Sacked farmer gets $33k
An experienced dairy farmer was refused pay and his family of six given days to leave their home after he raised concerns about his employment contract.
But he has been awarded nearly $33,500, including money for an extra 243 hours he worked but was not paid for, after the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) found he suffered significant emotional and financial harm from his dismissal.
Greig Purcell, a dairy farmer with more than 16 years’ experience, applied for a job as a full time dairy manager at Brailsford farms in Tirau last year.
This included a salary of $42,000 for working an average of 40 hours a week, as well as accommodation for his partner and four daughters, who were aged 10 years and younger.
Purcell was offered the job after an interview and told a full employment agreement and job description would be provided before he started.
But this did not happen and Purcell ended up working 60-hour weeks on the farm he described as being in a ‘‘poor condition’’.
He also said he often received his fortnightly pay late, which put a ‘‘great deal of pressure’’ on his family.
It was only months after he started working that Purcell finally received an employment agreement, which was quite different to what he had understood it would be.
When Purcell refused to sign the contract, Brailsford said he couldn’t work there anymore and shareholder Nei Pryor, also known as Naden Tamihere, dismissed Purcell by text message.
Pryor’s text said: ‘‘Ok well we cant [sic] have u [sic] work for us then greig as thats [sic] our only contract sorry.’’
Minutes later he sent another text asking him to vacate the house.
‘‘A formal letter will be sent out tomorrow with indtruction [sic] on when to vacate the house and everything greig’’.
Brailsford gave Purcell and his family only four days to vacate the house they had been provided.
Brailsford refused to pay Purcell his salary for the previous fortnight until they vacated the premises.
Pryor and Brailsford did not attend the investigation but provided a statement in reply denying any involvement in the employment of Purcell.
Purcell said after the dismissal he became stressed and worried about his family and where they were going to live.
The ERA said the employment agreement, despite not being signed, required Brailsford to give two weeks notice of termination in writing.
The ERA said Purcell’s dismissal was ‘‘grossly unfair’’.
‘‘The impact on him emotionally and financially was significant,’’ the authority said.
It awarded Purcell $16,521 for lost wages and holiday pay, $15,000 for hurt and humiliation from his dismissal and about $1970 in court costs.