The Employment Relations Authority has upheld a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal and ordered an employer to pay $10,000 after failing to pay his employee, and terminating the employee with no notice.

The employee worked for three weeks, during which time he complained to WorkSafe about health and safety concerns.

The employer dismissed the employee on his third week of employment, after he brought up concerns about the treatment of employees in the workplace. The employee was never given notice.

Under the terms of the employment agreement, the employer had to provide 3 days’ notice to the employee, as the dismissal was in his 90 day trial period. He failed to do so.

The employer withheld the payment of the last two weeks of wages owed to the employee, as well as 8% on top of the wages as an alternative for holiday pay. He stated that he would only pay the employee what he was owed if he apologised for making a complaint to WorkSafe.

In deciding what the penalty should be, the Authority found that the employer had applied pressure to the employee in an attempt to get him to withdraw his legitimate WorkSafe complaint. As well as this, the Authority found that the employer had acted intentionally in the withholding of payment, and that his reasons for doing so were reprehensible.

The Authority ordered payment of just under $5000 for unpaid wages, as well as a $4000 penalty and $1500 towards costs.

If the employer had better understood his requirements around wage payments and the dismissal of an employee, he could have avoided the expensive penalty imposed on him by the Authority.

If there is confusion around employee rights in the workplace, it is wise to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.