WRC rejects UCC campus firm CEO's unpaid €6,512 bonus claim

ireland
Wrc Rejects Ucc Campus Firm Ceo's Unpaid €6,512 Bonus Claim Wrc Rejects Ucc Campus Firm Ceo's Unpaid €6,512 Bonus Claim
A CEO of a University College Cork (UCC) campus company has failed in a bonus row with the firm.
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Gordon Deegan

A CEO of a University College Cork (UCC) campus company has failed in a bonus row with the firm.

This follows Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudicator, Thomas O’Driscoll rejecting Ms Arlene Vithaldas's Payment of Wages Act claim over an alleged unpaid bonus of €6,512 for last year.

The Cork university established UCC Academy DAC with the objectives of supporting the creation of international structures for overseas offices and, more generally, the delivery of UCC’s strategic goals.

Ms Vithaldas has been employed by UCC Academy DAC since 2014 on a series of fixed term contracts before being made permanent in March 2019.

As CEO of the firm, Ms Vithaldas leads a staff of 50 and from October 2018 received an annual salary of €110,000 before receiving a 2 per cent pay increase from last October.

Annual revenues

UCC Academy DAC records annual revenues in excess of €3 million and Ms Vithaldas can receive an annual performance related bonus of 10 per cent.

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For 2020, Ms Vithaldas was paid a 4 per cent bonus and was seeking payment of the remaining 6 per cent or €6,512 at the WRC.

In his findings, Mr O’Driscoll has determined that Ms Vithaldas’s claim is not well-founded and the non-payment of the 6 per cent bonus was not an unlawful deduction under the Payment of Wages Act.

Mr O’Driscoll stated that he was satisfied that UCC Academy DAC had an allowable contractual authority which was exercised reasonably and fairly, to pay a discretionary bonus at the 4 per cent level.

He also stated that UCC Academy DAC had the discretion not to pay any bonus under the contract, but did elect to pay a 4 per cent bonus.

Ms Vithaldas argued that the company, under her leadership, had performed reasonably well under challenging circumstances last year.

Mr O’Driscoll stated that international enrolments were down and expected to end at just 60 per cent of target for the 2019/20 financial year, he said that in an uncontested argument the campus firm stated that despite targets not being reached, UCC would provide payment to UCC Academy DAC to help support a break even position.

The campus company pointed out that Ms Vithaldas’s contract stated that an annual bonus of 10 per cent may be payable to her and subject to an annual review.

Bonus scheme

The company stated that the contract outlined that the bonus scheme is entirely at the discretion of the company.

Ms Vithaldas argued that she performed relatively well in spite of the impact of the pandemic.

She pointed out that most eligible employees had received their full bonus payments and further, the campus firm’s international teams' bonus were paid in full in January 2021 after the decision not to pay Ms Vithaldas’s bonus.

Ms Vithaldas argued that were it necessary to make savings by cutting staff bonuses, cuts should have been made across the board instead of singling her out.

She also argued that even if UCC Academy DAC had a ‘free hand’ at it claims, the exercise to withhold the bonus was an unreasonable exercise of that discretion.

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