Builder Breaks Co-Workers Nose, Yet Wins Unfair Dismissal Case ¦ With Terry Gorry

Image of Terry Gorry Solicitor talking about Construction Law on the Time & Materials Podcast

Season 3, EP 8: Terry Gorry

Show Notes

Terry Gorry is an employment law expert and well known for his online content. Terry has over 27,000 subscribers on YouTube across 2000+ videos and a host of followers who actively read his blogs. 

You can read his best stuff for free by clicking on the links below:

Employment law in Ireland

Terry Gorry & Co. Solicitors

Making a will

Small business and entrepreneurship

Family law


YouTube ¦ Instagram ¦ LinkedIn ¦ Facebook ¦ X ¦ TikTok 

Podcast Transcription

Ciaran Brennan

Terry, we always kick off these things with trying to give a bit of context to who we’re speaking to and let people understand, I suppose, a little bit about your background.

Can you tell us just a little bit about, I suppose, your background and bring me right back. You know, why legal? 

Terry Gorry

Well, I eventually got into legal through a very circuitous sort of a route. I was self employed in retailing and kind of property development and flipping properties and so on from the age of 23 till about the age of 43 or thereabouts when the Celtic Tiger crash came to an end. I did quite well in retailing and used to basically flip properties, flip retail, work hard at it, flip them, sell them on, reinvest, et cetera. And then eventually in the time of the Celtic Tiger situation, I bought a site down in Longford and obviously that whole thing ended badly. So I was kind of wiped out, quite frankly, and had to do something else with my time and see what I was going to do. And I’d lost all my capital and everything, so I actually went back to college when I was in my early 40s to begin studying law again for the first time after 20 years, whatever. And that’s how I ended up in the League of Games.

So I qualified then in 2011, set up my own practice and I’m here now since you know, obviously after 11, 12 years, whatever it is. So I’ve had a roller coaster ride and a lot of it has been actually property related, investment related and eventually the construction thing which obviously wiped out a lot of people including me.

Ciaran Brennan

And would they be, then, your core customer, primary customer base, then, would still be property developers, construction people? 

Terry Gorry

No, it wouldn’t be at all. I mean, the ordinary person buying or selling a property, I do a lot of employment law. I do a lot of small business stuff. I do wills and probate. I do everything except crime.

Crime doesn’t pay, as you know. But no, I don’t do criminal law. I don’t do road traffic. I do everything else. But I mean, the bottom line, the bread and butter stuff would be conveyancing, would be property would be employment law, that sort of stuff, you know. 

Ciaran Brennan

You’ve gone since I was, since I opened up your own business and you’ve put a lot of time and effort into, I suppose growing an online presence in that business. I suppose, what do you think of, first of all, as before you were digging into your own personal success there, like how do you think online, the internet, social media, I suppose as a whole has changed the legal profession?

Terry Gorry

Well, the legal profession has been sort of not so much resistant, but has been pretty slow in my view to actually adopting or adapting to the change that, and the opportunities indeed in social media and so on. I’ve embraced them, but I’ve come to the legal profession late. And with a different sort of mindset and different perspective, perhaps than somebody who had been born and reared in the legal game and who only understood legal and who only understood that you get clients by referrals, etc.

I didn’t have time, quite frankly, when I was 42 or 43, after losing everything, starting out, I didn’t have time for that crap. So I basically had to fish where the fish were and the fish were on social media. So that’s how I kind of got into it. And obviously. you put your best foot forward and you iterate and change as you go along.

You make it a little bit better every day. So, you know, my YouTube channel has 26,000 subscribers on it now, but I mean, I uploaded my first video in 2009, you know? 

Ciaran Brennan:

Yeah. So from day one, you’re. Like that was a part of the strategy. You’re going to go 

Terry Gorry

From day one. Absolutely. Yeah. I started blogging, actually have a website, their business and legal ie. And the first blog post on that was 2009. And that’s still my website for my practice here, but I’ve developed that then into the video and so on. And as I said, the first. Video I uploaded was around Paddy’s day, I think 2009. So that’s a long time to be at it. So like, if you are at it and you’re committed and you’re interested, you’re going to make it a little bit better every time.

And that’s, you know but a lot of legal people haven’t done that, haven’t bothered to do that and look, that’s their choice. But I think coming to the legal industry with a different perspective, with the perspective of perhaps property development construction, retailing for years.

Terry Gorry

That gives you a kind of a different mindset. And you are obviously very focused on generating customers or clients or whatever, you know. 

Ciaran Brennan

And a part of that strategy, then obviously you just jump into that, you see an angle there, which makes a ton of sense. Then like, is there a consistency to that?

