Noel Leeming parent company The Warehouse Group ordered to pay former worker $50,000 over burnout

Noel Leeming's parent company is being penalised over burnout suffered by a former employee. 

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) has ordered The Warehouse Group to pay nearly $50,000 reimbursement and compensation to Stephen Perry, who worked for the company from 2019 until October 2021.  

According to the authority, Perry identified six "unjustified disadvantage grievances" which he said led to him suffering from severe burnout several months before he resigned. 

"During the latter part of 2020 Mr Perry raised concerns about his sales targets being set very high. His evidence is that his attempts to meet the sales targets began to impact on his mental health," ERA member Sarah Blick said in her decision

Proposed changes to his role and being pressured to cross-sell other Warehouse Group brands also contributed to his burnout, Perry told the ERA. 

"At the end of June or beginning of July 2021, Mr Perry requested a meeting with [manager] Mr Halling," Blick said. 

"Mr Perry says the purpose of the meeting was to discuss his medical condition because he had commenced a period of sick leave and believed he was... 'burnt out.'  

"During the meeting Mr Perry described how upset he was and explained to Mr Halling that he could not continue because he... was broken by the workload. 

"Mr Halling recalls Mr Perry's behaviour at the meeting was unusual, he had tears in his eyes and, at one point, Mr Perry banged his fists on the table. He encouraged Mr Perry not to take any action at that time but to stay in his role so that he would receive commission catch ups." 

But the relationship ultimately soured further and Perry gave his notice of resignation in June 2021, which was emailed to The Warehouse Group chapter lead Amber Beattie, and a company HR address. 

"I never agreed to become a Warehouse Stationary or Crossbrands BDM, nor was I asked if I wanted to add it to my role. It was forced upon me without my consent," the resignation email said. 

"I'm unable to go to another job in this state of mental illness so require a payment of $30,000 (after tax) to fund my recovery." 

But Beattie responded resignation wasn't "our preferred course" and the company wanted to continue supporting Perry in his role. 

Noel Leeming.
Photo credit: File

Perry stayed in his role and remained in contact with HR but, later in 2021, the company brought disciplinary proceedings against him. 

"By letter, Mr Halling invited Mr Perry to attend a meeting on November 3, 2021, to discuss a proposal that his employment be suspended pending an investigation into allegations that he had breached his employment agreement and TWG policies when he sent the customer information to his personal email account," Blick said.  

"On November 4, 2021, Mr Halling wrote to Mr Perry confirming Mr Perry's suspension on full pay while TWG investigated." 

Perry was subsequently told his last day would be on November 12. 

"Mr Perry's personal grievance for constructive dismissal has been established and he is entitled to consideration of remedies," the ERA decision said. 

Perry submitted he suffered "significant humiliation and injury to his feelings" because of The Warehouse Group's breach of duty, Blick said. 

"Although the evidence demonstrated Mr Perry's communications with TWG's HR team were arguably combative and demanding from that point, the cause of the grievance is attributed to... actions in its failure to understand and address the mental health issues raised by him prior to that point." 

The Warehouse Group was ordered to pay $21,410 in lost salary, $25,000 compensation for "hurt and humiliation" and five days of lifestyle leave he was entitled to while employed by the company.