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Discrimination claim over non-wearing of mask rejected by WRC

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A discrimination claim by a man who refused to put on a face mask in a Galway hardware shop during a Covid-19 surge last year has been rejected after he failed to provide any evidence he was medically exempt.

In her ruline adjudicating officer Janet Hughes said that continuing with the hearing “would be a waste of time for all concerned”.

He had claimed there was a burden of proof on the firm to prove face coverings stop the spread of the virus and demanded the retailer produce “no less than peer-reviewed studies” to prove it.

But Bernard Carberry’s complaint under the Equal Status Act against T Ó hUiginn & a Comlucht Teo (T O’Higgins & Co Ltd) of Shantalla Road, Galway, was rejected by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in a decision on Monday.

Also make this: Mr Carberry told the commission that in January, 2021, he had to fix a lavatory at his family home and went to Higgins and Co to buy the parts – having been served at the shop some days previously without a mask without issue, he said.

Mask

He said the difficulty arose when the store’s Covid officer spoke to the member of staff serving him to remind him of “what he had said before about serving people with no mask”, he said.

Mr Carberry said he told the Covid officer that he was exempt from the mask rules, but that the worker “would not accept this”.

A manager asked for proof of his exemption, Mr Carberry said, which he said he did not have to provide.

He said other staff then “got involved” and he was “subjected to abuse” and a “threat to call the guards” over the course of ten minutes before he left.

Mr Carberry, who represented himself at the hearing, said it was “embarrassing and humiliating” as it happened in front of others and said that his “health and safety [WAS]at risk if he was forced to wear a mask”.

“The respondent wishes to advance a case suggesting that a failure to wear a face covering could cause harm to others,” Mr Carberry wrote in a submission to the WRC. “To advance this case, I believe he must prove that face coverings offer protection from Covid-19 and in this regard no less than peer reviewed studies will be accepted. I believe the burden of proof rests with the respondent,” he added.

He told an adjudication hearing on 24 March this year that he was “not comfortable disclosing his private medical history to anyone but a medical practitioner” and that he would not share it with the respondent company, its legal representatives or the Workplace Relations Commission.

Mr Carberry said doing so would place him “at the risk of public ridicule and humiliation”.

Information

“I do not consent to my private medical information being discussed at this hearing,” he concluded.

The hardware store’s position was that it was operating as an essential retailer during the pandemic and had spoken to staff to reassure them it would “strictly enforce the public health guidelines”.

In its submission to the WRC, the retailer said there were travel restrictions in place on 12 January 2021 and that Mr Carberry would have had go more than 5km from his home to get to its premises – passing five other hardware stores on the way.

It was submitted that Mr Carberry “failed to enter through the front door” and went in the deliveries entrance, refusing to put on a mask when he was asked to by a security worker.

While he was at the trade counter speaking to the store Covid officer, other customers “began to demand that the complainant wear a face mask”, at which point the Covid officer walked away in a bid to defuse the situation, it was submitted.

A manager then asked for confirmation of Mr Carberry’s claimed medical exemption, which he refused to give, the company’s solicitor said.

Mr Carberry was then asked by the staff member to stop recording the incident on his phone, which he refused to do, and was then asked to leave the premises, the company said.

He then “said he would be in contact with the Workplace Relations Commission”, the company’s submission concluded.

The company argued Mr Carberry would have to prove he had a disability in order to take a complaint under the Equal Status Act.

“At no juncture did the complainant explain what condition renders him medically unable to wear a face covering,” the company’s solicitor said, arguing that if the firm did not have the right to seek some details of the “reasonable excuse” Mr Carberry was claiming to avail of it would “make a nonsense of the statutory instrument”.

Scenario

“This could result in the entire population not complying with wearing a face mask and merely stating that they were exempt. This is not a plausible scenario,” the solicitor added.

In her decision, adjudicating officer Janet Hughes wrote that the hardware retailer was “certainly not required to justify public health guidelines”.

“A statement ‘I have an exemption’ is a statement of fact suggesting that it has been approved by someone and the respondent merely sought evidence of that statement of fact,”

Ms Hughes wrote, adding that Mr Carberry had refused again to provide evidence for this at hearing, even when she suggested anonymising the decision – to which the respondent had objected.

“The response was no and no. He stated that was not in a position to provide medical evidence and he was not prepared to do so,” she wrote.

“There was no point in continuing as there was no possibility that his claim of discrimination on grounds of a disability could succeed,” Ms Hughes wrote.

“To continue the hearing would be a waste of time for all concerned,” she added, and ruled Mr Carberry’s complaint was not well founded.

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Bluewater grows its entertainment offer (GB)

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Landsec has announced the opening of a third ‘UK first’ attraction at Bluewater, Kent as the destination expands its partnership with Hangloose Adventures. Skydive, a free-fall experience not found anywhere else in Europe, and the UK’s only outdoor skydive machine has opened at the centre. It follows on from Europe’s biggest purpose-built giant swing, standing at 46-metre tall, which opened at Bluewater earlier this month.  

 

The announcement builds on a successful first year for Hangloose’s initial attraction Skywire, the longest zip wire in England, which has welcomed 30,000 guests since launching at Bluewater last June. Landsec will continue to work with Hangloose to expand its offering, with up to five more experiences set to open at the centre by 2024: a bungee tower, giant slide, clip and climb, waterdrop boulding wall, and Via Ferrata, a route-marked climb using metal rails and rungs embedded in Bluewater’s cliff walls.

 

Mark Warne, Brand Account Director F&B and Leisure at Landsec commented: “Delivering new experiences which are unique to Bluewater is central to our overall offer for guests. Hangloose’s innovative concept raises the bar when it comes to leisure attractions and draws guests from across the UK to Kent. By partnering with Hangloose to grow their business and create shared value, we’ll be able to give guests even more exciting experiences every time they visit.”

 

Brian Phelps, MD of Hangloose Adventure, said: “Since the beginning, we’ve worked closely with Landsec to grow our leisure concept and drive performance, putting us in a unique position where we’re able to expand our offer after only a year. We’ve enjoyed great success at Bluewater so far and are already thinking about how we can provide even bigger and better experiences in the future.”

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Author with immaculate house offers ten tips for a clean home

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Is this the secret to NEVER having to clean? Houseproud author claims she saves hours by sticking to a ten-step mantra – including banning chairs in bedrooms, wiping as you cook and only ironing shirts and dresses

  • UK writer Natali Juste Simmonds says she’s cracked keeping a home clean, by sticking to a few simple ground rules – and making sure family members comply
  • She shared top ten tips for keeping a home spotless with her 20,000 followers
  • Among them are ditching a toilet brush in the bathroom, not having a chair in the bedroom and cleaning  the kitchen while you cook

A houseproud author has revealed her ten essential tips for keeping a house spotless – saying simple ground rules for family members and cleaning as you go means never wasting time on dull chores. 

Writer Natali Juste Simmonds, who was born in the UK but now lives in the Netherlands, penned her top ways to keep on top of cleaning on Twitter, saying she has time to focus on her writing because she follows her own advice about dodging ‘thankless’ cleaning tasks. 

The author of a series of paranormal romance novels told her 20,000 followers on Twitter: ‘I know so many people who spend hours cleaning up after their family every day, but I refuse to. 

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UK writer Natali Juste Simmonds says she's cracked keeping a home clean, by sticking to a few simple ground rules - and making sure family members comply

UK writer Natali Juste Simmonds says she’s cracked keeping a home clean, by sticking to a few simple ground rules – and making sure family members comply

‘It’s boring and thankless. I prefer to write. Yet my house is spotless. Here are 10 ways to keep on top of s*** so you don’t have to clean for hours.’ 

Sharing her ‘tough love’ mantra, she said that the key to keeping a home clean is making sure every family member is engaged, saying learning how to tidy is a lifeskill that everyone needs – and no-one should get away with not doing it. 

Natali wrote: ‘Train everyone in the house to do the following (cats are the exception). After a while these habits will become routine, but you MUST stick to them and make sure no one is let off the hook.’ 

Among the tips are filling a bag with things that are in the wrong place at the end of every day and placing them back where they belong. 

Tidy home, tidy mind: The Netherlands-based writer shared her top ten tips for keeping a home spotless with her 20,000 followers on Twitter - saying that making sure everyone in the house pulls their weight is key (Pictured: An office area in Simmonds' home)

Tidy home, tidy mind: The Netherlands-based writer shared her top ten tips for keeping a home spotless with her 20,000 followers on Twitter – saying that making sure everyone in the house pulls their weight is key (Pictured: An office area in Simmonds’ home)

The writer also claims having a toilet brush doesn’t help keep a loo clean and dousing it with bleach instead is a more reliable way to ensure it’s sparkling. 

And getting used to wiping down mirrors after using a sink also helps, she claims, writing: ‘Keep a dry cloth next to the bathroom sink. Every time someone uses the taps or brushes their teeth, wipe down the counter and mirror. Takes literally 2 seconds. No cleaning toothpaste stains off counters.’

Teaching kids to pull their weight around the house is key to success, and equality reigns supreme in the Simmonds house. 

Among her top tips are ditching a toilet brush in the bathroom - using just bleach instead; not having a chair in the bedroom - to prevent people leaving clothes on them - and cleaning the kitchen while you cook (Pictured: Simmonds' very tidy office)

Among her top tips are ditching a toilet brush in the bathroom – using just bleach instead; not having a chair in the bedroom – to prevent people leaving clothes on them – and cleaning the kitchen while you cook (Pictured: Simmonds’ very tidy office)

‘If one kid lays the table, the other clears. If one hangs out the washing, the other collects. I don’t say “I need help with dinner” I say “who will chop the veg and who will wash up?” Its called a presumed close. I have no option, why should others in my house?’

The author, who has written books including the Indigo Chronicles trilogy and the Blood Web series, admits that having a cleaner is still useful…because they can help keep on top of areas where grime quickly builds, including fridges and ovens – but she suggests ditching a takeaway a week to cover the cost. 

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DIA Group closes 25 Minipreco stores in Portugal

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DIA Group has closed 25 Minipreco stores in Portugal, resulting in the loss of approximately 159 jobs. The retailer said the closures are the result of ‘the effort to adapt, modernise and balance the operations of DIA Portugal, with the aim of better preparing the company for current and future challenges arising from the current economic situation in the country,’ according to media reports. In the last two years, the multinational company operating in Spain, Portugal, Brazil, and Argentina, accumulated losses of over €620m.

 

In Portugal, net sales reached €283.1m in the first half, 4.5% below the €296.3m generated in the same period last year, due to the reduction of stores and mobility restrictions. DIA Group confirmed its intention to continue to invest in Portugal. The company hopes to adjust its operation to the current reality in order to ensure the future success of the company.

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