An employee who worked as a mental health nurse has had his personal grievance claim for unjustified dismissal rejected by the Employment Court.

The employee was dismissed after being off work for eight and a half months on sick leave.

The Court held that the Wellington District Health Board acted as a fair and reasonable employer would in the circumstances.

The Court noted that an employer has no obligation to keep a job open indefinitely when an employee is suffering from a prolonged illness. The Court found that when determining whether to dismiss the employee the employer should take into account their own needs and what they can and cannot reasonably accommodate, and the expected period of absence.

The Court held that WDHB followed a fair process when determining whether to dismiss the employee as they had sought advice from a specialist occupational physician who indicated  that the employee’s return to work was unlikely.

The Court noted that the WDHB had genuine and reasonable concerns as to their ability to continue shifting resources in order to fill the employee’s position especially heading into the busy Christmas period, and acknowledged that the WDHB was unable to appoint someone else because the employee’s position was not vacant.

The Court found that the WDHB completed a thorough investigation as to whether the employee could return to work, and adequately attempted to engage the employee in these matters. The Court also held that the WDHB had fulfilled all of its obligations under its rehabilitation policy and had considered a range of alternatives.