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Council says ERA decision fair

18 August 2006

Christchurch City Council says an Employment Relations Authority (ERA) decision relating to a staff member who suffered from stress is fair and highlights that the Council did all it reasonably could to alleviate his suffering once it became aware of his illness.

Chris Rance sought up to $200,000 in compensation from the Council but the ERA awarded him $32,500 as compensation, significantly less than he claimed. Mr Rance returned to work at Council in January 2006 in a new role, with fewer responsibilities and therefore on a reduced salary.

The Council’s General Manager Human Resources Philippa Jones says the ERA did not accept the evidence of Council engineer Chris Rance that the Council behaved inappropriately during the period of his illness, and rejected Mr Rance’s claim that his work was inherently stressful.

It also ruled that the Council “did what it could to address the issues in the context of dealing with an employee who, by his own admission, was less than straightforward to deal with as a consequence of his illness.”

The authority found that the then manager of Greenspace Anne Greenup, who has since left the Council, knew that Mr Rance was in difficulty, but did not inform management or human resource staff of this. “The fact that the message did not get through meant that Mr Rance suffered a period of ill health which in my view was preventable harm,” ERA member Mr Crichton said.

Mr Crichton accepted “evidence from the council that they were not told about Mr Rance’s ill health”,  and if they  had  “from the evidence I heard that the Council would have immediately taken appropriate steps to protect Mr Rance from further harm”.

Ms Jones says that the Council has clear processes for dealing with issues of stress and that the Council takes all steps to ensure that staff who are unwell are treated appropriately and receive the care they need.

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