90-day work trial flaw uncovered in ERA case

The four teachers brought individual cases to the Employment Relations Authority arguing the employment agreement did not state when the 90 day trial period would begin.Photo / 123RF
The four teachers brought individual cases to the Employment Relations Authority arguing the employment agreement did not state when the 90 day trial period would begin.Photo / 123RF

Four early childcare teachers have successfully argued that not stating an official start date for a 90-day trial period in an employment agreement voided the entire trial.

Amanda Honey, Henrietta du Plooy, Rebecca Clark and Leeann Baxter were employed on November 23 2015 by Lighthouse ECE Ltd on a contract that included a provision for a 90-day trial period.

The four teachers gave notice of their resignation from employment in December, and received notice in response that Lighthouse was terminating their employment under the 90-day trial provision.

The teachers brought individual cases to the Employment Relations Authority arguing the trial period clause in the agreement was nullified because it did not state when the 90-day trial period would begin,

The Employment Relations Act requires employment agreements to contain a starting date for the 90-day trial provision.

Counsel for Lighthouse Mere King submitted that it was "an overly technical interpretation" of the Act to argue a trial period may not start to run on the first day of employment.

Member of the Authority Rachel Larmer found the employment agreements provided by Lighthouse did not reasonably imply that the 90-days started on the first day the teachers started work.

Larmer said there were a number of circumstances in which the parties may agree that the 90-day trial period does not start on the first day of employment. For example, offsite training, temporary overseas placement or a lengthy induction period could occur before an employee carries out the duties they would normally be required of in the employment.

Lawyer David Prisk acted as an advocate for the teachers and said the teachers' claims for unjustified dismissal will be heard by the ERA in coming months.

- NZ Herald

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