What to do if you’re fired while on maternity leave

So, you had a baby…Congratulations! And you took your maternity leave because that’s what you’re legally entitled to do. But then throughout that maternity leave you were stuck dealing with a whining, crying needy little brat with no respect for your time or space.

That’s right: your boss…

“I loved it, I loved my job. I was working towards a promotion and more and more responsibilities were being given to me. And I juggled it all. No worries. I was valued, a high performer, on the fast-track. Then I announced I was pregnant, and everything changed. I watched as everything I had been working so hard for, was destroyed.”

One-third of Irish mums experience maternity leave-related discrimination. But it is not always easy to spot this discrimination, or to tackle it.

Even after all of the recent controversies, the #Metoo Campaign, the high-profile resignations and sackings, the hand wringing in high office…nothing has changed, it’s still a Man’s world. Our State has recognised in law the crucial role played by mothers of newly born children in our society. It is the most basic pillar of any civilised society. Employment Equality laws are there to bind all employers into providing certain basic rights and entitlements to expectant mothers and new parents. That’s a wonderful thing but it is too often ignored. You would at this point feel comforted if it wasn’t for the fact that your employer or former employer, like so many others, decided to simply ignore those rights and basic entitlements.

Many women simply accept this as an unfortunate fact of life. But, that’s not right, it’s not acceptable, and you shouldn’t have to tolerate it. Going to work is not everyone’s favourite activity, but it shouldn’t be something that’s treated as an entitlement, at the gift of someone and which can be taken away from you at a whim and simply because of your gender.

Shockingly, often mothers returning to work after maternity leave will be faced with the unacceptable situation where their job has changed dramatically, is no longer there for them in its previous form or worse that there’s no job at all to return to. Perhaps the employer expects them to resume working in a different, less favourable role. Employers sometimes go so far as to dismiss an employee outright because of their pregnancy. Such scenarios are unlawful and in breach of your Employment Rights.

When your maternity leave comes to an end, you are entitled to return to work with your employer in the same job as the one you left. You cannot be discriminated against for having a baby. If you have been dismissed or overlooked for a promotion due to your pregnancy or if your employer has refused to consider your request for flexible hours and/or a job share arrangement upon returning to work you may be entitled to redress. This may also include a situation where you are refused a contract of employment or a renewal of a fixed term contract of employment due to the possibility of pregnancy. The law also provides protection from discrimination on the grounds of ‘Family Status’ which prevents your employer from discriminating against you by virtue of the fact that you have children.

“It wasn’t about the money. When I was let go by my former employer simply because of my pregnancy I was just so devastated that someone could act like that and just wanted them to realise they can’t treat people in this way.”

Christine McDermott Age 29, Waterford, Mother of a beautiful little girl

Our Client Christine was working as a care assistant in Waterford with a well-known Irish employment agency. During her time with the Agency she was always well thought of and extremely busy. She could work upwards of 45 hours a week and there was never a shortage of work to go around. At least until Christine told them of her pregnancy, that is. Then all of a sudden, wouldn’t you know it, Christine was surplus to requirements.

“I have never felt so let down and betrayed at such an important time in my life”

Her hours were significantly reduced and ended up eventually drying up altogether. Nothing else had changed. Her co-workers were still rushed off their feet and staff who had been recruited after her continued to work full-time hours. All that had changed was that Christine was expecting a baby. Christine eventually resigned in frustration.

We lodged a claim for her with the Workplace Relations Commission, did all the necessary preparatory work and attended her hearing with her in the WRC in Carlow. Her former employer also attended and vigorously fought their corner. They tried to say that the changes Christine experienced were completely unconnected with her pregnancy. They said that it was just because Christine was not sufficiently qualified to do certain tasks. This was completely untrue. Christine did have the qualifications she needed, but even if she didn’t this had never been a concern prior to her pregnancy. This also did not appear to be a problem for her former work colleagues who didn’t have the qualifications Christine in fact had. We argued that this was complete nonsense and the Adjudicator agreed and awarded Christine €17,500 for the way she had been treated.

