The Employment Relations Authority has upheld an employee’s personal grievance claims of unjustified dismissal and unjustified disadvantage, and has ordered an employer to pay over $23,000.

The employee was never given a written employment agreement by the employer, despite asking for one throughout her seven months of employment. The employee usually worked three days a week for the employer.

The employee’s circumstances changed, meaning that there was a possibility that she could no longer work on one of her three permanent days. The employee discussed this with her supervisor, who told her to keep them informed about the changing situation.

The manager then sent a text to the employer, stating that the employee’s last day would be in four weeks’ time. The employer later explained to the employee during a phone call that she believed the employee had resigned.

The employer followed this up with an email the next day, restating her belief that the employee had resigned.

The employee raised personal grievance claims of unjustified dismissal and disadvantage with the Authority. The employee argued that she had been dismissed by her employer and disadvantaged by not receiving a written employment agreement at the commencement of her employment. The employee also claimed that she was not given proper rest breaks during the course of her employment.

An unjustified dismissal occurs when an employer has dismissed an employee, but has not acted fairly and reasonably throughout the dismissal process. In this case, the Authority decided that the employee had never intended to resign and had merely been informing the employer of her changing circumstances.

The employee also supplied a draft email that was never sent to her employer, but showed that the employee had never intended to resign. The Authority accepted the employee’s evidence and denied any arguments that there was a language barrier between employee and employer.

The Authority also decided that the employee had been unjustifiably disadvantaged by not being provided a written employment agreement or given proper breaks.

Under the Employment Relations Act, employers are required to provide employees with written employment agreements. The Authority decided that the employer disadvantaged the employee by not providing clarity regarding whether she was on a trial period, failing to give her rest breaks, and failing to inform her of her notice period.

The Authority ordered the employer to pay $3,870 plus interest in lost wages, $689 in sick leave, and $402 for rest and meal breaks. The employer also faced a penalty of $3,500 for breaching minimum employment standards.

The Authority ordered the employer to pay $15,000 in compensation to the employee for the hurt and humiliation caused by their conduct.

There is an important process which must be followed when dismissing an employee. If you are confused about this process, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

 

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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors