Owner turns to Givealittle after ERA dispute

A Wellington café owner who was ordered to pay $9,000 to a worker after a misunderstanding about a trial day has turned to Givealittle in order to raise funds.

Helen Mawhinney worked for eight hours at Wadestown Kitchen, owned by Sfizio Limited, in August 2017. Upon finishing the shift she approached co-director Kathy Parfitt to discuss payment methods. According to Mawhinney, Parfitt said “Oh, did Curtis not tell you? This was an unpaid trial.”

In the ERA’s determination, Michelle Ryan said that the circumstances of the August 4 trial were not correctly conveyed to Mawhinney, and that the line between competency assessment and engaging in work had been crossed. The ERA ruled that the actions of Sfizio amounted to constructive dismissal. Mawhinney was awarded $7,000 compensation, $1890 for four weeks’ notice and $119.07 for the day of work.

Now, Sfizio co-director Curtis Gregorash has turned to crowdfunding to help kickstart a new initiative – an association for small businesses to help with employment issues.

“The Employment Relations Authority is out of control!” Gregorash claims on the Givealittle page. “All NZ small businesses are at risk of its outrageous decisions. We need to come together and form a support group so that we can fight the outrageous ERA.”

“The money will be used to establish an [sic] non-profit organisation with independent directors, who will oversee the contracting out of legal and other employment support for small business owners at a bulk discount. Small business owners will then be able to contact the organisation for assistance in dealing with employment relationship issues. If enough funds are raised a website will be established to provide contract and other templates to support your small business. I also envisage regular contact providing updates on developments in employment law in easy-to-understand terms.”