While Karen* another Client, was on maternity leave, she met with her manager to discuss her return-to-work arrangements. She was told that there was no job for her to come back to. “The whole company is restructuring”. Karen later discovered that the man taken on to do her job continues to be employed there doing the job she used to do!

Another one of our Clients who worked for one of the Country’s biggest telcos found herself surplus to requirements after her announcement. She was PA to the C.E.O. When she was recruited, she was given a fixed term contract but was assured that this was merely a formality. Her contract would certainly be renewed on its expiry. Of course, in the meantime, our Client announced the happy news that she was expecting. Suddenly everything changed and her boss decided that her contract would not be renewed. There had been no performance issues, she had in fact been reassured just weeks before at a performance review that she was doing a great job and given extra responsibility. You couldn’t make it up! She was devastated and really felt that her confidence was shot to pieces. She didn’t in fact think that she would have the courage to face her former boss until she came across us and realised that this is not acceptable, she had done nothing wrong and that she had to stand up to them and could do that with our help.

In fact, almost a third of Irish mums experience some form of pregnancy-related discrimination, so these stories are far from unusual.

Types of discrimination related to maternity leave

Many of our Clients tell us stories of how the attitude towards them changed dramatically when they announced their news to their employer. Some were made redundant or had their role restructured, others were straight up dismissed or did not have their contract renewed when they requested or took leave. Others found their hours cut, their jobs changed dramatically or that what had previously been straight forward routine requests were now big issues for their employer.

Because this type of Discrimination can take many forms. Pay, conditions of work and work duties as well as performance assessments and career advancement opportunities are all areas which we regularly see. Missing out on opportunities for a promotion or performance appraisal because you’re about to go on mat leave; being denied maternity leave you were entitled to; or pressure to start or finish your leave earlier or later than you would have liked.

But the “classic case” of pregnancy-related discrimination we so often come across is exactly like Karen’s story; you’ve taken your maternity leave and suddenly you find that your job’s gone.

This often happens when a temporary substitute who replaced the woman while she’s on leave, is then offered the job on an ongoing basis while the woman on maternity leave is simply discarded “like an old sock”.

In other cases, the employer divides your duties among a number of employees and then decides they “don’t need her at all”.

So, are any of these situations legal? And is there anything you can do to protect your workplace rights during maternity leave?

Your job is guaranteed while you’re on maternity leave and during your pregnancy

You are entitled to get your job back after your maternity leave ends. If that job no longer exists when you get back, you’re entitled to a job that’s substantially similar.

In other words, an employer cannot simply give away your job or demote you because your maternity leave is inconvenient for them, or because they decide they prefer your maternity leave replacement as an employee.

This ‘return-to-work guarantee’ applies regardless of how long you’ve worked with the employer prior to your due date.

Irish law also prohibits your employer from discriminating against you because you are pregnant. An employer can’t take “adverse action” against you on the grounds of pregnancy, breastfeeding or family responsibilities, or treat you “less favourably” than other employees because you are pregnant.

If you think your employer has breached your rights, you can take action to enforce them legally through the Workplace Relations Commission.

So, what other things can you do?

Practically while on maternity leave you should try and stay in touch with your workplace. Be more in sight and in mind. Arrange a meeting with the boss and your work colleagues to introduce your new arrival. Keep in touch to see how your role’s going and how your team’s going, how your replacement’s getting on. If you’re able to, keep in touch face to face, rather than relying on email or a phone call.

Plan ahead by taking notes

Document any conversations around your maternity leave and your job as soon as possible preferably in a diary. Often clients email themselves so that these notes are date stamped. If you have a suspicion, or there’s history of unfair treatment at your workplace, the first thing you should do is to take careful notes of all your conversations at work regarding your leave.

You should also follow up on any conversations you’ve had with an email confirming the contents of those meetings.

