An employee’s personal grievance claim for unjustified dismissal has been declined by the Employment Relations Authority.

The employee was in New Zealand on an essential work visa and was employed in a permanent role for the employer.

The employee was on holiday overseas when the first COVID-19 lockdown commenced and was subsequently unable to return to New Zealand due to border restrictions. The pandemic had significant negative impacts on the employer, which led to a necessary restructure.

This was communicated to the employee in an email which outlined the restructure and requested her feedback. The employee failed to provide feedback within the specified time frame.

The employer agreed to the employee’s request to extend the notice of the disestablishment of her role, as it may have negatively impacted her ability to attain re-entry into New Zealand. The employer also offered the employee the alternative of leave without pay, so that she could retain employment status until the company’s financial position improved. 

Once the company’s finances improved and the employee returned to New Zealand, the employer extended her redundancy date. The employer later offered the employee full employment once the company restored its financial position. The employee declined this request and subsequently resigned.

The employee brought a personal grievance claim of unjustified dismissal by the employer as well as a claim of unjustifiable disadvantage. The Authority declined both claims and found that the employer had acted as a fair and reasonable employer would have when dismissing the employee.

The employer had done everything it could in the circumstances. The employer had informed the employee of the restructure and possible redundancy, and sought feedback from the employee. The employer also extended the time in which feedback could be provided, and held a meeting with the employee to discuss the employment issues once she regained entry into New Zealand.

It is also clear that the employee had been offered alternatives such as leave without pay, and eventually an offer to retain her employment status.

The Authority held that the employer had actually done more than was necessary in the circumstances.

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


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