28 Jan 2017

Health worker awarded $10k after DHB's unfair dismissal

12:41 pm on 28 January 2017

A health promoter has won an unfair dismissal case against the Waikato District Health Board (DHB) after it asked her to start commuting three hours every day.

Kathleen Archibald's victory came before the Employment Relations Authority, which has now ruled she was treated unfairly.

The change to her role was part of the DHB's restructure of its public health services last year.

Her Thames-based role as a promoter was disestablished and renamed as a health improvement advisor.

Ms Archibald, who is 68 and has suffered from a serious kidney disease that required her to get a transplant, was told she had to commute from Thames to Hamilton - a round trip of just over 200km per day.

She refused, citing health worries, and offered to attend meetings remotely by video link and travel to the city two days per week.

She was declined and dismissed without a severance payment.

During its investigation, the authority heard evidence from another health promoter in Thames who accepted the new role that she found the daily travel "extremely tiring".

"I heard compelling evidence from one of the two employees of increased body weight and mental health concerns which she attributes to the amount of travel being undertaken," said the authority's member, Vicki Campbell.

The authority also heard evidence from a promoter that she feels guilty working a shorter day than her colleagues, as she arrives at the Hamilton office about 10am and leaves at 3.30pm.

It ruled Ms Archibald should have received a severance payout and ordered the DHB to pay her $10,000 in compensation.

It also criticised the board for not disclosing the change in travel requirements during consultation.

"Neither the consultation document nor the final decision document made mention of the expectation that the Health Improvement Advisors based in Thames would be expected to travel to Hamilton on a daily basis for up to nine months," Ms Campbell said.

"The failure to provide Ms Archibald with the information to enable her to comment on it before the decision was made is a breach of the DHB's obligations of good faith."