Creating a paper trail in this way can help you make out your case later, if needed.

Know the difference between sham and genuine redundancies

If you are made redundant, it can be hard to prove the redundancy is a form of discrimination.

It can be legal for your employer to make your position redundant while you’re on maternity leave but only if it’s a “genuine” redundancy, and as long as the employer takes certain steps first.

A genuine redundancy means that your position no longer exists. If your employer has simply decided to hire your maternity leave replacement on an ongoing basis instead of letting you back into your job, or if they hire someone new into your role soon after making you redundant that may be a “sham” redundancy.

That’s very common and is certainly a form of pregnancy discrimination that can be legally challenged.

Even in cases of a genuine redundancy, there are important steps your employer legally has to take.

For example they must consult with you while you’re on leave about restructuring or any other significant changes to the business or organisation that might affect you, have a significant effect on the status, pay or location of your pre-maternity leave job.

If you just haven’t been consulted with whatsoever, then you’re going to have a strong case.

If you are fired while pregnant or on maternity leave, it can feel like lightening is striking twice. Not only have lost your job, you’ve lost it at a particularly financially and emotionally tricky time.

How do you even begin to recover from the trauma? While every situation is different, take a deep breath and consider these seven pieces of advice we gathered from women who’ve been in the same situation.

Accept and confront your emotions.

The first thing you should know is that you are far from alone. One of our Clients, Lucy recalls being “so excited” about returning to work. She had childcare sorted, her work clothes dry-cleaned, and was feeling mentally and physically ready for her new life as a working mother. Lucy recalls that she was let go by email two weeks before she was due to return, and it still “haunts her and gives her anxiety” four years later.

While it may feel incredibly dark for a period, time and support will help you cope with these feelings.

It can be very therapeutic if you can talk to someone else who has been in your shoes. Depending on how you feel and the circumstances, you may need to go beyond the usual embrace of your family and friends. Don’t be afraid to seek out professional help and guidance particularly since postpartum depression can come into play at a confusing and hormonal time.

Many of our Clients also say that taking on a case like this has its own therapeutic qualities. They see it as a service they are doing for themselves (to rebuild their self confidence) but also for other women to ensure that they don’t let this happen again to someone else. The very act of fighting back can be of such great importance to someone who has been so badly treated.

Consider the facts and quickly determine whether you want to pursue legal action.

You may be surprised to find out that your employment can be reorganised while you’re on maternity leave. While it’s illegal for your employer to fire you only because you’re on leave, there are some legitimate reasons your employer can claim your terms of employment were changed.

If you do feel you have been a victim of pregnancy discrimination, you should consider taking legal action your former employer. The statute of limitations on this type of employment claim is just six months, so be sure not to delay for too long if you are interested in pursuing a case.

You should gather all of the information you have to show objective evidence of prejudice for a solicitor to review. However, be careful, if you receive any severance or settlement, you will in all likelihood be asked to agree to waive your right to take legal action.

For example, our Client Jenny* was a customer services rep in a large call centre. She was dismissed while six months pregnant. Her employer offered her a small settlement when she threatened to sue, but it came with a requirement that she agree to confidentiality and full and final settlement of any claims she had against the Company. If something similar happens to you, be sure to read the fine print very carefully and take legal advice before signing.

Negotiate your severance or exit package, if possible.

If you are offered a severance package, carefully examine its terms. How much are you being paid? Will it cover your maternity leave (if you haven’t taken it yet)? Because it’s unlikely that you will be able to get another position before your baby is born, you should look for as much as possible from your former employer. While you may not receive everything you request, you are setting the parameters for the discussions. Put your pride aside, you and your baby will need all the money you can get.

What about a reference?

Depending on the nature of your dismissal, your employer may be happy to write you a letter of recommendation or serve as a referee. This is particularly true if you are dismissed due to no fault of your own beyond working in a restructured organization, for example.

