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Huge variation in personal grievance awards

Tuesday, April 5th, 2005

Huge variation in personal grievance awards The winners are…

Disaffected employees stand a far better chance of winning a personal grievance claim against their employer in Wellington than in Auckland, and in Wellington they stand to get a far higher pay out.

“But you can’t tell me that Wellington employers are any different to employers elsewhere in the country,” said David Lowe, Employment Advisory Manager for the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern).

EMA has just completed its annual analysis of the Employment Relations Authority’s decisions for calendar year 2004.

“The trends from previous years are continuing with the sums of money being handed out to employees varying hugely depending on the part of the country and the person who hears the case,”Mr Lowe said.

“Personal grievance awards have risen on average up to 25 per cent depending on the region, compared to 2003.

“In Wellington, and in particular those employees taking grievances before Employment Relations Authority Member Denis Asher, enjoyed a remarkable 75 percent success rate.

“Mr Asher has awarded ‘hurt and humiliation’ cases an average of $9,278, three times more than some of his colleagues and almost twice the national average of $5,609.

“The inconsistencies would be comical if it weren’t for the fact that the livelihood of both employees and employers are on the line.

“Personal grievance cases heard in Wellington have a 65 per cent chance of being won by employees whereas in Auckland the odds are 15 per cent lower.

“Auckland employees may well fell hard done by compared to their South Island counterparts; they have less than a 50 per cent chance of winning, and awards for hurt feelings grew a mere three times the inflation rate to 10 percent, to average $4,421.

“Christchurch employees suing their employer are getting more money and more often, compared to 2003. They were also seven percent more likely to win than last year and awards for hurt and humiliation increased 25 percent to an average of $6,169.

“The hurt and humiliation award is the key area to look at (see tables in attachment) as the amounts are at the discretion of each Authority member. Formulae are applied to other award categories and are not so much at the whim of the individual.

“Nearly $5000 each was handed out to 26 employees made redundant though their redundancies were for genuine reasons.

“Employers tripped up over the technicalities of the process though there was nothing wrong with what they were trying to do.

“New dismissal laws introduced late last year have been predicted to turn this type of case even more into a lottery. The outcome now will also depend on which Authority member hears the case.

“It isn’t a free ride all the way to the bank for employees. Those with unsuccessful claims can end up owing thousands of dollars since usually they have to contribute to the employer’s costs and pay their own legal bills.”


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