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WRC states SHO dispute should have been addressed at local level

By Paul Mulholland - 22nd Oct 2023


At a recent Workplace Relations Commission hearing, an adjudication officer did not make a recommendation in favour of a doctor who worked as an SHO, arguing the grievances were not initially addressed at a local level in a timely manner.

The doctor was employed by a health service provider in its psychiatric department from July 2017 to January 2020. The doctor was paid on the SHO salary scale based on the employer’s assessment of her role/experience. She returned as an SHO in March 2020 until 25 February 2021.

The doctor, who is no longer working for the service, queried her status as an SHO rather than as a registrar as she had completed two years’ experience following her internship year, which aligned with the NCHD contract.

The doctor asserted that the job specifications for both the position of an SHO and a registrar in this service were “the same”.

Therefore, it was argued that she should have been paid at the registrar rate.

Regarding the similarities in the roles, the service stated that this “unique situation” has also been raised nationally and is the subject of discussion in current NCHD contract negotiations.

The service also imposed an additional requirement on employment, stating that to be appointed and paid as a registrar candidates also needed to pass certain MRCPsych papers.

The IMO, which represented the doctor, contended that progression to the grade of registrar should not be on the basis of the completion of exams, which have no implication on the job specification itself.

However, the service said that this was a custom and practice within the service which is continuing.

The service also challenged the doctor’s case under legislation and argued there was an excessive delay in referral of the grievance.

The referral was initiated in December 2022 almost two years after the doctor left the service in February 2021.

“I take the view that the issue raised, which is essentially one of alleged unequal treatment of the doctor in a former employment which ended in 2021, should more properly have been raised as a formal grievance using local procedures either during or within a short time after the employment,” according to the adjudication officer.

“This has not happened in the present case.”

The adjudication officer also stated: “It would be unfair and impractical to expect the health service to facilitate any such local grievance or other dispute resolution procedures this far removed from the events which would form its subject matter.”

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