Depending where you are in your pregnancy or maternity leave, the gap created in your CV may be longer than it would otherwise typically have been, so it can be important.

We tend not to attribute too much importance to a reference though. In the modern world references are not anything like as important as they were in previous years. Also, it is very difficult to control what is said in an oral reference and so what you get in writing may be very different to what is said in a phone call. This is usually as good a reason as any to resolve a dispute by compromise or settlement in that this gives you the best possibility of ensuring that the bridges are not entirely burnt between you.

Be conscious of your interview timing and the negotiation implications.

Don’t let being pregnant dissuade you from pursuing a job search. If that’s what you want (or have) to do, it may be harder than usual but there are success stories. For example, Maeve, a client of ours, interviewed at her current job while five months pregnant. She got the job. Legally you don’t have to disclose anything about your pregnancy and it is unlawful for them to ask. But of course, it is always going to be more difficult and if an employer wants to deselect you they will find a way.

If you are very far along in your pregnancy, you may have to decide fairly quickly how soon you are willing to work again if you are offered a new job. You may want to wait until after your baby arrives to begin looking for work if you plan on taking a longer absence since your prospective employer may not be able to wait several months for you to come on board. Or, you will have to negotiate some sort of arrangement for part-time or phased in work if that’s what you’re looking for. For others, finances may mean taking a more limited or almost no maternity leave. Regardless of your situation, be prepared to negotiate and ask for what you need because you are in a non-standard situation.

Examine your finances and make a plan.

There is going to be a period of time where you don’t have any income over the statutory social welfare payments. Be cognizant of your expenses and budget accordingly. You are in a vulnerable position, so keep a close eye on your savings. But remember, this won’t last forever and you can get through this. Just think of the satisfaction you will have when you see your employer being subjected to cross-examination and having to explain their actions to an adjudicator.

Try to see the silver lining.

Being let go during your maternity leave is of course shocking and upsetting, at first. But that passes and you can set your mind to other priorities. Consider working for yourself and imagine a life without a boss. Become the boss. While it’s never easy to be fired, it can be particularly hard when it happens during this time of your life. Whether it’s fair, discriminatory or you’re simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, your ego may not recognize the difference. Feeling bruised and embarrassed for some time is natural but remember that you will in all likelihood land on your feet!

Know where to file a complaint

So, you’ve gathered as much written evidence as possible, and you’re pretty sure your employer hasn’t honoured your return-to-work guarantee or has otherwise discriminated against you. Where should you start proceedings?

Claims of this type are submitted via the Workplace Relations Commission website www.workplacerelations.ie. There is an online form and you fill in your details, those of your employer and set out what claim you intend to make. This is the first step in the process, but it is also a crucial one. We have come across many occasions where this form has been incorrectly completed which has resulted in claims being prejudiced significantly meaning that claimants don’t get their fair redress on a technicality. For example, it is crucial that the correct identity of the employer is set out in this form. Often people don’t realise that they were in fact working for some obscure company and not the company they assumed was their employer. Unless the correct company is identified on the initial form, employers can at times wriggle out of their responsibilities.

In order to properly draft your claim, it is important that you set out all the relevant details and circumstances surrounding your case. It is important that you provide the correct full name and address of your employer and the full address of the place you worked, if different. If you are unsure about the correct name or address of your employer, you should check your pay slips and P45 or P60. In addition, when bringing a discrimination claim, you may need to identify individuals at work you believe have been responsible in some way for the discrimination you have suffered. In bringing a claim for Discrimination under the Employment Equality Acts you can also serve a questionnaire on the Respondent. It is important that you reserve your rights to supplement your claim if there are any questions you think should be included on the form which could help obtain information to support your claims and assess the merits of particular aspects of your claim.

But the WRC is not for the faint hearted!

