Wanaka restaurant Spice Room to pay $86,600 for sacking worker on annual leave

August 20, 2019

An Indian restaurant in Wanaka must pay a former worker $86,600 after replacing him while he was on holiday and falsely telling Immigration New Zealand (INZ) he had no plans to return.


HR Matters Tip:

As an employer, you're legally obligated to provide your employees a minimum of 4 weeks annual leave each year. You cannot replace employees while they're taking leave - use causal employees to manage the workload.


Ramesh Nath only found out his work permit had been cancelled while he was trying to board a flight back to New Zealand after a three month holiday.

Nath had been working as a chef on a supported work visa at Vishnupriya​ Limited, which trades as Spice Room in Wanaka from September 2016 till April 2018.


In March 2018, he applied for about 15 weeks of annual leave from early April to mid July.


Co-director and shareholder Abhishek​ Saklani​ approved Nath's leave, but while he was away hired another chef to replace him.


Nath always planned on returning but Saklani claimed since Nath had made no contact while on leave, he had was lead to believe the chef had left for good.


While trying to board his flight on July 9 on his way back to New Zealand, INZ contacted Nath and told him Saklani had not expected him to return.


As a result Nath's work permit was cancelled and he was denied boarding to the plane. 


​Nath said he then spent a very miserable 36 hours at Hong Kong airport before boarding a plane for India.


But Spice Room denied that it contacted INZ to advise he was not returning to his employment.


​Nath said he worked between 50 and 60 hours per week for Spice Room but was still only paid for 30 hours.


Spice Room failed to keep wage and time records for Nath.


The Employment Relations Authority said it was clear Spice Room found it more convenient to replace Nath than await his return.


​The authority said Spice Room telling INZ that it did not expect Nath to return, even though he had given his date of return in his first email, was not fair and reasonable.


​Nath was devastated by the loss of his job.


He had started to build a life for himself in New Zealand, the authority said.


"The circumstances of his dismissal, while on annual leave, how this was communicated to him at Hong Kong airport, after he was denied boarding, and his former employer's subsequent attempts to shift the blame onto him were completely unacceptable," authority member Andrew Dallas said.


As a result the authority ordered Spice Room to pay Nath $54,238 in unpaid wages, $22,000 in compensation for hurt, humiliation and injury to feelings and $10,424 in reimbursement for lost wages.


- Full Article: https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/114054988/wanaka-restaurant-spice-room-to-pay-86600-for-sacking-worker-on-annual-leave?cid=app-iPhone




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