Quitting your job can be a stressful time. The situation is made worse when your boss is not happy you are leaving and tells you not to come into work, makes your last days at work intolerable or does not want to give you your full and final pay. Both you and your boss must follow a proper process when terminating your employment relationship.
Giving notice and final payment
If you give the required notice, your boss must pay you until the end of the notice period. That is, unless they justifiably dismiss you during that period. You will generally be required to work until the end of the notice period. If your boss asks you to stop work before that date, you should still be paid until the end of the notice period. If your boss stops paying you before the end of the notice period you may be able to make a claim for the unpaid wages. On the other hand, if you leave work without giving the required notice your boss only has to pay you up to the last day you actually worked. Your final pay should also include all holiday pay owing to you.
If you give the required notice and you boss makes work a living hell or puts pressure on you to resign, this may be classed as “forced resignation” or “constructive dismissal”. If this happens you may be able to bring a personal grievance claim against your boss.
Dismissal during notice period
Your boss can fire you before the notice period ends as long as there is a good reason to do so and a fair process is followed. The “good reason” must be a genuine work-related reason and they must genuinely and reasonably believe that firing you is necessary or appropriate. Some examples of good reasons for firing are continual or serious misconduct or poor performance OR there is a genuine business-related reason such as redundancy (i.e. your position is no longer needed) or you are unable to do your job due to health reasons. Your boss must also take a “fair process” when dismissing you. For example, they must provide you with information on why you are being dismissed; give you an opportunity to comment and recommend that you seek legal advice. You have a right to put your version of events forward and your boss has to listen, keep an open mind, consider everything that is relevant, treat similar situations in a similar way and consider alternatives to firing you.
Taking Legal Action Against Your Employer
You can only take action and challenge your unjustified dismissal by making a personal grievance claim. You must tell your boss about your grievance and that you want something done about it within 90 days of the action complained of. To bring a claim against your boss you need to take the following steps:
The first step is to try and sort it out with your boss informally.
If that doesn’t work the next step is to get assistance from a Department of Labour mediator. The mediator will help you and your boss find a solution or, if you cannot agree on a solution, you can both ask the mediator to make a binding decision for you. To set up a mediation call the Department of Labour on 0800 20 90 20.
If mediation does not resolve the problem then try the Employment Relations Authority (this is similar to Distributes Tribunal). Bringing a claim will cost about $70. If you win, the Authority can order that you are paid lost wages and/or compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity, injury to feelings and/or order that you be re-hired. It will take between a few weeks to a few months to get a result. Be aware that the Authority must also consider your conduct and may reduce the amount of compensation if you contributed to the situation.