Did you say like, I’m going to put a blog out every month or blog out every week? 

Terry Gorry

Consistency is huge. And the consistency is massive. And originally I was putting up one, say one YouTube video every week. Then it went to two, Wednesday and Saturday, and now I’m practically doing them daily. Now I don’t have to, and there’s no great pressure on me to do it, but I can do them very quickly, very handily.

And a lot of the stuff I’m doing, obviously, is talking head stuff, so it’s relatively straightforward, you know? So all I’m doing is basically keeping abreast of developments, changes, unfair dismissal cases you know, people getting in difficulty with loans and so on, high court cases. I’m doing a short video on that.

I mean, I can do it in 10 minutes, edited in 15, five minutes, 10 minutes. It’s going to take me less than half an hour. So it’s no huge commitment from my perspective. So you know, that’s what I do. And obviously you try to keep abreast of changes, you know. 

Ciaran Brennan

Yeah. Cause we’ve started to see it now. I guess I came across a guy recently on Instagram. His name escapes me now. I was going back a couple of weeks ago, but I think he was calling himself the online Bricky or something like that. But the mass following that this guy had, and all he was doing was he had an apprentice with him who was literally documenting. Stuff that he was doing on a day to day basis.

And the interest in that was mind blowing. So you can do what I mean, I suppose what a lot of people would say is I don’t understand maybe if people are interested in that, but there is a general interest in a lot of stuff you’re doing. So like, for example, if you’re running a small, even what back, to your original point, if you’re flipping houses, a lot of people would be interested in the house when it, what it looked like at the start, how it’s progressing.

I’ve done money in it. I mean. One question I’d have, like what, if you’re doing even talking head stuff, like, do you need editors? Do you need to bring in a marketing agency? Do you need to, like, what’s involved in actually taking, deciding that I have an interesting piece of content. I want to get it out there.

I want to get my personal brand or company brand out there. What’s involved in actually saying, right, I think I’ve got something, I’m consistent you’re saying there’s one, but like from an editing and posting point of view, what’s involved in that? 

Terry Gorry

Well, I wouldn’t be, I mean, I don’t have an editor, I do everything myself.

So, I mean. I started my YouTube channel with this and then I, you know, graduated or moved on to this. But I mean, bottom line is I’ll scan the newspapers, I’ll scan the Twitter, for example. And if there’s a story there, for example, last week I had a video actually on TikTok go absolutely viral. It was about the Kyle Hayes, the Limerick hurler, and his court case below on Limerick.

And yesterday, after 24 hours, I had 413, 000 viewers of that particular video. But I mean, making that video took me like 10 minutes. I, as I say, I banged out, I edited then myself, upload it to my YouTube channel. YouTube is free. Anybody can have one on and that’s really it. So I don’t have any great cost in that regard.

And as I’m fairly flexible and fairly nimble, so I’ll use my mobile phone. I’ll use a camera. I have a good quality camera there now. And audio is important. But other than that, like the talk and head stuff, certainly is very straightforward, you know. 

Ciaran Brennan

And is there a way for you then to, I suppose, credit new business or, you know, is there a way of you saying I’ve got a, I can attribute that video or that piece of content to a new customer?

Well, I guess what some questions might come across when people are interested in this is like, how do I know that it’s working? 

Terry Gorry

I get email inquiries from all over America and Europe about buying property in Ireland. So if you want to buy property in Ireland, anybody in Germany or France or the UK.

Will do a simple Google search, Google own YouTube. So I’m gonna feature either on Google search or on YouTube on both. People will contact me then and they’ll say, I just saw your YouTube channel. It’s great. Can you act for me in relation to, I’m buying this property in the west of Ireland. It’s in Strom, it’s gonna cost a hundred grand.

I want to get the vacant property, or derelict property grant, blah, blah, blah. I see you have a video on that. And that’s how I know I can directly attribute. Purchases conveyances. I mean, I have guys from America. They’re buying properties in Ireland for cash, quite frankly, very wealthy individuals who come across me simply on YouTube because that’s where they look.

I mean, you know, people do search online and that’s it, you know? So if you’re from outside Ireland, if you’re from Germany, or  the UK or United States, you’re going to do a Google search and you’re going to try and find some guy who actually knows what he’s doing. And you know, that’s, the whole idea of what I do on making the videos.

Basically, I’m putting out useful information. I’m not saying buy my shit or pick me. I’m simply putting out useful information and people can draw their own conclusion. Then say, geez, that fella seems to know what he’s talking about, you know. 

Ciaran Brennan

Yeah. And again, I can echo that because how I suppose we ended up chatting today is we were interested in a piece of, on unfair dismissal.