You see in theory the WRC was supposed to level the playing field, make everything run more smoothly and more efficiently but my strong view is that the process has simply been changed to suit employers. Employers are still turning up fully armed with legal representation including at times barristers both junior and senior counsel. Of course, because the Claimant can’t afford such representation, they are often left fighting a losing battle from the outset. You see, the WRC can’t award costs and so a Claimant will often find it difficult to find a lawyer to represent them without paying a large retainer. I know of one couple who used a boutique Dublin firm to process a Gender Discrimination claim for them and the total professional fees charged came to in excess of €125,000. And they paid those bills as they arose. In another claim under the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term work) Act a client was invoiced over €75,000 for a two-day case in the old Rights Commissioner service.

We know of solicitors who won’t take on employment cases because of their complexity. We have come across many who aren’t so self-aware who have simply led their clients down a blind avenue, oblivious to the dangers.

In the new regime you can no longer sit back and wait for the hearing. Written submissions are now required at the front-end. You can no longer “wing it” as many solicitors, Trade Unions or HR representatives have done in the past.

That was under the old system and recent changes to the employment law landscape have made the claims process more complicated. Although the new system was set up to make things more streamlined the effect has been in our experience that less claims are successful and the awards made are far lower. In fact in 2016, 88% of the awards made by the WRC were for less than €10,000. That’s pretty low considering about 25% of cases related to people who either been unfairly dismissed or discriminated against. When I challenged Oonagh Buckley (head of the WRC) on this her argument was that these awards are mainly relating to wages, annual leave and contractual issues. That still means that only 12% of awards are for in excess of €10,000. What that tells me is that unless you know what you’re doing the chances are you are not going to maximise your claim.

So, if you are bringing a Gender Discrimination case of any type in the WRC, here’s some things you need to know as well as some helpful advice and a synopsis of the law and some hints as to what you might face;

Click here for more information.

Pregnant at Work? Know your Rights!

We’ve all heard the horror stories about your friend who announced she was pregnant

and suddenly ‘wasn’t ‘a right fit for the company’. Since the #MeToo movement there has been a growing awareness surrounding how women are treated in the Workplace worldwide. We’re here to tell you that as a pregnant lady, you have rights, you shouldn’t be silenced and we will make your voice heard!

 

Pregnant at Work rights

 

 

Take a look at some of the rights you have that we see are breached most often!

Your Rights before Maternity Leave:

• You have the right to request a Health and Safety Assessment of your Workplace when pregnant.
• You have the right to ask HR or Management to implement any feedback that comes as a result of that assessment. This may be anything from changing a chair with little to no back support or changing your hours to avoid sitting in major traffic without being able to go to the bathroom etc. This kind of accommodation should be made for you while pregnant.
• You have the right to be ‘reasonably accommodated’ in your employment should you not be able to do your job due to your pregnancy. This means you should be given a different job within the business that you are capable of doing and will not cause you any strain while pregnant.
• You have the right to request time off to attend doctors appointments and scans while pregnant. You should be paid the same wage for this day however may be required to work back in that time over a number of days. Some employers may need to see an appointment card for proof of appointment.
• You should be treated the same as any other employee as regards opportunities, pay raises, perks and benefits etc. while pregnant.
• Decisions should not be made on your behalf as to why you should not have to travel, attend work abroad when your rest breaks or maternity leave should start or begin. You should make these decisions yourself and inform the relevant person.
• You must make your employer aware of your intention to take Maternity leave at least 4 weeks in advance. We also encourage that you do this in writing.
• If the situation arises where your employer cannot give you work or cannot remove the risks founds in your risk assessment, you have the right to stay at home with a certificate from your doctor declaring the workplace unsafe for you at this time.
• If you are applying for a job while pregnant, you cannot be asked any questions in relation to your pregnancy such as ‘How far along are you?’
• You cannot be asked any questions regarding your Family Status or Number of Children.
• You should also never be asked if you intend on having more children or any similar discriminatory questions.

