'Lack of humanity' - Queenstown hospitality company lays off half its workforce in Covid-19 crunch

Source: 1News

An employment specialist is warning employers they must be fair and transparent when making staff redundant, even if their business is losing a lot of money. 

It comes as one hospitality company lays off half its workforce, with some of those made redundant claiming unfair treatment.

The autumnal vibe's more downbeat than usual in Queenstown, with Covid-19 crushing tourism along with 150 jobs at two well-known eateries which also operate in Auckland. 

"No-one likes to be in a position of having to right size their business, but that's the right thing to do if you want to get through to the other side," restaurant owner Russell Gray told 1 NEWS.

But sacked workers are questioning the redundancy process, claiming it lacked transparency around who stayed and who went.

"You can't take this opportunity to make people you don't want any more redundant... you have to follow a fair consultation process," unemployed waitress Camila Oliva says.

Owners The Good Group claim due process was followed. With the employer wage subsidy not enough to keep the business afloat, it sent out a full restructure package seeking staff feedback.

"We gave them three full days, bearing in mind they're not working at the moment, to respond with any feedback," Mr Gray says.

Employment specialist Catherine Stewart says the key questions, even in uncertain times, are whether employees had ample time to seek proper advice and whether the company took worker feedback seriously. 

"Three days could be enough, that's really a question for the Employment Relations Authority and the court," she says.

"Prior to implementing redundancies, the employer has an obligation to explore all other options."

Ms Stewart says employers must clearly spell out how they'll decide who stays and who goes and that workers must get the opportunity to contest the criteria.

She says businesses won't save as much as they'd like if they end up facing a raft of personal grievances in court.

The battle to cut cost versus employees desperate to keep working is set to escalate as times get even tougher. 

"It's strange, the coldness and the lack of humanity," Ms Oliva says.