The Employment Relations Authority has found that an employee had a personal grievance and was unjustifiably dismissed after she was made redundant.  The employee had raised concerns over bullying in the months prior to the redundancy process, but those bullying allegations had not been upheld.

The ERA found that the employer had commenced the redundancy process with the ulterior motive of removing a troublesome employee, rather than a genuine redundancy.  The ERA found that the employer had pre-determined the outcome of the process and had closed their minds to the possibility of redeployment.

There was a new role available within the workplace which contained significant aspects of the current role.  The ERA found that although some training and professional development might have been required to put the employee into this role, a fair and reasonable employer would not automatically have closed off the possibility of redeployment. 

In addition the ERA found that holding the meeting at the employer’s lawyer’s offices, with the lawyer playing a significant part in the meeting was inconsistent with good faith because no prior notice, that the lawyer would be taking part in the meeting, was given to the employee.

The employer also failed to provide the employee with sufficient information along with the redundancy proposal to allow them to give a considered response.

All of those factors meant the redundancy process was not genuine and the dismissal was therefore unjustified.  The ERA awarded three months lost wages and holiday plus $18,000 compensation for the hurt and humiliation suffered.

It is important that employers have a genuine reason for redundancy and do not seek to disguise a performance or discipline matter as a redundancy.

Alan Knowsley
Employment Lawyer Wellington