Patrice Dougan

Patrice Dougan is a NZME. News Service reporter based in Auckland.

Woman made redundant while on maternity leave unfairly dismissed

Food company Delmaine failed to follow procedure when it made a worker redundant whilst she was on maternity leave and it has been ordered to pay the worker $32,000 in lost wages and compensation. Photo / Thinkstock
Food company Delmaine failed to follow procedure when it made a worker redundant whilst she was on maternity leave and it has been ordered to pay the worker $32,000 in lost wages and compensation. Photo / Thinkstock

A woman who was made redundant while on maternity leave has won her case for unfair dismissal.

Food company Delmaine has been ordered to pay Katherine Ledger a total of $32,000 in lost wages, compensation and penalties after making her position redundant in a cost-cutting exercise which merged her duties into those of other employees.

The company was found to have breached redundancy and parental leave employment laws by the Employment Relations Authority.

Ms Ledger was hired by Delmaine in February 2011 as its national key account manager. After falling pregnant later that year she organised maternity leave, to take effect in July 2012 for seven months.

Her role was to be covered by her manager and other employees.

However, during her time off work, Delmaine began looking for ways to save money and it was suggested that Ms Ledger's position could be absorbed by others on the team.

She was informed of the decision by telephone and a subsequent meeting just days before Christmas 2012.

The ERA found that Delmaine had not only failed to follow correct procedure for making employees redundant but it also did not have "genuine reasons for the restructuring exercise".

"It is unclear to the authority, in the lack of detailed supportive financial information or projected cost savings, exactly why the position of national key account manager had become untenable, particularly as there had been no indication to Ms Ledger that the economic climate had significantly worsened Delmaine's financial situation during the period of her appointment," the authority said.

It added: "Further there has been evidence presented to the authority that the sales team head count had been increased prior to the termination of the national key account manager position by the addition of a new full-time sales representative for Foodstuffs Auckland and by the appointment of a part-timer to a full-time position in the South Island."

The ERA also found that Delmaine "failed in its obligation to keep Ms Ledger's position open during the period of her parental leave, contrary to the presumption contained in the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987".

Delmaine was ordered to pay Ms Ledger $19,230 in lost wages, $15,000 compensation for "humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings", and a penalty of $2000.

- APNZ

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