The Employment Relationship Authority has upheld a claim for unjustified dismissal after finding that a girlfriend was an employee and was dismissed without a proper process once the relationship ended.

The woman claimed that she had been employed at her boyfriend’s business and, after they broke up, that she was dismissed. The boyfriend claimed that there was no employment relationship and that she had merely hung out at his business from time to time. The ERA considered all of the factors to determine that because she had carried out some work tasks, that the boyfriend conceded he was considering formalising the situation and had been given cash from time to time she was in an employment relationship. The ERA concluded that the employer was the boyfriend and not the business.

As no proper process had been followed to end the employment relationship, there was an unjustified dismissal. The ERA awarded 3 months lost wages ($6903 for 30 hours per week at the minimum wage) and $18,000 for hurt and humiliation for the way the dismissal was carried out and the suffering the employee was caused.

It pays to be very clear about whether someone is employed or merely helping out as a volunteer as it can be an expensive process to get it wrong.

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