NEWS HR

A former rest home worker has failed to prove her employer forced her out of her job, with the Employment Relations Authority describing some of her claims as “confused”. Nicola Francis took Ruawai Rest Home to the Employment Relations Authority, claiming she had been unjustifiably dismissed because she was given an employment agreement that did not reflect her permanent employment status. She also claimed she had not been paid for public holidays. Ruawai, a Feilding care facility for the elderly, was purchased by its manager Andrea Thompson in April 2015. Thompson kept existing staff on, but they were given new employment agreements. The agreements were not open-ended, with most running for a year. Francis’, however, ran for six months. The new agreement was good at first for Francis as it gave her regular hours – typically four days on, four days off — but she ended up having issues and asked for them to change it. Francis told the authority this didn’t happen, and it could be hard for her to get work elsewhere because she had been jailed for criminal offending. She was called by Thompson the next month, who said they had to meet because of “drama” and concerns she had told staff and residents about her jail time. The pair met, during which she was offered another six-month contract. Francis sought advice and was told the fixed term clause was invalid, and she felt she was entitled to be considered a fulltime employee and given a pay rise. Tensions rose, with Francis lodging a personal grievance. Ruawai engaged legal counsel, and let Francis’ representative know in March 2016 she was considered a fulltime employee. Francis said the working environment became even tenser after lodging the personal grievance, despite Thompson giving her extra shifts and resolving an issue around meal break payment. However, she felt comments being made about her made her feel staff were against her and blaming her for empty beds at the rest home. She also claimed she was not invited to a leaving dinner for a colleague, although the staff member was responsible for the guest list, not Thompson. Francis resigned in September 2016, using her resignation letter to claim Rawai actually fired her in 2015 by offering her a fixed term contract, it did not pay her fairly, and she was not rostered for 40 hours a week. Authority member Michael Loftus found Francis had been paid above minimum wage, and she had no right to a pay rise just because she thought her rate was too low. Francis had accepted the hours she was offered when she signed her contract, he said. “This is not a ground upon which a claim for constructive dismissal can be based.” While the fixed term agreement was unenforceable because it did not comply with the law, it could not constitute a dismissal, Loftus said. “It is equally difficult to conclude it even constitutes a disadvantage.” The threat of termination temporarily existed, but it never happened, and Ruawai fixed the issue. Loftus said that meant they had not breached their duty to Francis, so there could be no breach of the law. Any other issues fell more into the category of Francis being unhappy than Ruawai doing anything to force her out, Loftus said. All her claims were dismissed, and costs were reserved.

Murray Lowenthal is Waitomo’s recipient of Waikato District Health Boards’ (DHB) Paul Keesing Award. Murray was nominated by the DHB’s Waitomo Community Health Forum and received the award in July for his services to the health of his community, particularly in aged care.

Metlifecare has announced the appointments of Mark Binns and Rod Snodgrass as Independent Directors.

The Southern District Health Board has been ordered to pay $6000 compensation to a Queenstown nurse for the way it investigated her complaint about a colleague. The New Zealand Employment Relations Authority decision, released last week, found Kate Crush suffered an ‘‘unjustified disadvantage’’ during her employment at a specialist unit in the resort as a result of the investigation. The investigation, carried out by two Southern DHB investigators between August 2014 and July 2015, looked into the conduct of a “clinical professional”, known as Mr X, with whom she had “ongoing work relationship problems” since 2005. In his decision, authority member David Appleton said the catalyst for Ms Crush’s complaint, made in August 2014, was Mr X’s approach the previous month to a mutual colleague of the pair, asking for help in making a complaint against Ms Crush. That colleague alleged Mr X said “if other staff backed him up there was a better chance of getting [Ms Crush] dismissed”. He lodged a formal complaint about Ms Crush that month. In her letter of complaint, Ms Crush claimed Mr X’s behaviour towards her amounted to harassment. She said that he generally ignored her unless she spoke to him first. In their preliminary finding, the investigators concluded there was “insufficient evidence that Mr X was responsible, or that the activity amounted to harassment, and so they did not consider it could be elevated to a disciplinary level”. In a letter informing her of the decision, Ms Crush was told “we are unable as an employer to proceed to discipline people if the allegations are based on perception rather than reality in the form of tangible evidence”. Mr Appleton found Ms Crush had been unjustifiably disadvantaged by the way the investigation was carried out, and that it had several flaws: These were the failure to interview Mr X before rejecting Ms Crush’s claims, a failure to link Mr X’s complaint about Ms Crush to her allegations of harassment, and a failure to interview another mutual colleague of the pair. “… these flaws did lead to disadvantage to Ms Crush, as she was reasonably expecting her complaints to be investigated thoroughly, and her concerns acknowledged at the preliminary stage”, he said. “I cannot safely conclude that had the flaws not occurred, a different outcome would not have occurred as far as the preliminary report is concerned.” He ordered the Southern DHB pay Ms Crush $6000 compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity, and injury to her feelings. The authority did not have the jurisdiction to investigate the second and third stages of the DHB’s investigation into Ms Crush’s complaint “as no sufficiently specific personal grievance was raised in respect of them”. A decision on costs was reserved.

The Southern District Health Board is not concerned by an apparent 80% rise in physical assaults on staff at Wakari Hospital. There were 82 assaults in the first five months of this year, compared with 109 for all of 2016. It suggests an 80% increase, or 75% more on a four-year combined average. SDHB chief operating officer Lexie O’Shea, in a statement, said the numbers did not indicate a concerning trend.

An employee of a care home allegedly photographed residents without their consent and shared the image with her fellow co-workers on social media, police said. The alleged incidents came to light when a staff member came forward about the conduct of five fellow colleagues.

Longstanding women’s health activist Lynda Williams has died, ending a battle with cancer that lasted nearly two years.

Metlifecare Pakuranga Retirement Village manager Jane Ralston is to leave after 24 years.