The Employment Relations Authority has ordered an employer to pay $33,000 after upholding a personal grievance and deciding that they had unjustifiably dismissed an employee.

The employee brought the claim after he was dismissed following a car accident he had whilst driving a company car.

The employee was employed on a fixed term basis. The term was initially meant to last for around four months, but the employee did not receive any notice of termination. The employee remained employed for 17 months under this contract.

A termination notice was issued to the employee three weeks after the car accident. The reason outlined in the termination notice was that the employees fixed term was over, and that his services were no longer required.

The employee raised a personal grievance claim against the employer.

Firstly, the Authority had to decide what kind of employment the employee held. It was decided that he was a permanent employee as his employment evolved from fixed term when his employment continued after the initial fixed term period.

Secondly, the Authority had to decide whether the dismissal was unjustified. To determine this, the Authority had to consider whether the employer had acted as a fair and reasonable employer would have in the circumstances.

The employer did not consider offering the employee any alternative employment, nor did he have the opportunity to discuss alternative options with the employer. He was also given no chance to respond to the termination. As well as this, the employer had several human resource representatives employed at the time of termination, showing that there were facilities to implement a consultation process.

As a result of these factors, the Authority decided that the employer had not acted in a fair and reasonable manner, and ordered the payment of $13,000 in unpaid wages and lost remuneration, $15,000 of compensation for hurt and humiliation, and $5000 as a penalty.

If the employer had a better understanding of the difference between fixed term and permanent employees, as well as the correct process for the dismissal of an employee, costly and time consuming legal proceedings, as well as a large penalty could have been avoided.

If there is confusion surrounding employee rights, it is wise to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.