We do our own research to say who’s out there that can speak to us about that and we find your stuff. Going back to that point there, one of the things that we were interested to speak to you about was that unfair dismissal piece, and there was a piece of content you put out a couple of years ago, it’s going back to a case a couple of years ago where a builder breaks a colleague’s nose in an argument on site gets dismissed and actually goes and, wins the case. Do you remember the case?

Terry Gorry

I do. Absolutely. Mark Gilligan was the guy, he made a comment to an apprentice of a personal nature. The apprentice pushed Gilligan to the ground. Gilligan then struck him and broke his nose and the boss man fired Gilligan and Gilligan brought a claim to the WRC. And basically he won his case.

But when I say he won his case he won four weeks wages, which was reduced to €966 on the basis that he was 66 percent responsible for his own dismissal. Now obviously he got a new job fairly quickly and that’s why he was only awarded 4 weeks wages in the first instance and then it was reduced back down to €966.

That’s a serious pain in the arse quite frankly for the employer because the employer has to go along to the WRC hearing, defend himself, perhaps get legal representation, doesn’t know how it’s going to go, and it’s going to cost them time, and it’s going to cost them money, but that could have been avoided if the employer had engaged in some sort of disciplinary procedure, and the adjudication officer in that case noted the disciplinary procedures were simply not followed.

In other words you know, if you simply get rid of somebody on the basis of what appears to be compelling evidence, you’re still going to get caught with your trousers down if you don’t put to the alleged wrongdoer the allegation of what he did wrong and give him a chance to explain himself. Do you know what I mean?

Ciaran Brennan

What does that, I mean, if mapping out then. What the employer should have done in that case. I mean, what, 

Terry Gorry

Probably, he probably should have suspended your man on pay first and said, look, I’m going to investigate this. And then he should have gone to him and said, look, I’m after talking to the apprentice there.

He’s making the allegation that you broke his bloody nose. You know, and in fact, I saw you breaking his nose. What do you have to say to that? And if your man says, oh, the apprentice said something about my mother or wound me up or whatever, and I retaliated, I’m sorry. That’s one thing. And the boss man might say, OK, there’s some mitigation there.

There’s some mitigating circumstances. We’ll give you a final written warning. Don’t do it again. Or the boss man can do what he did. You’re fired, pack up your trowel and go. Then you’re, there’s no procedure. Do you know what I mean? And we all know of court cases and so on, where what on the surface appears to be appalling set of circumstances and a completely one way story.

When somebody goes into evidence, then you might say, Jesus, that’s a completely different. And now I can see how that arose or whatever. So there’s always two sides to every story. And, you know, you’re supposed to go through the motions, quite frankly, and a lot of employers lose unfair dismissal cases because they simply don’t go through any procedure.

And everybody has a constitutional right to fair procedures. You know, it’s in the Constitution. 

Ciaran Brennan

So to bring this back to sort of a real life example. So if you have a guy, Terry, let’s say, and he’s not on an actual contract. You’ve never given him a contract, let’s say, but I mean, he’s been with you over 12 months.

He’s entitled to. Pretty much the same rights as if you had a contract in the place is 

Terry Gorry

Well, I mean, the first argument he’s going to make if you go through solicitors, I’m there for over 12 months. I’m rocking up. I’m doing the work and he’s paying me and he’s paying me an hourly rate. Of course, I’m a bloody employee.

I’m entitled to employment rights. I’m employed entitled to the rights to any employees entitled to. Okay. Okay. Blah, blah, blah. And the very first case he has there is won against his employer for his failure to give him a written statement of terms and conditions of employment, and then whatever else comes after that.

And that can be a very easy case to win because a lot of lads don’t give written statements, but they must do it. And the maximum award for that is four weeks wages. The average is two. But when they come to me, if there’s other things going on, other claims, you’ll always throw that in because it’s an easy win.

Terry Gorry

You know what I mean? It’s a straightforward net situation. The guy either gave a written contract or he didn’t. If he didn’t, like I win. You know what I mean? It’s as simple as that. 

Ciaran Brennan

Yeah. So that goes, which is he’s, let’s say the employer in that case knows that he’s obviously entitled to employment rights.

And, you know, we. Maybe just starts to, he was a good performer at one stage. Now he’s started to down to a little bit, maybe just isn’t performing. What is the, like, what does the employer have to do then to do things correctly to make sure we can unwind that person out of the company without any. 

Terry Gorry

He has to go through, has to go through some sort of a performance improvement process.

In other words, he needs to tell the employee, look what’s going on. Your performance has slipped. I’m not happy with you because of X, Y, and Z. You’re simply not doing as good a quality work as you used to. And here’s the evidence of that. I’m going to give you a period of time during which you must improve.

