Pastry Chef Wins €9,000 Award

Powerscourt Hotel has been ordered to pay €9,000 compensation to a former executive pastry chef who resigned after it tried to impose a pay reduction on his return to work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Workplace Relations Commission ruled that the Powerscourt Hotel Resort and Spa in Co Wicklow unfairly dismissed Pawel Batko. Mr Batko complained to the WRC that the hotel had unilaterally tried to impose new contractual terms on him in June 2020 when it was re-opening facilities after its closure during the pandemic.

The hotel denied that it had constructively dismissed the pastry chef and claimed that alternative terms were suggested to Mr Batko in an effort to get him back to work during restrictions imposed during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The WRC heard that Mr Batko, who had worked full-time at the hotel for over six years, was laid off in March 2020 due to the pandemic but received a call on June 17, 2020, to return to work for three days per week. Mr Batko was advised that he would be the only member of his team returning at that time, and he would be expected to operate in all areas of the kitchen when the hotel reopened and not just the bakery.

He was informed the following day that a pay reduction of 9.8% was being imposed as the hotel had suffered a significant drop in revenue. Mr Batko said he was told that the hotel did not intend to make his role redundant, but he believed he had been dismissed as his contract of employment was fundamentally altered.

The hotel said Mr Batko had chosen to remain on lay-off and had requested that he be made redundant.

In its ruling, the WRC said it was apparent that the hotel sought to simply pay Mr Batko less for completing the same amount of work.

In settling on an award of €9,000, the WRC said it took into account that Mr Batko had secured alternative temporary employment shortly after his dismissal, but at a much lower rate of pay, while he had also sought to retrain and seek work in an alternative field.