Child carer ‘withheld food from toddlers’

A childcare worker was sacked after complaints that she had withheld food and drink from toddlers, was rough with them, and threatened them.

Mary McNulty shouted at the children, lifted and dragged them, left one child without a coat on a cold day, and used a noisy hand dryer as a threat to a toddler who was terrified of the machine, the Employment Appeals Tribunal heard.

The tribunal was also told by a co-worker at Ballyheane Buttercups Community Childcare Service in Ballyheane, Co Mayo, that Ms McNulty had recorded a child crying on her phone and played the recording for other children to view.

Ms McNulty denied all of the allegations and claimed that members of staff did not like her and colluded against her by making the statements which led to her dismissal. She took her action alleging unfair dismissal against Ballyheane Community Sports Club Ltd.

The hearing in Castlebar heard that Ms McNulty had worked in the toddler area for children aged from 18 months to three years. She had been employed at the facility from 2008 until her dismissal in 2011.

Initial concerns had been raised by childcare staff to the supervisor at the facility alleging Ms McNulty was rough with the children and was not giving them food and drink. The staff were asked to outline their concerns in written statements.

Additional complaints were put to Ms McNulty at a subsequent meeting.

A staff member told of one child visibly terrified of using the bathroom because of the hand dryer. Ms McNulty had admitted to her she used the hand dryer as a threat when the child would not use the toilet.

The childcare worker was dismissed for gross misconduct and the decision was upheld at an appeal hearing that she had not attended.

Ms McNulty told the tribunal that her own personality was generally quiet and believed that this had contributed to her downfall.

She denied ever threatening a child or deliberately setting off the hand dryer. She told the tribunal that her comment regarding the hand dryer was taken out of context. She said she never refused to give a child a drink or deliberately stored the drinks away from the reach of the children.

The tribunal found that the decision to dismiss was not unreasonable. Given the nature of the allegations and the information gathered by the Ballyheane Sports Club Ltd during the course of its investigation, the tribunal took the view that it had no alternative but to dismiss Ms McNulty.

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Child carer ‘withheld food from toddlers’
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