12 Nov 2015

Former DHB manager awarded compensation

9:40 pm on 12 November 2015

A former director of nursing and midwifery, who wrote that a key job skill was being able to "get alongside idiots", has been awarded $15,000 in an employment dispute with the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board.

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) said the board had genuine concerns about Robyn Henderson's relationships with staff, but the humiliation she suffered justified the payment.

Ms Henderson, who was a senior manager at the health board, claimed she was unjustifiably constructively dismissed, following concerns raised in a performance appraisal.

She also claimed breaches of contract and a breach of the duty of good faith, but the health board denied this and the ERA found instead that she was unjustifiably disadvantaged in her employment.

The ERA said, in summary, that in August last year Ms Henderson met with board chief executive Chris Fleming to take part in what she thought would be her prearranged annual staff performance appraisal.

She had completed an appraisal form which she brought along to the meeting and, under the question about what she considered to be key job skills for the position, Ms Henderson had listed "tolerance, vision, a strong nursing identity and capability to get alongside idiots".

She told Mr Fleming in a meeting she had completed the form late at night and had given the draft to a secretary, who had failed to remove the comment which she had not intended to include.

Mr Fleming then accepted her subsequent apology, but the conversation "took a sharp turn" when he suggested she should consider her options within the organisation, she said.

The meeting ended with Mr Fleming saying she had two options open to her, which included her being helped to find another job, or being subject to a performance management process.

The ERA said in its findings that Ms Henderson left the meeting shocked and in disbelief over the direction the meeting had taken.

She resigned several weeks later and began employment proceedings.

ERA member David Appleton said that while the health board had "genuine concerns about Ms Henderson's interpersonal relationships", it never argued that the nature of its concerns related to an act of misconduct by Ms Henderson.

For this reason, the ERA did not reduce the amount awarded to Ms Henderson.