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A top coach made redundant from Swimming New Zealand after a poor performance at the Commonwealth Games has lost his claim of unjustifiable dismissal.
Funding of Swimming New Zealand’s High Performance programme is dependent on success measured by Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). The most transparent of those measures is podium success at pinnacle events around the world by the New Zealand swimming team. If the high performance programme is unsuccessful then funding is reduced and allocated to other more successful sports.
The national sports body restructured its high performance programme following poor performance at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. In the lead-up to the Games, swimmers targeted for success at Glasgow were achieving slower times than previous personal bests.
David Lyles was employed as National High Performance Centre coach (Auckland) in 2013 however was made redundant after a comprehensive review of the New Zealand team’s poor performance.
The review looked at coaching structures and this led to the creation of new positions including a new national head coach role. This new position called for world class coaching capability to technically lead the national programme and high performance culture.
After consultation the restructure went ahead, and Mr Lyles unsuccessfully applied for the National Head Coach role.
Mr Lyles subsequently made a claim to the Authority that his dismissal was flawed, and that the newly created role of national head coach was effectively the same as his existing role.
However, ERA member Eleanor Robinson found the national head coach position was insufficiently similar for him to be automatically redeployed to it.
Legislation prohibits dealing with poor performance through restructuring and Robinson said there was no dispute over Lyles’ performance in his former role. Although the poor results of the high performance programme were the key trigger for the restructure Lyles himself did not argue the reason for the restructure. Mr Lyles agreed with the recommendation in a 2014 review to consolidate the two High Performance Centre Coach roles and create a new National Head Coach role – making Mr Lyles’s position redundant.
The ERA found the decision to disestablish Mr Lyles’ position was a genuine business decision.
Robinson found Swimming New Zealand provided him with all information necessary to provide feedback, and that Lyles had sufficient opportunity to comment on it before a decision was made.
The redundancy procedure, including the selection process for the new role, was found to be conducted fairly. Mr Lyles’ claims were dismissed.
This case highlights the benefits of taking the time to prepare well, of seeking advice on your intended process and of following the provisions of your Employment Agreements and policies. These measures will significantly reduce risks associated with handling the relatively sensitive situation of restructuring and redundancies.