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Sales employee had not been paid for months and pension contributions had not been made 
The management of a Slovak plasterboard company has been branded “insulting and callous” for not responding to its Irish sales executive as she tried to find out why she hadn’t been paid for months. 
Cathy Orr quit just days before Christmas last year after being left without pay for four-and-a-half months — and discovering that her employer, Helske Energy Save Ltd, had not set up a pension account for her despite taking over €100 a month off her salary as a pension contribution. 
The Workplace Relations Commission has awarded her over €22,000 for illegal pay deductions and constructive dismissal in a decision published on Wednesday after upholding her complaints under the Payment of Wages Act and the Unfair Dismissals Act. 
The company is controlled by the Slovak Republic-based construction and engineering group Helske Global Ltd, which was founded by entrepreneur Matej Rusňák. 
Ms Orr said she was hired by Helske Energy Save as an experienced construction materials sales executive in summer 2020 with the aim of launching its new product, a thermal insulation plasterboard, to the Irish construction industry. 
But she said she first discovered that “things weren’t going well in the company” when her wages were not paid on time in July 2021. 
That month’s pay came a fortnight late on August 17th, but that was the last time she was paid by the firm before she quit in December, she told the tribunal. 
She said she was still working for the firm up to the middle of December, answering queries, cancelling trade shows and promotional events, and communicating with customers. 
Dave Curran of trade union Siptu, who appeared for Ms Orr, said his client was due some four-and-a-half months’ pay — a sum of €18,281.25 gross. 
The union wrote to the company’s registered office in Dublin and to the office of the group’s chief executive Mr Rusňák in Slovakia four times leading up to her resignation in December 2021. 
The letters stated that Ms Orr might have “no option but to resign and claim the company has terminated her contract as a result of a fundamental breach”, Mr Curran said. 
“The employer did not reply,” Siptu organiser Dave Curran said in his submission. 
When the pay issues arose, Ms Orr also inquired about monthly deductions of €104.17 — listed as “Zurich” on her payslips — the tribunal was told. 
In correspondence submitted in evidence, Helske Group administrator Veronika Urgeová wrote to Zurich Life and Pensions stating: “The management has forgotten to set up with Zurich for paying over her pension contributions ... We need to make it right and set up the contributions. Is it possible to set up in reverse?” 
Ms Urgeová sought to make 14 months of backdated pension contributions of €5,312, according to the correspondence. 
“A copy of an application form to set up a PRSA was submitted in evidence but despite these initial endeavours on the part of Ms Urgeová, funds were not transferred to a PRSA for the complainant,” Mr Curran submitted. 
His client’s case was that her employer had made an illegal pay deduction by failing to transfer her 2.5 per cent pension contribution and failing to pay a further top-up of 6 per cent. 
The adjudicator, Ms Byrne, agreed to extend the normal statutory time limit for the pension-related pay claims from six months to twelve months. 
In her decision, she wrote that it was clear Ms Orr made efforts to do “damage control” when her pay didn’t come in order to preserve both her employer’s reputation and her own. 
“The failure of the respondent to communicate with the complainant, to respond to her phone calls and emails, or to give her any indication of their intentions regarding her job, was upsetting, insulting and callous,” she wrote, adding that the firm had “effectively abandoned her”. 
“It is to the complainant’s credit that she tried to protect the reputation of the business, when there was no reciprocation on the part of her employer to protect her interests,” she added. 
She upheld Ms Orr’s constructive dismissal complaint and ordered the firm to pay her €6,7830.78 in redress for loss of earnings. 
Ms Byrne ruled the company had illegally deducted €18,281.25 from Ms Orr’s wages between August and September 2021, and ordered the firm to pay her the net sum of €12,846.47 in compensation. 
She found there had been further illegal deductions amounting to €2,435.54 in respect of non-payment of personal and employer’s pension deductions and ordered that these be paid in full — bringing the total order against Helske Energy Save Ltd to €22,012.79. 
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