A hairdressing salon has been ordered to pay $4000 compensation to a woman who says she was "fobbed off" when she tried to return to work after maternity leave.
Bridget Isherwood was compromised by her ex-employer under the Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 because he did not sufficiently communicate with her when she was due back at Synergy Hair in Christchurch, the Employment Relations Authority has ruled.
"I got the feeling straight away that he was fobbing me off, that no matter what he was going to totally ignore me," Ms Isherwood told the Herald. She reported feeling worthless, humiliated and somewhat embarrassed by the lack of communication.
Ms Isherwood started work at the salon, under her boss Kelvyn Glading, in 2006 and took maternity leave in 2009. She said there was an "informal approach to the taking of leave".
In her judgment, authority member Helen Doyle, said: "Mr Glading said he had always taken a relaxed approach to employees wanting to take parental leave."
There was miscommunication as to how long Ms Isherwood was on leave for, but she contacted Mr Glading before she wished to return, to which she got a "vague and noncommittal" response.
Mr Glading "took the email as an offer to help out or assist rather than Ms Isherwood returning to her previous role".
Ms Isherwood was later contacted by a colleague to say the Northlands branch she had mainly worked at had been sold and some of her colleagues made redundant. She assumed this meant that she had also lost her job, though Mr Glading responded that he was "intending to hold her position open for a year".
Mr Glading "could not understand why Ms Isherwood should be awarded any amount for humiliation and distress," Ms Doyle said in her ruling, but she "did not accept that".
"It is clear that Ms Isherwood felt vulnerable in terms of her work as she was outside of the workplace and therefore reliant on Mr Glading to make sure that communication about matters that may impact on her continued employment were appropriate."
Having sought more than $15,000, Ms Isherwood said she was disappointed with the agreed settlement because it was significantly less than the cost of legal action, which was around $10,000.
She had not decided if she would seek further legal assistance.By Jessica Beresford