What has been described as betrayal and a brutal public execution, in shutting down Today FM without warning MediaWorks appears to have ignored all its obligations under NZ employment law, if those affected were employees. The network had only been on air for 12 months.
MediaWorks spectacular and humiliating dismissal of employee’s is offensive to NZ employment laws and raises questions about corporate responsibility.
Dismissal by ambush is not permitted.
Good faith under the act requires an employer to give all adverse information and consult. No surprises as in this situation.
Further termination must be justified meaning for genuine commercial reasons (not personality or personally driven) and the actions of the employer need to be fair and reasonable in the circumstances both in terms of process and substance.
All options to avoid a dismissal need to be canvassed and considered; and if the employees dismissed were in a generic role then they would have had a right to compete with others in similar roles for existing role positions.
It appears that this employer has fallen woefully below its legal obligations to its employees in this case.
The consequences for the employees in the way the employer has gone about the dismissal has been severe; public humiliation and distress. Under the employment relations act remedies for unjustified dismissals attract compensatory awards in the region of $20-$30K and arrears of wages between gaining alternative employment.
Reported by those dismissed was that they were disappointed; that they felt badly let down in a circumstance where only within a short time prior they had been given assurances of support and security of employment and where one of them had been publicly enticed to relinquish other employment for what was obviously sold as greener pastures only to have it go up in flames.
It is an offence to mislead and deceive in employment matters.
Maybe MediaWorks doesn’t care about how it is perceived as an employer but employers should be aware of the fallout in acting this way. Not only is there risk of litigation and brand damage the scaring can run deep.
Employers take note: short-term actions can mean long-term risks. Trust and confidence as an employer can be hard to gain but easy to lose, especially in the small industry of journalism where memories are short. Don't fall short of your legal obligations and risk losing more than just your reputation.
If you feel your employer has acted not in good faith through a dismissal process or if you are an employer needing to make tough business decisions BuckettLaw can help. Contact us to for all employment law advice.