The Employment Relations Authority has ordered an employer to pay $21,000 after finding that their dismissal of an employee was unjustified.

The employer purchased the business which the employee worked for, and decided to keep her on as an employee. Two months after the purchase of the business, the employee went on scheduled maternity leave.

Prior to her scheduled return date, the employee informed the employer that she wished to retain her role in the business, and requested a further 8 weeks of maternity leave. A meeting between the employer and the employee was scheduled soon after.

At this meeting, the employer informed the employee that she was no longer required, and that she was being dismissed. The employee tried to negotiate by stating that she could return to work immediately, but the employer had made the decision to dismiss her, and refused the offer.

The employee raised a personal grievance claim of unjustified dismissal with the Authority.

The Authority had to decide whether or not the dismissal of the employee was justified. The employer did not provide the employee with any information regarding its decision to dismiss her, failed to give her any notice of the dismissal, and failed to offer her a chance to respond to the dismissal proposal.

It was decided that the employer had not acted as a reasonable employer would have in the circumstances, and that the dismissal was therefore unjustified.

The employer was ordered to pay over $6,000 as compensation for unpaid wages, as well as $15,000 as compensation for the hurt and humiliation caused by their actions.

If there is confusion around the required process when dismissing an employee, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.

 

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Alan Knowsley and Matthew Binnie

Litigation Team
Wellington