Is there anything bothering you outside the workplace? Is there any particular reason why your work has now become slipshod? And bottom line is, you put him on a procedure or a process, you give him the chance to improve, and if he doesn’t improve or couldn’t give a crap, or it comes in to work late, etc, well then, you know, the employer is entitled to terminate on the grounds of performance, etc.

That’s it. You’ve given him a fair chance. You’ve given him a fair warning. You’ve given him what he needs to meet the standard and he’s failed. And that’s fine. But you do need to go through that procedure because if you don’t go through the procedure, the argument is it’s an unfair dismissal. I mean, all, dismissals are essentially deemed to be unfair dismissals unless there’s substantial grounds for termination, you know?

So you do need substantial grounds as an employer. 

Ciaran Brennan

Okay, so the, if you give them a variable one, then you want to document that, I suppose, make sure that’s documented. 

Terry Gorry

You would, you want to keep record of, you know, some sort of basic records of any warnings issued, et cetera, et cetera. And you are supposed to do it in a fair sort of a process and a warning can only, if it’s a variable, for example, it would probably be only.

On the record for six months or whatever wouldn’t be hanging over a fella for the rest of his life or whatever. So again, a basic disciplinary procedure should be in the workplace. And you know, there’s plenty of, people out there who can give you a disciplinary procedure or a staff handbook or whatever.

And there’s a statutory instrument one, four, six of 2000 that covers it anyway. So even if you only Googled one, four, six of 2000, you can actually find. A bloody procedure online there that’s in law that should be followed broadly, you know? 

Ciaran Brennan

Okay. And if I decide that I’m gonna put this guy on a, pip, the performance and proven process.

Yeah. is there a timeline on that there? Like, can I decide? Yeah. There would be mean that for a week or is it wanna be 

Terry Gorry

No, I’d wanna be given them three months, even up to six months. I mean, if you put a, fell on a pip for, say a month and get rid of him you could win lose on. Fair dismissal case simply because it could be argued that you didn’t give him enough time to improve or whatever.

You know what I mean? 

Ciaran Brennan

Yeah. No, it isn’t. And you know what? It happens in construction. It’s happened to me myself where, you know, you get a tip on the shoulder where employers says, listen, lads, you know, things haven’t gone to plan here. We didn’t get paid by the main contractor. We’re going to have to let, you know, pretty much everyone go, I presume this grounds for…

In that case, I suppose the employer has economic reasons, like there’s no money to pay you. 

Terry Gorry

Absolutely, yeah, well, that’s a different process. That’s a redundancy situation. Obviously, if you have two years continuous service, you’re entitled to a redundancy payment. However, if you don’t have two years continuous service, if you only have 12 months or 18 months, or unfortunately the employer can get rid of you on the grounds of redundancy, and redundancy is a dismissal claim, but it must be a genuine redundancy.

Ciaran Brennan

And if the case was redundancy, let’s say I’m a. Billing contract, I’ve got a gang of carpenters employed for me. Is there a case where I’ve decided I want to let this group of carpenters go and hold on to that? Do the employers have any rights there to say, why is it me being picked for that redundancy and not this guy?

Because we’re in the same …

Terry Gorry

Yeah, again, the process must be reasonable, it must be fair, it can’t be sort of an unfair dismissal dressed up as a redundancy on. You can’t sort of apply criteria unfairly to lads. In other words, you should have some sort of a matrix on the case. Bye. This is how you’re going to mark or give lads credit, et cetera.

And on this basis, then you’re going to decide who’s going to be made redundant or not, you know? So that’s a question of selection, unfairly selected. If you’re unfairly selected for redundancy, for example, you might be the only Polish lad in a crew of, say, six. Then you might be saying to yourself, Jesus, I was only let go because I’m from Poland.

I’m going to bring a claim now for discrimination or something. So the employer needs to be able to objectively justify Why they picked one individual, if they had to pick one individual out of a number, you know? 

Ciaran Brennan: 

Yeah, you mentioned there as well. Like let’s say the case being that maybe I just didn’t have the proper contract in place.

And in that case, the employer, the employee is probably gonna have a fair chance of winning the case against me. If. You’re looking at, let’s say, I take my chances, I’ll go and I’ll take a chance of seeing this guy in the WRC. Like, what’s the rough cost of a day in WRC for …

Terry Gorry 

Well, look, if you get legal representation for WRC, you could be looking at something like three grand plus that.