Your Rights while on Maternity Leave

• You are entitled to 26 weeks statutory Maternity leave. Not all employers will pay this and it depends on the details of your employment contract. However, may be entitled to avail of Maternity Benefit.
• You are entitled to request an additional 16 weeks unpaid Maternity leave which can start immediately at the end of the 26 weeks statutory leave.
• A further extension is available to mothers who have given birth prematurely. Maternity Benefit will not cover these additional periods. Your employer is also not obliged to pay you for these periods.
• Under the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004, you are required to finish up work for Maternity leave at least 2 weeks before your babies expected due date and must remain out of work for at least 4 weeks after it’s birth.
• If you become ill during these additional periods of leave, you can ask your employer to end your Maternity leave and go on sick leave to avail of Illness Benefit.
• You are entitled to regular leave as any other employee while on Maternity leave. Therefore, should you encounter a public holiday while on Maternity leave, this day should be accrued as Annual Leave.
• Should the worst ever happen that a stillbirth or miscarriage occurs after week 24 of your pregnancy, you are entitled to your full Maternity leave period. This includes the statutory 26 weeks and a further 16 weeks thereafter. Should you have the correct PRSI requirements, Maternity Benefit is payable for the first 26 week period.
• In order to apply for Maternity Benefit in the event of a stillbirth, your doctor will need to send a letter containing the Maternity Benefit application form and confirming the expected date of birth, the actual date of birth and the number of weeks of pregnancy.
• In the event of a premature birth, you are entitled to claim the difference between the actual date of birth and the expected date of birth back in Maternity leave. Eg. If your expected due date is the second week of June but instead, your baby is born in the third week of May, this is a difference of three weeks. Your Maternity leave will begin the day you give birth, you are entitled to the statutory 26 weeks and then an additional 3 weeks!
• You must give your employer 4 weeks written notice of your intention to return to work.
• You cannot be dismissed while on Maternity leave.
• If you are dismissed while of Maternity leave, you have 6 months from the date of dismissal to take legal action to the Workplace Relations Commission – We can help with this!

Your Rights after Maternity Leave:

• You have the right to be treated the same as all other employees upon your return to work.
• You should be placed back in your job. If any changes were made to your job while you were on Maternity leave, they should be agreed by you on your return. If you do not agree to these changes, they should not be enforced and you should return to your job.
• Should it not be possible to return to the exact job you should be placed in something similar with similar pay and a similar level of responsibility provided you agree to it.
• You have the right to ask your employer for breastfeeding breaks. You should do this before you return to work in order to plan. This will also mean a risk assessment needs to be done as employers need to provide a safe and healthy environment for this.
• If you were on probation, completing an internship or an apprentice when you announced you were pregnant and when your Maternity leave began, your contract/agreement should be frozen and therefore continue upon your return to work.
• You should not lose any annual leave upon return from your Maternity leave.

We ask that you bring these rights to the attention of your pregnant friends, partners and family.

Should you feel like your rights have been breached in any way during your pregnancy, let us know and we can discuss your legal options. Contact info@employment-matters.ie or call 051 841 641.

Sexual Harassment at work results in €45,000 payout

It is by no means a surprise to think that sexual harassment at work is common. With the rise of the high profile ‘Me Too’ and ‘Times Up’ movements, sexual harassment at work and female issue’s are at the top of people’s minds. At least that’s what we like to think.

Sexual Harassment at Work

It was in late 2016 that a distressed twenty-something-year-old lady met with Employment-Matters to tell us her story. She had been subject to 6+ months of sexual harassment at work from her then boss and also regular sexually suggestive comments. When our client reported the misconduct to an internal superior, a full investigation was completed but her boss claimed he could not remember making any comments. Prior to the investigation, the man had approached her numerous times and asked her to sit in his car with him, winked at her and directed crude jokes towards her about a tattoo she had.

Our client made a total of five complaints. Of these, two were upheld, one was overturned and a further two could not be substantiated. Some of the complaints made against her boss were of a very serious nature which had clearly left the woman feeling violated. Workplace Relations Commission Adjudicator Mr. Murphy, found our client to be a credible complainant and truly believed that what she had experienced had impacted both her personal and working life.

