The Employment Relations Authority has ordered an employer to pay $10,000 after finding that the employer was required to take more care when offering an employee an employment role that they subsequently withdrew. The employee raised a personal grievance claim after resigning from her job.

The employee was forced to take extended periods of leave due to an injury suffered outside of work. During the course of this leave, the employer and employee entered into negotiations about a new reduced role that the employee could perform as she recovered from her upcoming surgery.

The employer offered the employee a role in which the employer would receive a reduced salary. The employer stated that the start date of this role was a week before the surgery was scheduled. When the employee informed the employer that she would not be able to start at the desired time, the employer retracted the offer. No other alternative option was offered to the employee, leading to her eventual resignation.

The Authority decided that the offering, and then withdrawal of the offer of alternative employment caused extra stress to the employee. The employee was particularly vulnerable given that her surgery was only days away, leading the Authority to decide that the withdrawal of the employment offer was not reasonable in the circumstances.

The employee also claimed that the employer had unilaterally varied the employment agreement by paying the employee 80% of their salary during periods of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Authority decided that the employee was pressured to sign the varied agreement without first receiving legal advice on the matter. This was decided to be a breach of reasonable employment standards.

The Authority ordered the employee to pay $5,000 as compensation for hurt and humiliation, and $5,000 in wage arrears due to the wage reduction.

If there is confusion around an employer’s obligations in an employment relationship, it is wise to see advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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