Hit the road Jack ......

A company involved in high end watch repairs employed a part-time person (25 hours per week) in March 2015 - part of the job was to package repaired watches and prepare despatch documentation for return to account holders.  There was no employment agreement.  
The owner worked alongside the employee on the first day explaining the need for accuracy because of the high value of the items being despatched and showed the employee the despatch procedure. He also explained the importance of cross checking the invoice numbers against job sheets and the number on the back of each watch.

4 days later a major client phoned the owner advising that they had received incorrect despatch documentation.  The owner apologised and then discussed the incident with the employee - reiterating the need to slow down and take more care.

A week later the owner received a phone call from another major client that they had received a repaired item that did not belong to them - in fact it was for their main competitor.  The owner apologised, explained there was a new staff member, but accepted responsibility for the error.  This second incident, according to the owner, further damaged his reputation.

The owner then telephoned the employee to say that she was no longer required – just 2 weeks in the job.

The employee asked the reason for the instant dismissal and received the following response:

“You have been dismissed from the employment of the Company. This is the LAST contact I will respond to any further correspondence either via email communication or hard copy of same….. 

Not surprisingly, the employee lodged a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal with the Employment Relations Authority. When the case was heard, the owner stated that the employee was dismissed because of two despatch mistakes- admitting that the matter was not handled in an appropriate way, indicating several mitigating circumstances including that he had been under a great deal of pressure and was taking medicine for stress and anxiety.

The Authority considered whether the owner had acted as a fair and reasonable employer could, and referred to Section 4 (1A) of the Employment Relations Act 2000, which requires an employer who is proposing to make a decision which will adversely impact on an employee’s continuation of employment to provide the employee with all relevant information and give them the opportunity to comment on the information before a decision is made.

The Authority determined that the owner’s actions was unjustified, both substantively and procedurally, and ordered him to pay to the employee $8,250.00 for the unjustified dismissal.

If the employee had had a signed employment agreement with a trial period, the result may have been quite different.

Seeking advice before taking dismissal action could have saved the owner the significant cost of a personal grievance.

Paddy Battersby, Battersby HR Consulting, Phone 09 838 6338, paddy@battersbyhr.com, www.battersbyhr.com

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