You could be looking at that. Now, sometimes these bloody cases go kind of pear shaped insofar as they can go on over not one, but maybe two or three days, depending on the number of witnesses and time is money. You know, if I have to leave the office like on three occasions and spend a day in Dublin rather than be here in the office making a few bob, then that may well be reflected in, in, in the bill later on, you know?

So sometimes they can be very straightforward cases and, you know, be dealt with within a couple of hours. But sometimes you could have a case there where you have three, four or five witnesses on, you know what I mean? It can drag on and then you could be back for day two or day three. So you’d want to be allowed for probably something like three grand plus VAT, I would imagine.

But look, it depends on the solicitor, I suppose, you know? Yeah. 

Ciaran Brennan

And it’s like, is it just going back to your property flipping example? Is construction any different, right, to how other industries look? I mean, there’s a massive fluctuation in staff numbers in between projects, for example. So there’s a high level of movement between the staff numbers from job to job, meaning people are coming in, people are coming out.

Is there any difference between construction and any other? 

Terry Gorry

No, no, the law is the law. The law doesn’t really care whether you’re a blocklayer. Or, you know, a tiler or a roofer as opposed to say, support staff in the retail environment or somebody working in office, everybody has employment rights and they’re the rights that will be upheld, etc, And to make matters worse, quite frankly, for the construction sector, you have the employment regulation order, whatever you call it where it sets out certain obligations on people in particular industries. One of them is for the building building industry, which sets out various obligations to do with pensions and all that crack.

Terry Gorry

So if anything, the construction industry is an even more difficult situation for employers, you know? 

Ciaran Brennan

Yeah, just even just on that topic as well, because we actually, a lot of our own customers and a lot of our own actually listeners to this as well. Once that we, we get the, uh. Pleasure to speak to are in that space, actually that buying, renovating, selling it’s a, you know, especially with some of the grants that are available in oil at the moment for derelicts and all that type of stuff.

So it’s a, I would say a hot space at the moment from your experience there, I suppose, buying, renovating, selling, what are the top tips you would have for people maybe starting their property development journey in that particular flipping strategy. 

Terry Gorry

If they’re going to do property development or flipping, I mean, firstly, the need, obviously, I think they need two things.

One is finance and two is imagination. And I think a lot of people don’t have sufficient imagination to see where opportunities genuinely are and are not. So, you know, they need to be aware of. The relaxation of various planning obligations, for example, in relation to regeneration of derelict buildings in towns and so on and living over shops and that sort of crack.

That’s what I’d actually be doing if I was back to developing property again. I’d be looking at the likes of retail units and old pubs and so on and fairly good locations and actually probably transferring them or transforming them into residential, et cetera, et cetera, you know. Um. But there are incentives for that, and there are relaxations on the planning obligations as well.

Terry Gorry

So the cost there of getting an architect in and so on, and getting certificates of compliance, they could be relaxed for, you know, the likes of the likes of a development on a town or a village. You know, would have seen better days maybe from like we all know towns and villages where like one time to say 15 or 20 pubs in the town and now there’s only three or four and only a need for three or four like there’s 12 other buildings there perhaps in the village or in the town, which are probably fairly well located.

You know what I mean? I need temptations to go back in. Absolutely. Yeah. Sometimes you have a look and you’d see, you know, and I saw a lot here a couple of years ago doing a good thing. He bought a retail unit, not a million miles away from here. And he discovered you could actually transform it to residential without planning permission.

And that’s what he did. And he has a very nice apartment for himself now. The retail unit was commercial in a very good location and never had traded. So, you know, it was exempt from the obligation to get planning. Yeah, he did a lot of the work himself and he has a bloody nice, well located residential unit now with no concerns about planning obligations or planning permission.

Ciaran Brennan

Opportunities are out there, there’s absolutely no question. 

Terry Gorry 

Yeah, if you’re, you need to be looking around though, you need to be, you know, you need to be as I say, that’s why you need imagination and money, I think, for property development if you’re, you know, and that’s, key, you know. 

Ciaran Brennan

Terry, you’ve obviously got a wealth of knowledge in, in, in all this space.

If anyone listening wants to reach out to you, pick your brain on,any of that, or just generally reach out for legal advice, what, where’s the best place to find you? 

Terry Gorry

Just at the website www.businessandlegal. ie, or else just Google my name and you’ll find any number of, I have a few websites.

And you know, but that website, Terry Gorry and Company Solicitors is probably the best one. That’s businessandlegal. ie. But if anyone Googled my name, they’ll find the contact details, you know. Brilliant. 

Ciaran Brennan

We’ll pop up the links as well in the, yeah, in the show notes as well. Terry, listen, thanks for coming on.

Terry Gorry 

Cheers. Thanks a lot. Thank you. Bye.

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