Outcomes - Selected Case Summaries



 Four-year delay in unfair dismissal hearing

Early Resolution | 13 May 2022
Labour Tribunal (LT) , Labour Appeals Tribunal (LAT)

The complainant in this matter raised concerns about delays in setting a hearing date for her unfair dismissal claim with both the Labour Tribunals and the Labour Appeals Tribunals at various times over the past several years. It represents one of the longest hearing delays our office has seen in a labour complaint.

The history of the complaint is significant. The complainant had a previous complaint relating to a delay in setting a hearing by the Department of Labour and Pensions (DLP) in December 2017 and first contacted us in January 2019 after her case had not been heard by the Labour Tribunal (LT). We investigated that matter and found that her case had been unreasonably delayed. A tribunal hearing was held in October 2019 and the tribunal ruled in favour of her employer.

After finally receiving a decision from the Labour Tribunal, the complainant appealed the decision to the Labour Appeals Tribunal (LAT).  Eventually her hearing was scheduled for May 2021. This delay occurred partly because the recorded transcripts for the 2019 LT hearing had been lost. The parties in the matter attempted to set a new hearing date, but were unable to do so before July 2021, which is when the terms of the then-LAT members expired. The incoming government appointed new LT members in early 2022 and the matter was finally set for a new hearing in May 2022.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome of this case, it has taken more than four years to ensure this matter has come before the proper tribunal(s) for a hearing. The complainant had to complaint to us before receiving a hearing date before both the LT and the LAT. These delays are not in keeping with the requirements of the Labour Act (2011 Revision). The situation was one of several delay matters flagged up to the chief officer of the Ministry of Labour over the past three years.

With the fresh hearing of the matter conducted in May 2022, the Ombudsman now considers the complaint to have been resolved. However, given the inexplicable delays involved in this and other labour matters, our office decided to initiate an overarching review of the labour board system as part of an own-motion investigation. Once that is complete, recommendations will be made to the government concerning process improvements in the labour complaints system.