A Canterbury panel beater has won more $20,000 after being fired in what he called a summer holiday mix-up.

Johnathon Rolton had been working at Leeston's A1 Panel and Paint for close to a year before heading off for the 2017 Christmas break.

He told the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) that his boss, Lance Thorne, gave staff the option of coming back on the 8th or 15th of January.

Thorne did not attend the ERA meeting, which went ahead using only Rolton's evidence.

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Rolton says that when he came back to work on January 15, Thorne gave him a hand-written letter dismissing him for failing to turn up to work the previous week.

Rolton alleges Thorne told him that he was "just getting on the piss" during a week when he should have been at work.

Rolton had got a new phone and provider over the summer break and when he later checked his old device he says he found a text from Rolton on January 8 that read: "You're fired."

Rolton says that there were several ways Thorne could have got in touch with him on or after January 8, including at his home address or via email.

Although Rolton was given the option of working out his last week of notice, he said he was so "shocked, stressed and upset" by the dismissal that he could not stay and needed to go search for another job.

ERA member Christine Hickey said in her decision that Rolton had been treated unfairly.

Thorne, Hickey said, had not put his concerns to Rolton or given him an opportunity to respond before being dismissed.

"Mr Thorne did not act as a fair and reasonable employer could have acted when it dismissed Mr Rolton," she said.

"Therefore, he unjustifiably dismissed Mr Rolton."

Hickey awarded Rolton $10,320 in lost wages.

Rolton told ERA that the three months between his dismissal and starting his new job were the worst three months of his life.

He said that he was very upset to be fired over a simple misunderstanding.

After being dismissed, he had to sell his motorbike and his favourite car from his small collection of old Toyota Corollas.

Rolton told the ERA he kept his situation confidential because he prided himself on his work ethic band that people began to gossip about it at Leeston's pub.

Hickey said that Rolton's dismissal had caused him a moderate level of distress and humiliation and awarded him $10,000 in compensation.

She also ordered that Thorne pay Rolton $2250 in costs.