Court frees couple of bill for nanny

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The Employment Relations Authority has scrapped an order for a Queenstown couple to pay $1190 to their former Swedish nanny.
 
The ERA found Janine and Hamish Learmonth owed au pair Amanda Akeson that amount in unpaid wages and holiday pay, in a decision released last September. 

However, the ERA now rules that Akeson wasn’t short-changed three and a half weeks’ wages plus holiday pay.

It also no longer blames the Learmonths for various incidents in what ERA member James Crichton originally termed “not an employment relationship made in heaven”.

The latest twist comes after the Learmonths asked if they could file their closing submissions. 

In the new decision released last week, Crichton admits the ERA erroneously thought the couple didn’t want any further matters considered. 

As a result, the ERA reopened the case – and gave Akeson, who’d left for Sweden, a chance to comment on the Learmonths’ extra submissions.
 
Akeson had called a holiday in Samoa with the couple “a nightmare”, but Crichton says new evidence shows she looked forward to it. 

The nanny had said the Learmonths forced her to leave because she was “wrecking their holiday”. 

They’d also dumped her at the island’s airport with insufficient funds to buy a fresh air ticket, the nanny alleged.
 
But in light of fresh evidence, Crichton says he doesn’t blame the Learmonths for Akeson wanting to leave Samoa, and finds they left her with sufficient money to change her flight. 

Janine Learmonth says she couldn’t put her evidence to the original hearing because she was on heavy medication, which affected her brain capacity, after an accident a year earlier. 

Her husband Hamish attended instead, but Janine says “he’s not really a confrontational person”. 

“I needed to be there, not him, because I would have counter-argued and put my case.” 

Janine hails the reversed decision: “I knew that I had been really fair to [Akeson] and kind to her.” 

Queenstowner Chris McKay, who supported Akeson, says the new verdict “personifies the way the Learmonths are”.

“Knowing Amanda was leaving town, somehow they came up with this new evidence after she left.”