Due to the employer’s lack of commitment to resolving these complaints internally, they too were responsible said Mr. Murphy. The lack of commitment from the company had been discussed numerous times throughout the case and has helped to identify serious flaws in the business’ internal procedures.

The Award

In the end, our client was awarded an award of €35,000 from her boss for the distress suffered by the complainant. It was instructed that her employer pay our client a further €10,000 for the victimisation and distress of these issues. This gave our client a total award of €45,000.

Have you experienced sexual harassment at work or something similar with a boss or work colleague? If the answer is yes, we want to hear from you! We hear too many cases of women leaving these cases go on too long, or leaving their jobs and missing their 6-month opportunity timeline. Don’t be a victim of time too. Call Employment-Matters on 051 841 641 today for a free consultation with one of our employment law experts.

Tracker Mortgage Scandal; “I’ll get these *ankers said the Governor of the Central Bank…”

Like Not Once, Never…

I can’t tell you how infuriated I am by the recent hand-wringing in Government and high office in relation to the tracker mortgage Scandal.

“I’ll get these *ankers…” said Philip Lane…like NOT.

That’s right a Scandal with a capital ‘S’! (To be distinguished from the Sindo’s view of a scandal this week (with a small s!) of the whatsapp messages emanating from Ballyragget CLG).

Now I’m not one normally for hyperbole or over-reactions but this is really disgraceful and pathetic from both the Minister for Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank.

For the Minister to suggest that the most important thing here is to ensure that those who were deceived be compensated is simply disingenuous.  It’s an attempt to hide from the real issue, to cloak himself in some level of sanctity, like; sure who could argue with that sentiment.

Gene Kerrigan gave an apt description of the whole debacle comparing it to the Gardai going to someone who stole your car and asking them to return it at some stage in the future.  I’m not normally a fan of Gene Kerrigan’s but today he hit the nail on the head.  The *ankers should not just return this money immediately with interest and penalties but they must be held accountable for their actions.

Imagine how the banks (small b) would treat you and I if we decided we were simply not going to pay our mortgage ’til maybe next summer or even next Christmas?  You’ll understand Mr *anker, it’s just while I carry out an internal review of things, get a better handle on our finances and sure, I’m not sure if I have a mortgage at all, or if I should be paying it, it’ll only take a couple of years…Get a grip.  They’d be down your throat so fast…like a ton of bricks.

But that’s exactly what it would appear that they want to do and they expect us to concur.  Brush this all under the carpet, downplay it, sure I’m sure it’s all a big mishtake.

And why would we be surprised about that?  Of course they’ll try and get away with it, haven’t they gotten away with far worse?  And you can’t blame a fella for trying, if you don’t ask, you don’t get…The problem here isn’t just the *ankers, it’s the Central Bank and the Minister.

You see when the Central Bank says that it doesn’t have enforcement powers, it can’t meddle in individual contracts it’s probably right.  That’s a civil matter between the borrower and the *ankers and it is correct for the Minister to say that the individual borrower may not have the resources to take on the deep pockets of the *ankers.  But what he’s neglecting to say is that the Central Bank has a much, much bigger stick, a very very big stick indeed.  For the life of me though I cannot fathom not only why Lane and Donhoe refuse to stand up to the *ankers but why they insist on treating the public with such utter disdain.  Of course they trot out the usual catchphrases, but clearly they have absolutely no intention of intervening.  What is it that the *ankers hold over them?

I ask this metaphorically but also because I would genuinely want to know.  It’s because, as mentioned above, I have first hand knowledge of the wrath of the Central Bank, of the resources that it can bring to measure against a financial services business if it deems it appropriate.  See, as I said above they do have significant powers to bring the *ankers to heal.  They are after all the body who licences *ankers in this country.  Now that’s not just the banks themselves but each and every individual *anker in each bank who carries out certain functions is obliged to hold a type of licence from the Central Bank which says that they are fit and proper people to hold such a licence and that essentially they are fit and proper people to handle people’s money.

