The Employment Relations Authority has recently rejected an employee’s personal grievance claim after finding that the employer relied on a valid trial provision contained in the employment agreement.

The employee was hired by the employer under an employment agreement which contained a 90-day trial period. Six weeks into her employment the employee became ill from a spider bite, and had to take some time away from work.  

The employer came to visit the employee on her time off. During the visit the employer explained that the employment relationship was “not working” due to a conflict of personalities, verbally dismissing the employee with two weeks’ notice.

The employer’s verbal notice was supported by a letter written to the employee the following week, which stated the employer was giving her a one week notice. The employee then raised personal grievance claims of unjustified dismissal and disadvantage with the Authority.

The law prevents an employee from raising a personal grievance claim of unjustified dismissal where they have been dismissed in reliance on a trial period. The Authority had to determine whether the employer had relied on the trial period when dismissing the employee.

In this case the Authority decided that the letter of dismissal clearly outlined the employer’s reliance on the trial period. The Authority accepted that the employer had initially relied on “conflicting personalities” as the reason for the dismissal, but this was not stipulated in the written letter of dismissal.

The Authority noted that the notice period given verbally and the notice period given in writing were different by one week. It decided that the employer was required to pay the employee for the entirety of the longer notice period.

As a separate issue, the Authority also determined that the employer had not correctly paid the employee for all hours worked, including the holiday pay owed for those hours. The employer had underpaid the employee by almost 100 hours.

The employer was ordered to pay over $3,300 dollars in wage arrears, including holiday pay, annual leave and interest. The Authority also imposed a penalty of $3,000 for the employer’s failure to keep accurate wage and time records.

It is important to be aware of your obligations when dismissing an employee. If you are confused about this process, it pays to seek advice from a professional with experience in the area.


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Alan Knowsley and Hunter Flanagan-Connors