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Trial Periods

By Claire Mansell - 17 Feb 2012

A recent Employment Court decision has given further direction about employers' obligations when implementing 90 day trial periods.

In Blackmore v Honick Properties Limited, the applicant, Mr Blackmore, applied for a position as a farm manager.  After the initial interview, the employer sent Mr Blackmore a letter offering him the position, which he accepted. Mr Blackmore then resigned his current position and relocated his family so he could start his new role. 

On his first day of work, Mr Blackmore's employer presented him with an employment agreement which contained a 90 day trial period clause.  Mr Blackmore was asked to sign the employment agreement then and there. Mr Blackmore signed the agreement as he believed that he had no other choice.   

Mr Blackmore was later dismissed within the 90 day trial period.  He brought a personnel grievance on the basis that he was treated unfairly by being asked to sign the employment agreement without having the opportunity to obtain legal advice.

The Employment Court found that when Mr Blackmore accepted the offer of employment, he became an employee under the Employment Relations Act 2000. Because Mr Blackmore was already an employee when he signed the employment agreement on his first day of work, the 90 day trial period could not be enforced.

The Court found that the employer also breached his obligations by not allowing Mr Blackmore time to obtain legal advice regarding the employment agreement. 

We suggest that when hiring new employees, employers should:

  1. Provide a complete employment agreement to the prospective employee with the first offer of employment;

  2. Allow the prospective employee a few days to obtain independent legal advice regarding the employment contract. 

If you would like to speak to us further about trial periods please contact Andrew Steele or Claire Mansell.


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