Case Study Rulings by the Employment Relations Authority

The general rule regarding trial periods is that an employee must agree to a trial period that is set out in a written contract before the employee starts work. However, the Employment Relations Authority has ruled that the agreement need not actually be signed by the employee.

In a recent case the Authority said an employer could rely on an employment agreement containing a trial period when it dismissed an employee because, although the employee had not signed the employment agreement, the employee had seen the written agreement containing the trial period and had agreed to its terms before he started employment.

With regard to termination of employment, whenever an employer terminates the employment of an employee it must be able to show a good substantive reason for the dismissal and it must act in good faith and in a procedurally fair and reasonable manner. Two recent cases underline those points.

In the first case, the Authority said it is not, of itself, a breach of good faith to dismiss a pregnant employee with the result that the employee no longer qualifies for paid parental leave. It said that the timing of the termination of employment of a pregnant employee is a matter for assessment when the reasonableness of the employer's conduct is reviewed but, generally, provided an employer has good cause, the employer is entitled to give notice of termination of employment even though the result is that the employee will lose the benefit of paid parental leave.

In another recent case the Authority stressed the importance of giving full information to employees when their continued employment is at risk. It said that in normal circumstances it will be fair for an employer conducting a disciplinary enquiry to give an employee unfettered access to any video recording or other information.