Post-Lockdown Redundancy Ruled Unjustified

After the Employment Relations Authority ruled her dismissal, during the period a wage subsidy was being paid for her, was unjustified, a restaurant has been ordered to pay a former employee just over $11,500,

From early 2018, Warissa Matajod was employed as front-of-house staff in a restaurant called Thai Orchid, owned by Crazy Horse. In May 2020, after the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, she was told the business could no longer continue to employ her on the same number of hours.

Matajod asked for more hours than were offered but was refused and her employment terminated. She claimed unjustified dismissal, lost wages, holiday pay and compensation. Crazy Horse denied the claims, saying the employment ended because there was no work available.

The authority ruled the dismissal was unjustified and ordered Stokes to pay Matajod $5000 for hurt and humiliation, and a further $6695 in unpaid wages. It found Stokes did not have a clear reason for dismissing Matajod , beyond the disagreement about her proposed contract.

Authority member Claire English recognised the business had faced financial challenges, but said more should have been done to retain staff considering the wage subsidy had been received. In the case of Matajod the payment was $585 a week, which was in excess of her weekly wage of $551.00 per week, English said.

Duncan Cotterill employment lawyer Alastair Espie said the case reinforced the importance of the obligations of employers who took the wage subsidy.

“In this case an employer received the wage subsidy for an employee so was subject to make their best endeavour to keep that staff member employed. It seems they were seven days short of that obligation and the authority has taken issue.”

Espie said the case also raised broader points around the importance of going about redundancy in the correct way, even if a business was under strain.

“This reinforces that if you are thinking about redundancies, then consultation is key. Employers need to make sure that if they are considering a restructure then they give staff opportunity to provide feedback.”