The Employment Relations Authority has recently decided a trial period was invalid and therefore upheld an employee’s personal grievance claim of unjustified dismissal.

The employee had an interview with the employer about a job position. The employee was provided with an employment agreement and was informed that he would be employed on a 90-day trial period.

The employee signed the agreement after his first week of work. The agreement provided that he would be paid $29 per hour.

After two days of employment, the employer discussed with the employee that they were not happy with his work performance. The employer told the employee to sign a new employment agreement with a pay rate of $26 per hour or resign. The employee signed the new agreement.

Three weeks into the employment, the employer called a meeting with the employee. The employer said that they were not satisfied with the work and the employee should “give up”. The employee was told that the following day would be his last day.

The Authority had to determine first whether the employee was employed under a valid trial period. If so, the employee could not raise a personal grievance claim.

The requirements for a trial period are strict, given that employees on a trial period give up their right to bring a personal grievance claim. In this case, the employee did not sign the employment agreement until after he commenced his first week of work.

By law, employees must agree to the trial period before they begin working for the employer. In this case, the employee signed the agreement after they had already started working.

Further, even if this first trial period was valid, it was replaced by the employer’s offer of a second employment agreement. A trial period cannot be offered to employees that have already worked for a company or employer.

The second employment agreement was signed after the employee had already worked for the employer. Therefore, the trial period was invalid, and the employee could raise a personal grievance claim of unjustified dismissal.

A dismissal will be unjustified if the employer did not act as a fair and reasonable employer could have in the circumstances. In this case, the employer did not seek the feedback of the employee, nor did they consider any such feedback.

The employee was not informed throughout the process, including that the meeting was about a potential dismissal from employment.

The Authority concluded that the employer had not acted in a procedurally fair manner, and therefore the employee was unjustifiably dismissed.

The employer was ordered to pay $4,500 in lost wages, $2,250 in legal costs, and $9,000 in compensation for hurt, humiliation and loss.

It is important to be aware of your obligations as an employer, especially when dismissing an employee. If you are confused about these obligations, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

Leading law firms committed to helping clients cost-effectively will have a range of fixed-price Initial Consultations to suit most people’s needs in quickly learning what their options are.  At Rainey Collins we have an experienced team who can answer your questions and put you on the right track.

Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors