Lidl worker fired for having 69 sick days awarded nearly £14,000 compensation

A Lidl employee who was sacked after taking 69 sick days over a span of 16 months has been awarded nearly £14,000 in compensation.

Mihalis Buinenko had worked at Lidl's head office in Ireland for about 11 years when he was dismissed in 2021 over his poor attendance record. The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruled the supermarket giant had unfairly dismissed Mihalis Buinenko due to his attendance record and said he was entitled to €16,000 from the company. Lidl Ireland hit back at claims that Mr Buinenko's dismissal was unjust, insisting their decision was "fair and reasonable."

They conducted an investigation into his alleged pattern of unreliable attendances in May 2021. Paul Twomey BL, representing Lidl Ireland, stated the investigation concluded there was alleged gross misconduct relating to excessive disruption to its operations.

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He highlighted that the report claimed Mr Buinenko had missed work on 69 occasions. The commission also heard allegations he had left work early 10 times during the same period and took an extended break without authorisation or approval by Lidl management on 13 occasions.

Mr Twomey stated the warehouse worker was sacked for breaking company rules and failing to give a valid reason for his absences and early departures.

A regional logistics manager at Lidl told the WRC the average number of workdays missed in a year was six. However, he pointed out that Mr Buinenko had missed about 20% of his workdays, meaning his colleagues had to work extra to cover his absences.

Despite having "multiple conversations" with Mr Buinenko about his frequent absences, the manager said his behaviour remained unchanged. Under questioning by Mr Buinenko's lawyer, Dermot Sheehan BL, the manager admitted the 69 days Mr Buinenko was absent were not unauthorised as he had followed Lidl's sick leave policy.

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The manager also conceded Lidl had not referred Mr Buinenko for an occupational health assessment. Mr Buinenko claimed he was unfairly fired from his job on June 4, 2021 for alleged gross misconduct following an unfair disciplinary process.

Mr Buinenko told the WRC his 69 days of absence were certified by a doctor due to various health issues, including hospital stays and back pain. He claimed Lidl's sick pay scheme handbook didn't have any penalties for taking too many sick days or any rules about related disciplinary actions.

He said it was "perverse" that his absence had been deemed gross misconduct said his dismissal was "unreasonable and disproportionate." He estimated his losses from losing his job had cost him €22,955 – about £20,000 – and asked for compensation and extra damages.

Under questioning, Mr Buinenko admitted his attendance had been investigated before and conceded it was a problem for Lidl. In her decision, WRC officer Anne McElduff said she believed Lidl had followed the right procedures in the disciplinary process.

However, she said only giving Mr Buinenko the total number of sick leave days and other times when he left work without permission didn't give him a chance to challenge specific times and dates. Ms McElduff said she wasn't convinced the talks between the parties about his attendance were detailed enough to justify his dismissal.

She criticised Lidl for considering the complainant's sick leave in its decision, especially as the company had admitted the absences were certified. Ms McElduff suggested Lidl should have referred Mr Buinenko for an occupational health assessment and then consulted with him or his GP "prior to any consideration of disciplinary action, let alone dismissal, arising from the taking of sick leave."

* This article was crafted with the help of an AI tool, which speeds up Daily Star's editorial research. An editor reviewed this content before it was published. You can report any errors to [email protected]

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