Now clearly that is not the case here.  I don’t mean that they don’t hold the licences but clearly some if not a great many of these *ankers are not fit and proper people to either hold such a licence (it’s called a PCF licence) or to be responsible for other people’s money.  You see clearly some of these *ankers are not nice people at all.  Now really, there’s nothing wrong with not being a nice person (well nothing illegal anyway) and in fact it works quite well when you’re a *anker anyway, but when you start throwing dishonesty into the mix then we start getting into the realms of why do these people continue to be licenced by the Central Bank and why is the Central Bank not carrying out a whole host of investigations into each and every one of these *ankers?

I would love to get at the answer to that question.  You see when you call a load of *ankers into a room and start telling them that you’re disappointed in them (again) and that it’s very unfortunate that they haven’t apologised and that you’d like them to do more…then you’re only going to get one answer and you’ve only got yourself to blame for what that is.  If you were tell these fells though on the other hand that sorry lads, it’s like this, you have two weeks to get your cheque books out, and the way it’s going to work is like this…and by the way, we’re also commencing immediate investigations into every single one of ye and what that means is that by the end of this, every single one of ye could be looking for new professions, because if it turns out that any of ye or the people ye’re responsible for acted in a way that was dishonest, if it’s the case that you took advantage of people in their darkest hour, then you are not people who are fit and proper to conduct this type of business.  You are dealing with other people’s money and we must be able to trust you and if we can’t you can sling your hook ‘cos you can no longer work in this game.

You see all *ankers must comply with the Fitness and Probity Standards applicable to their approval issued by the Central Bank pursuant to Section 50 of the Central Bank (Reform) Act 2010 (the “Fitness and Probity Standards”).  All *ankers holding a PCF must agree that agree to abide by such standards.

You see the Central Bank has the power under Section 25 of the Central Bank Reform Act 2010 (as amended) to issue what’s called a Notice of Intention to Commence an Investigation.  The Central Bank can commence an investigation into any of these *ankers under Section 25(1) of the Central Bank Reform Act 2010 (as amended) (“the 2010 Act”).  That would mean that the Central Bank could conduct an investigation into the fitness and probity of any person in any of these banks performing a controlled function, where there is reason to suspect the person’s fitness and probity and that in the circumstances an investigation is warranted.

For example, if there is reason to suspect that the person does not satisfy an applicable standard of fitness and probity or the person has participated in serious misconduct in relation to the business of a regulated financial service provider.

Under Section 45 of the Central Bank (Supervision and Enforcement) Act 2013 (“the 2013 Act”) then the Central Bank may compel a Bank to;

(a) to suspend, for such period not exceeding 12 months as is specified in the direction, any one or more of the following:

(i) the provision of any financial service, or description of financial service, specified in the direction;

(ii) the making of payments to which subparagraph (i) does not relate or any such payments or description of such payments specified in the direction;

(iii) the acquisition or disposal of any assets or liabilities, or description of assets or liabilities, specified in the direction;

(iv) entering into transactions or agreements, or description of transactions or agreements, specified in the direction, or entering into them except in specified circumstances or to a specified extent;

(v) soliciting business from persons of a class specified in the direction;

(vi) carrying on business in a manner specified in the direction or otherwise than in a manner so specified.

(d) to make such modifications to its systems and controls as may be specified in the direction.

(e) to make such modifications to its business practices and dealings with third parties as may be specified in the direction.

So you see, the Central Bank has plenty of power to resolve this Scandal, it or he just doesn’t want to use them it would seem.

In fairness, it seems in this country that you’d be in far more trouble if you took a few steamy pictures at a 21st in Kilkenny than if you stole a person’s hard earned cash and a big part of their life.

Go figure…