A young Auckland mother has been left shocked after getting the sack five days before Christmas and then being given a final pay cheque worth just 2 cents.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, is now considering legal action after the Auckland preschool she worked for deducted more than $1300 from her final pay cheque.
The deductions left her with a paltry 2c to put towards Christmas celebrations with her children and family.
Most of the deductions were for childcare fees that the woman's former employer charged her so her own children could also attend the preschool.
Her former employer claimed they had mistakenly undercharged the woman for weeks and now needed to recover the lost fees in one final lump sum.
But the woman's mother said the situation seemed nasty and sad.
Her daughter's children would hardly get anything for Christmas now, she told the Herald.
"[The former employer] didn't inform her she was taking [that] amount of money out.
"It's a horrid thing to do to someone, why bother putting anything in the account?
"It's like a beggar on the street and you just throw the food on the ground. It's insulting."
The owner of the preschool declined to comment when approached by the Herald.
According to the woman's final payslip details, she was paid $1253.50 as normal pay and received $570.40 termination pay, totalling $1823.90 in gross pay.
However, following deductions from KiwiSaver, child fees ($1313), a nappy-op-in, P.A.Y.E and her student loan, the woman was left with just 2c.
When emailed by the woman as to why so much money had been deducted in childcare fees, her former employer replied saying it was to make up for underpayments over the previous weeks.
"I agreed to give [the woman] like all staff a 50 per cent deduction of childcare fees," the preschool owner wrote in return.
"Her deductions from her fortnightly wages should be $470.00."
"They have been $235.00, so this has left a short fall of $235.00 every two weeks and these have accumulated."
The former employer said both she and the woman should have picked up on the underpayment earlier.
"Please except this email as a genuine attempt to clarify why this has unfortunately occurred," she said.
But the woman's mother said her daughter wouldn't have worked there if she had known she had to pay $470 a fortnight because it wouldn't have been worth her while.
Instead she only learned of the surprise deduction on Friday when her final payslip arrived.
Max Whitehead - a specialist in employment law - said that - under the Wages Protection Act - employers were forbidden from making unexpected deductions from an employee's pay with notifying and getting their permission.
While the employee had signed a contract allowing deductions to be made from her salary, this did not necessarily give automatic right to the employer to deduct extra childcare fees without permission.
"If a regular deduction has been made and there are no surprises - that is fine," Whitehead said.
"But that does not give the employer the right to come and just suddenly help themselves to a whole bunch of money without your consent.
"I suspect the preschool are relying on a generic clause [in the employee's contract] whereas they may get a shock because the employee could challenge them."