagues, she is paid a salary net of tax and social insurance every two weeks. Unlike her colleagues, however, her contract states “I confirm that I am retained by Conn and Artiste Accountants on a self-employed basis. I am deemed to be an independent contractor and nothing in this statement shall be construed as creating the relationship of employer and employee.” As part of her ongoing continuous professional development, Jessica was required to complete a diploma course in the law of acquisitions and mergers in the Law Society of Ireland. She successfully completed this course in November 2019.

While the firm paid the fees for the course, which were €3,000, Jessica’s contract states “The firm may deduct the cost of any course undertaken by you if you fail to successfully complete the course or if you leave the firm within 12 months of having completed the course.” A month ago, Jessica told the senior accountant, Mr. Conn, that she was pregnant.

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She had always had a good relationship with Mr. Conn, and, over the years, he had praised her for her work and recommended her for several high profile projects. So, she was surprised when his response to her good news was that he was “very disappointed to hear that”. Since then, her relationship with Mr. Conn has deteriorated. He has stopped delegating work to her, and he has been highly critical of any work that she has done, remarking on several occasions that he thought that she had “lost focus” on her work.

Last week, Jessica went to print some documents and noticed that there were sparks and smoke coming out of the office printer. She immediately reported this health and safety issue to Mr. Conn, who became furious and accused her of deliberately breaking the printer. Before she knew what was happening, Mr. Conn proceeded to dismiss Jessica for misconduct. When she tried to explain herself, Mr. Conn told her that he did not want to hear another word and that she should pack up her things and leave.

Jessica just about managed to state that she had employment law rights, to which Mr. Conn responded that as an “independent contractor” she had few if any employment law rights. Jessica has since received her P45 and a final paycheque. Much to her horror, Jessica sees that the entire amount for the diploma course fees has been deducted from her salary so that the net amount owing to her is €10.15.

Please advise Jessica on the employment law issues arising in this case study. Please refer to case law and/or legislation, where appropriate, to support your answer.

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