In a recent ERA decision an employee bus driver was awarded over $14,500 in compensation, reimbursement and holiday pay.  His employer, a bus company, had suspended, and then dismissed, the employee after receiving an unsubstantiated complaint from a school.

The employee never had a chance to tell his side of the story.  It turned out that there was a fairly innocent explanation and the Authority only attributed him with 15% of the blame.  Taking this contribution into account, the Authority awarded almost $11,500 in compensation and reimbursement for lost wages and hurt and humiliation.

The employer told the Authority that, “the matter was clear”.  This is very rarely the case, and regardless, the employer is always obliged to investigate any allegation before reprimanding an employee.

Importantly, the employee was, to a degree, blameworthy.  Some of the employer’s conduct in disciplining the bus driver may have been justified if proper process had been followed.  Proper process wasn’t followed, and because it wasn’t the employee ended up with no job instead of a slap on the wrist, and the employer ended up with a hefty bill.

Often poor process can muddy what otherwise seems clear.  Any employment is governed by certain rules and all employees are entitled to certain minimum rights.

It also came to light that there were issues with holiday pay.  The employer had been paying holiday pay on an “as you go” basis.  Although this is appropriate and legal in some circumstances, the ERA found that this was not one of them.  Consequently a further award of $3,080 for holiday pay owing was made against the employer.  Pay “as you go” holiday pay is only able to be done in limited circumstances where it would not be possible to pay holiday pay at the time of a holiday. This could be if the employment is on a casual basis so there are no set work days and holidays are not taken. If the employer gets it wrong and pays “as you go” when they should not, they have to pay the holiday pay again.

For assistance with clearing up an employment issue, please call us on (04) 4736850.