What happens if my employer stops communicating with me?

What happens if my employer stops communicating with me? – Canina v Southern Lakes Sightseeing [2023]

Francesco Canina was employed by Southern Lakes Sightseeing Tourism Limited in May 2019 – Zibo Liu was the sole Director and shareholder of the company. Francesco’s role was described as a Service Manager – this was a very autonomous role, he effectively ran the business.

Francesco met Zibo on only two occasions – during the interview, and on one other occasion in Christchurch. Francesco’s pay was erratic, and he lost contact with Zibo in March 2021. The last contact Francesco had with Zibo was by email in October 2021, when he became aware Zibo had been in China, and Zibo expressed to him that she was of the belief the business was not trading.

Francesco continued to operate the business until 28 February 2022 – he was not paid any wages during this time. In its determination (Canina v Southern Lakes Sightseeing [2023],) the Employment Relations Authority described Francesco as impressing to be an honorable person who, despite being ill-used by his employer, sought to maintain the business and its assets whilst not being rewarded.

No representative from the employer participated in the Authority’s investigation – it is apparent Zibo abandoned her responsibilities to wind up the business and resolve the employment issues with Francesco. It is understood that Zibo is currently residing outside New Zealand.


There were a number of issues for the Authority to determine:

  1. How did employment end?
  2. Is the employer liable for wages and other entitlements owed?
  3. If Francesco’s claims are established, what remedies should be awarded (including consideration of penalties – the Authority ultimately did not award penalties)?
  4. What costs should be awarded?

The Authority found Francesco was effectively dismissed/made redundant – no consultation process was followed.

Francesco sought arrears of wages that were unpaid during his employment (and accepted by the employer as unpaid), as well as wages from October 2021 until March 2022 (when he stopped operating the business). Francesco’s evidence was accepted by the Authority – the employer did not contest his evidence (as it did not participate in the hearing).

The Authority accepted and awarded the wages owed during his employment, however awarded only 7 weeks wages from October 2021 (made up of three weeks in lieu of a reasonable consultation period he would have been entitled to, and four weeks notice). Francesco was not awarded wages beyond this – a key reason for this decision was the Authority’s finding that he was effectively dismissed in mid-October 2021 when Zibo signaled the business was no longer operating.

Francesco was awarded $15,000 compensation in light of the hurt and humiliation he suffered as a result of the events.

If you or someone you know is facing difficulties with their employer, or if you believe you have been unfairly dismissed, please get in touch with the Watermark Team directly. We are happy to assist you.