$9,600 win after unfair dismissal | IMPAC health and safety

25 June, 2018  |  News

In case you missed it: earlier this year, a man who was fired for not wearing steel-capped shoes was awarded $9,600 for an unfair dismissal.


annie spratt 427315 unsplashThe Christchurch man needed new safety shoes because his were held together by tape. Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash


What happened?

As Stuff first reported, Lefiu Matthew Naoupu, a Christchurch tradesman, was working for Wallboard and Insulation Supplies NZ (WIS). He was fired for three separate health and safety breaches, each one because he was not wearing safety capped boots on a construction site.

Naoupu had been told to go to workwear store NZ Safety to get steel-capped boots – a crucial part of the PPE he was required to wear under health and safety at work regulations. WIS allowed employees to charge the cost of steel-capped safety shoes, up to $70, to its account.

However, not only did the cheapest pair of shoes at the store cost $77.05, but Naoupu also found them to be unsuitable. Because of an ankle injury, he needed boots, not shoes.

He later explained he did not buy new footwear because he could not afford the difference from $70 for the boots he needed.


The outcome

The Employment Relations Authority found that the dismissal was unjustified.

ERA member Christine Hickey said in her determination, "I do not consider an employer who fails in its own legal obligations to ensure a worker's safety could ignore its part in the health and safety breaches."

Dave McBeth, Site Safe southern regional manager, said the Health and Safety at Work Act was "black and white" on the obligation of employers to provide PPE: "The employer has to provide it, and if they're not providing enough money then actually they're probably not meeting their obligations."

On top of the $9,600 Naoupu received in compensation, the authority also ordered the company to pay three months' wages, minus 20 per cent.