Taking some time to do an investigation and go through the process properly is so important.
A caregiver in Nelson received over $6K compensation after being sacked for an alleged affair with a gardener and showing “displays of affection…” in the workplace. It culminated in them being found together in the bedroom of a deceased resident.
The caregiver was awarded compensation because of procedural flaws in her dismissal. This is a recurring theme, but it is so important, as problems with process are one of the most common reasons compensation is awarded for unfair dismissal.
In this case the Employment Relations Authority agreed that the employee’s behaviour was serious misconduct, this was taken into consideration and so they reduced the pay-out to just over $6,000 from the $34,000 originally sought.
But, whatever way you look at it, this is still a lot of money for somebody found to have committed an act of serious misconduct.
In this case there are a few issues to highlight.
- A key witness (in fact one participant) was not spoken to as part of the investigation.
- The sacking took place on the same day as the dismissal hearing and didn’t adequately take into consideration the employee’s stress and personal issues
- The employee had never been given the company rule book which clearly outlined that her actions were matters of serious misconduct.
- Taking some time to do an investigation and go through the process properly is so important.
One hour to interview the key witness, plus one day to adequately consider the employee’s response could have saved the employer $6,000 + legal expenses.
Take your time. It might seem like ages when it is happening, but not as long as mediation and Employment Relations Authority hearings afterwards.
Lastly, an employee must know something is wrong and/or unacceptable in your workplace before you can take serious action.
Make sure your people know what you expect of them and what the consequences will be if they don’t meet these expectations. While some things are obvious (like stealing, drug use and violence) there are other behaviours which can be ambiguous and subject to interpretation. It’s a good idea not to apply a “common sense” test because your version of “common sense” is not the same as others.