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Trainee unfairly sacked

A Circuit Civil Court in Ireland has ruled that trainee accountant Peter Nowak was unfairly dismissed by PwC.

December 2017


Nowak began working as a trainee accountant with PwC in 2006 and was given an employment and a training contract, the latter of which expired in April 2010. A separate document outlined he must sit and pass three ICA exams by the autumn of 2009 or his employment would be terminated.
Nowak got stuck on the second exam and failed it twice. PwC then said it would support him for one final attempt, but he failed it again and his employment was terminated. Nowak appealed this decision but was unsuccessful.
He then took his case to an Employment Appeals Tribunal before the Civil Court. The tribunal was told that the ICA in Ireland allowed students up to six attempts to pass the exams. It was ruled that Nowak’s employment did not expressly state that it could be terminated if he failed to pass an exam.
The tribunal found the complainant had been unfairly dismissed, but refused to reinstate Nowak in his employment and instead awarded him compensation of €7,500, which was later increased to €34,000 in the Circuit Civil Court.
Judge Comerford said clearly worded contracts could have ensured that what was intended by employer was understood and accepted.
Nowak is still trying to gain access to his exam paper, as he reportedly feels he passed the last exam he sat. The Irish institute has refused, stating it was not obliged to do so as the exam paper is not ‘personal data’. The Data Protection Commissioner has agreed with the institute. Nowak is challenging the decision and referred the case to the European courts. They will rule on whether an exam script constitutes ‘personal data’.

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