Sophie Ryan is online editor for the Business Herald

Trial period warning for bosses - you still need a contract

Photo / iStock
Photo / iStock

A beekeeping business that fired a worker after nine weeks of work were wrong in thinking they could dismiss him under the 90-day trial period policy.

Joshua Lawrence began working for Darcy Lee Beehre and Melanie Beehre of Bee Happy Bees in Western Bay of Plenty in August 2015. Two months later he was told his work performance was poor and he no longer had a job.

Lawrence took a claim of unjustified dismissal to the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) and was successful in proving the Beehres couldn't justify dismissing him.

The Beehres took a counter-claim seeking losses the business incurred, which they attributed to Lawrence. Their claim was partly successful.

The ERA heard Lawrence was employed as a beekeeper, but he understood his position to be general labourer.

When Lawrence began working for the Beehres he was given a blank employment agreement template to read and sign.

It didn't include a pay rate or his name and didn't make mention of a provisional trial period.

Lawrence's work wasn't up to standard for the Beehres and they decided to dismiss him.

Member of the Authority Rachel Larmer said without the proper contract, the employer couldn't dismiss Lawrence without a fair and reasonable process.

"There was absolutely no formal or proper performance management process
put in place. Mr Lawrence was not fully or fairly put on notice that his ongoing employment was at risk if he did not meet specified performance standards within a defined period of time."

The case should be a warning to other business owners, Larmer said.

"This case should serve as a warning to employers to ensure their employment documentation is in order before a prospective employee accepts an offer of employment."

Lawrence was awarded $5000 in lost wages and unpaid holiday leave and $3000 in compensation. However, Larmer reduced that amount by 50 per cent because he contributed to the situation by his poor performance at work, including showing up late and failure to follow instructions.

The case brought by the Beehres against Lawrence, heard separately at the ERA, the Beehres sought to recover damages including $400 for damage caused to a shed after Lawrence drove into a shed door.

The Beehres said they lost five beehives worth $6000 because Lawrence failed to maintain them.

Their claim was unsuccessful because it was outside of the Authority's jurisdiction, but the ERA ordered Lawrence to repay $660 of sick leave paid to him before he was entitled to it.

Read the full decision here:

Read the full decision here:

- NZ Herald

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