Free Help For Business Owners.
Call Our Employer Helpline Now.
Free Employer Support.

or Ask a Question
Call our Employer Helpline. We offer free initial advice to business owners about the Employment Relations Act.
Ask us anything. Tell us your concerns. It’s entirely confidential. We're trusted by 5,000 NZ Business Owners.
Proudly independent of and not affiliated with the New Zealand Government.
3 steps
to access Employsure's advice.
Call our free EmployerLine.
Describe your problem and we'll help solve it with straightforward, general advice.
We can also meet with you at your workplace to discuss how Employsure's paid services can help you navigate complex issues.

EmployerLine Can Help You Understand Your Obligations

As one of the leading employment relations specialists, we can help you with questions about:

  • Minimum wage rates and agreements
  • Approach redundancies and dismissal
  • Managing workplace absenteeism
  • Legal salary rates and annual leave for staff
  • Advice on the 90 days trial period
  • Any queries relating to the Employment Relations Act
  • Very reassuring that expertise and assistance is there every day and at the times it's vitally needed."

    Sherri - Salute Construction, Auckland
    Employsure customer
    Final Touch
    Employsure Client

    Over 5,000 New Zealand business owners like you trust Employsure's specialist advice.

    or Ask A Question

    Why is the Employsure EmployerLine free?

    Because we’re confident you’ll find the Employsure experience so beneficial, we’re happy to offer this initial consultation free of charge.

    This way, when you encounter more complex, ongoing issues with the Employment Relations Act, you’ll already know that Employsure are the experts you can trust.

    Besides, employees have unions, industry associations, the Employment Relations Authority.

    Who do you have?

    If you have a question, who can you call?

    We are here to be your support and adviser. We only work with employers. Nobody else. We work with thousands of businesses like yours. We’re on your side.

    Ask us anything. Tell us what you’re thinking. It’s entirely confidential.

    Let’s work together, to make sure you get it right.

    Zeke Bennett - Maintain Me
    Employsure Client

    Why Call EmployerLine?
    FREE straightforward advice
    Over 30 years of experience
    Fast and accurate support

    or Ask A Question

    Looking for answers? Ask Employsure.

    In our Ask Employsure Q&A series we answer some of the most commonly asked questions by employers and employees alike.

    From employment law to workplace relations, Employsure can help.

    1:26
    The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is considered the central agency for employers and business owners. It is a government body that develops and delivers policy, services and regulation to promote and support business growth in New Zealand.

    While this statement is helpful in understanding where it fits in the broader New Zealand economy, understanding what the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment actually does is important for employers. The MBIE is the government’s lead agency which directly interacts with employers to help businesses grow to become more competitive, and to ultimately improve job opportunities for New Zealanders.

    More broadly, the MBIE plays a key role in supporting business growth through a number of targeted methods directly related to the employment relationship:

    • aligning the development of skills to the needs of businesses
    • ensuring workplaces remain fair and safe
    • providing dispute resolution services for employment

    If you're having trouble understanding how the MBIE relates to your business — or if you're generally having trouble understanding the Employment Relations Act — give us a call.

    We offer free initial advice to business owners about the Employment Relations Act. Call us now on 0800 675 698.

    How does the wage subsidy work?

    1:06
    The New Zealand Wage subsidy was set up to provide support to all New Zealand employers, contractors, sole-traders, self-employed people, registered charities and incorporated societies affected by COVID-19.

    A business can apply to receive a payment from Work and Income that they use to help them pay their wages to staff. It is aimed at reducing redundancies and restructures during the COVID-19 outbreak.

    The Wage Subsidy is intended to allow employers to continue to pay their employees and allow employees to still receive an income even if they are unable to work. Most businesses will qualify to receive the extended Wage Subsidy, provided they meet certain eligibility criteria.

    If you're having trouble understanding how COVID-19 restrictions and the wage subsidy relates to your business — or if you're generally having trouble understanding the Employment Relations Act — give us a call.

    We offer free initial advice to business owners about the Employment Relations Act. Call us now on 0800 675 698.

    Need help with employment law changes?

    1:19
    Many employers in New Zealand struggle to keep up with employment law changes. What may have been standard for many years, could suddenly change to something totally new. Laws are amended, new legislation gets introduced and the obligations employers have to meet can shift and change.

    Employment law covers a diverse range of areas in regards to workplace relations from hours and wages, to workplace policies and ending employment.

    Some of these basic minimum rights cover the following areas:

    • Employment agreements
    • holiday, parental and sick leave
    • Rest and meal breaks
    • Hours and wages
    • Health and safety
    • Employment relations issues
    • Unions

    Employment law in New Zealand is a term to cover a broad set of rules, requirements and legislation. Since employment laws cover a range of topics and industries, keeping track of the latest policy changes is a burden for employers.

    If you're having trouble understanding how employment law relates to your business — or if you're generally having trouble understanding the Employment Relations Act — give us a call.

    We offer free initial advice to business owners about the Employment Relations Act. Call us now on 0800 675 698.

    What is the ERA?

    9:19
    Employment Relations Authority.
    The employment relationship can be difficult to manage and unfortunately problems do arise. Where an employee and an employer cannot resolve their conflict between them, the employment relations Authority, ERA, will play an unbiased role in resolving the issue based on the facts and the merits of each case. The Employment Relations Authority operates with the powers provided by the employment relations act 2000. Involving the Employment Relations Authority in a breakdown in the employment relationship can be done by either an employer or an employee. An employee in a dispute with their boss over something like unpaid wages can contact the employment relations authority. Likewise, an employer who feels the employee is not complying with the terms of an employment agreement can also contact the ERA.

    Steps required before involving the employment relations authority.
    The first course of action in resolving disputes is always to try and solve the issue between the two parties. Employers should reach out to employees in a similar manner to employees raising their concerns with employers or managers to resolve disputes before they escalate. Following the failure of the two parties to resolve a dispute, mediation is the next step whereby an independent mediator will sit with both parties to try and resolve the issue. As a government agency, the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment offers a free mediation service as well as offices for use in mediation. Where both of these efforts fail and the relationship has completely broken down the Employment Relations Authority will make a determination after hearing both sides of the story. This is a formal process and can take months to resolve. What is the process in the Employment Relations Authority? Following the failure of mediation to resolve the employment dispute, either party is entitled to lodge an application with the ERA, a copy of which will be sent to the respondent.

    Lodging an application in the Employment Relations Authority. The first step is to lodge an application with the ERA. In this step, there are certain fields of information which need to be included in the application to the ERA. Who the applicant is having the problem with, this party will then be known as the respondent. A plain language description of the problem. A statement of the facts which have caused the problem. Indication of how the applicant wishes to have the problem resolved. Attached copies of relevant documents. An explanation of what has already taken place to try and solve the matter outside of the ERA, including any mediation. However to start a case with the ERA a statement of the problem must first be lodged using the Application to Authority form. In submitting documents to the ERA for your case, supporting documents are important and often take the form of employment agreements, payslips, any correspondence between the parties, and any notes from meetings which have taken place. Applications are encouraged to be lodged online. However, the opportunity to apply by post or hand also exists. Regardless of how the application is made, the Application to Authority form needs to be used and depending on the type of application a fee is also payable. Once the process above has been completed and the respondent has been provided the application, this party has 14 days to provide a statement in reply. The statement in reply should include the respondent's plain language description of the problem, their version of facts, and any steps already taken to resolve the issue. Failure to file a statement in reply will lead the ERA to make a decision on how to progress the claim. Whether it goes to mediation, a case management conference, or is set down for an investigation meeting.

    Getting the issues straight.
    After an application is lodged, and before any investigation meeting takes place, the ERA will evaluate the issues which have been identified by either party. The Employment Relations Authority may seek clarification of any point raised by the employer or employee, ask for additional evidence from either party, or hold a case management conference. A case management conference often takes place via phone and is meant to be brief and informal, involving both parties and a member from the ERA. A case management conference will enable the ERA to understand clearly the issues under investigation, consider all avenues to resolve the problem and determine the most appropriate option, outline the time frame for additional steps such as supply of supporting documents or witness statements, obtain the details of those giving evidence, explain the procedure for the investigation meeting, determine an agreeable date place and time for the investigation meeting. This can be quite a lengthy process going through the ERA and both parties should be prepared for this to be the case. However, going through mediation prior to application will mean your case is heard quicker.


    The investigation meeting.
    Investigation meetings are not as formal as court hearings and often accommodate both parties as much as possible with no party being disadvantaged. In these meetings, friends and supporters are able to attend with either party and either party can present their own case or have a representative do it for them. At the start of the meeting, the ERA member conducting the meeting will make introductions and outline how the meeting will work and the speaking order of those present. There will then be questions based on what was provided in the statement of problem and statement in reply. The ERA member may ask you to provide evidence at the meeting verbally or by way of a written statement, so employers and employees should be prepared to give evidence. Similarly, every witness who has provided a statement will be required to attend. The witnesses can expect questions on their statement from the ERA member and cross-examination may also be used at the meeting. At the end of the meeting both parties have the option to sum up information which has been provided to the ERA, part of which may include providing any supporting legal principles. With good reason, if the applicant does not make the meeting the matter may be dismissed. If the respondent fails to attend the ERA may make a determination based on whatever information is available.

    Deliberation and determination.
    The final decision in the ERA process is the consideration of all the evidence and a determination being made. While a determination is issued in writing, it is becoming increasingly popular to give an oral indication of how the determination is likely to unfold at the end of the investigation meeting. These determinations are legally binding, provided to both parties, and made public. There are a number of solutions to employment issues available to the ERA. Which one is used will depend on the type of claim. For example, if an employee has been dismissed, an interim reinstatement may be ordered while the ERA continues deliberation. However, if it is feasible, and if the employee wants to return to their job, a reinstatement could be ordered. Financial remedies can often take the form of reimbursement for an employee to cover lost wages following unjustified action by the employer or compensation for humiliation caused by the action of an employer. In some cases, compliance may be ordered by the ERA with an employer being forced to pay wages and other pay owed to an employee. Other instances of compliance can be a settlement between the parties, or one party being ordered to pay a penalty under the Employment Relations Act 2000. The issue of costs and compensation will also be determined by the ERA, with either party or both being required to pay the total costs. The Employment Relations Authority issues legally binding determinations and adheres to a process underpinned by legislation. So, navigating through the ERA can be difficult for many employers. For advice and support in interacting with the ERA, call Employsure on 0800 675 698, day or night.

    What is the MBIE?

    3:45
    The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment.
    The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment is considered the central agency in New Zealand's business and employment fields. It is a government body which works to develop and deliver on policy, services, and regulation to promote and support business growth.
    What is the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment? While the statement above is helpful in understanding where it fits in the broader New Zealand economy, understanding what the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE) actually does is important for employers. The MBIE is the government's lead agency which directly interacts with employers to help business grow, to become more competitive, and to ultimately improve job opportunities for New Zealanders. One of the core functions of the MBIE includes administering acts and regulations on behalf of the government across a number of categories such as; building and construction, commerce, communications and information technology, consumer protection, economic development, energy and resources, housing, immigration, injury prevention, rehabilitation, and compensation, science and innovation, tourism, workplace relations and safety.

    What is the role of the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment?
    There are direct functions which are taken on by the MBIE covering specific areas of economic activity, as well as more general areas of operation. For example, the MBIE has been partnering with other agencies to support Canterbury's recovery following the devastating Christchurch earthquakes in 2010 and 2011.
    In this example, the MBIE is taking the lead in supporting the residential rebuild and monitoring the public sector rebuild, all the while ensuring that employment prospects return to this region. More broadly, the MBIE plays a key role in supporting business growth through a number of targeted methods directly related to the employment relationship. Aligning the development of skills to the needs of businesses, ensuring workplaces remain fair and safe, providing dispute resolution services for employment.

    Employment mediation services.
    Disputes have the potential to be costly and highly disruptive, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment offers a free mediation service to any employer or employee with a problem in their working relationships. Where engaging with the employee has not worked and an issue remains unresolved, employers can arrange for employment mediation services to help finalise the issue. Employment mediation services also has offices which can be utilised for the purpose of mediation meetings. The Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment is a key government agency which directly influences the employment relationship in New Zealand. If you are unsure of whether or not to involve the MBIE in any employment relations issue, contact one of our specialists on our advice line day or night on 0800 675 698.

    Top quality advice and attentive service

    Employsure's specialists are available 24/7. No matter what your employment relations issue, we're here to help. Peace of mind is just a phone call away ...

    or Ask A Question

    Over 5,000 business owners trust Employsure's specialist advice.

    Employsure takes the complexity out of employment relations to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

    Employsure wants to see small businesses thrive.

    Workplace relations can be difficult to understand, and the time and money spent on understanding and implementing changes can be costly.

    Employsure can help you better understand workplace relations and clarify the latest legislation updates. We can also give you peace of mind knowing someone has your back. Call us today and see how we can help.

    Employsure | Confidence In Running Your Business
    1:53
    Man: I'm sure I don't have to tell you that running a small business can be challenging. And the last thing you need are problems from your staff, the very people you hired to make your day easier. But, unfortunately, workplace problems can arise every single day. And as a business owner, you need to be able to navigate some of the most complicated workplace laws and wage systems in the world all while doing your day job, running a successful business. So, who can you turn to for help?
    Woman: Good morning. How are you today?
    Man: Good morning. I'm very well. How are you?
    Ask the experts at Employsure because our day job is dealing with complex workplace relations and awards so you have the confidence and control to get on with your day job. Employsure, one of the leading employment relations experts, offers peace of mind to business owners. Our experts take the time to get to know you and your business and the unique situations that you face. So, you can be sure the advice we offer isn't just a run-of-the-mill robot reply.
    Congratulations Tina, and welcome to Employsure.
    Woman: Thank you so much for coming today.
    Man: But rather completely tailored to the challenges your business faces. What's more, we stand by our advice and we can help you should you ever find yourself faced with a claim. Now, you can't get surer than that.
    Employsure Accolades

    It's about our team having confidence that there's someone on the end of the phone to be able to provide them the advice they need...with Employsure, it's super easy."

    Ben Wooding, Red Badge
    Employsure Client
    Employsure Client Testimonial: Red Badge
    4:49
    So we've been with Employsure for about four years now. Employsure are a key part of our business in that we have staff who are, the way our business is built on, a customer says to us, we need five staff to work around the clock and it can be a short term contract, it can be a longterm contract, but we're very reliant on our client, I guess, giving us that direction and giving us that instruction. And what that does is that has the flow on effect to our employees, to our frontline staff. So where Employsure is a fantastic partner for us in that we're able to work really closely to make sure that we're communicating well with our team. Front footing any problems that we have. The advice line, the advice team are fantastic in that any little thing, little problem we've got, big or small, they're brilliant and are able really, it enables us to get on the front foot of any problems we've got and with confidence. So knowing that the team are always there at the end of the phone, and will put, do anything from provide us just advice over the phone to putting documents together for us. And then even in advising us if things go south an employee as well. But I guess the primary thing for us is being able to be on the front foot, be proactive and just be a really good employer. And that's where Employsure gives us the confidence to be able to do that. So when we jump on the phone with Employsure, it's super easy. So we literally just, there's always someone on the end of the phone. We let them know we're from Red Badge. We've got a number of people who we're able to call. Our branch managers around New Zealand, as well as our HR team who jump on the phone. And the way that I'm always amazed with the way that Employsure know the detail of a particular scenario we're talking about. And we could have three different people call about the same scenario or the same situation or the same case and Employsure, it doesn't matter who answers the phone, they've always got the information. And that just for us, it's so slick. We're not having to double up on information. We're not having to relay information twice. So it's really good. Look, Employsure, for us it's probably not so much about the money. I mean, certainly there is value for money, there's no doubt about that. But for us really, it's about our team having confidence that there's someone on the end of the phone to be able to provide them the advice they need. And then I guess the flow on effect of that is our team on the front line. We've got thousands of staff around New Zealand. They're able to get really good advice from our management team who've been able to come through Employsure. So, look, it absolutely is value for money. In terms of the service with it, it's pretty hard to put a value on it. It's great. We’ve got dedicated account managers. So when we call the advice line, we're not just talking to anyone, they put us straight through to our dedicated advice team who understand our business. And that was something that was really important to us was Employsure really understanding our business because we're very driven by what our clients say. And so there's particular anomalies that affect our business. And so that understanding is important. Look, to be honest, it's hard to say. There's a little bit of uncertainty around the event side of the business going forward. So, at the moment we're really focused on what we call our Red Security department, which is that permanent guarding and that's primarily where we work closely with Employsure. And so, we're looking to build a really strong base of permanent guarding clients, which will mean that as the events fluctuate up and down, we're able to sustain our operations, sustain what we're doing and just keep looking forward. At the end of the day, this is what the world's going to look like for a while. And I think the businesses that are able to get ahead of that and understand that really quickly are those that are going to come out of it the best. So, that's sort of where we're looking to head.

    What our clients say

    Retail

    From contracts right through to safety… you suddenly have that safety net, all the information you need in one place to make sure that you’ve got it right.

    Lesley Jacobs - Country Charm Furniture
    Employsure Client
    Repair

    We have used the advice line via phone and email and the staff have always been quick to respond and provided the advice and information we needed."

    Sarah Willsher - Fix It Digital Solutions Limited
    Employsure Client
    Interior

    If we need any advice they're at the end of the phone, and will guide you through whatever it is you're trying to navigate."

    Steve Marychurch - M R Decorating Limited
    Employsure Client
    Manufacturing

    Have afforded us the time to focus on customers and growing the business. Also provided peace of mind to both staff and management."

    Jacques Swanepoel - Textiles Alive
    Employsure Client
    Hospitality

    Such an amazing company to deal with. If you have staff you need these guys in your life."

    Kylie Mole - Balter Bar
    Employsure Client
    Transport

    Fantastic Service! Informative, Friendly, Punctual, Helpful! So glad I made that first phone call!"

    Kellie Fearon - Independent Trucking Limited
    Employsure Client
    Freight

    Advice and assistance is available whenever you need it. I highly recommend Employsure!"

    Aarti Doolabh, Now365 Logistics Limited
    Employsure Client
    Landscaping

    Best thing I ever did for my business. The support and service is impeccable."

    Leilani Sell-Mitchell - RM Landscapes
    Employsure Client
    Education

    We didn't go into business to be bogged down by HR and H&S. Employsure has given us our time back."

    Jonny Wilson - Goodtime Music Academy
    Employsure Client

    Coronavirus, Lockdown and Contingency | NZ Exclusive Webinar | Employsure

    In this exclusive webinar, Employsure Workplace Relations Consultant Sharne Reed discusses the impact of COVID-19 lockdown on small businesses. She also discusses 2020 minimum wage rates and outlines the details of the NZ government wage subsidy.

    Coronavirus, Lockdown and Contingency | NZ Exclusive Webinar | Employsure
    28:34
    Good morning, everybody. And thank you for joining us this morning for our webinar on the COVID-19 lock down update. We're going to talk through two topics this morning, the first one being shutdowns and your employees, and the second one being confidence with the minimum wage changes that came in today. So shutdowns and your employees. As of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday 25th of March, New Zealand entered a nationwide lockdown when the government imposed Alert Level 4. So what does this mean for you? If you have employees who are able to work from home, then your business will continue as normal.
    You may have a business where you can only allocate some employees to work from home and you might have other departments that need to be put on lockdown or be closed. And if that's the case, then your employees who aren't able to work from home, then your employees can take annual leave and paid leave during this time. There are options available to business owners such as the wage subsidy. So if you're struggling financially when paying wages, take a look at that wage subsidy and apply for it. There are a lot of applications that are getting approved every day, but the feedback is that it does take some time to get approved.
    So if you've seen through your application and haven't heard back in about a week, then follow up with that then. Shutdowns and stand downs. If you are one of our clients and you'll have the stand down clause in your employee handbooks, what this means is it's just informing your staff that you may have to shut down the business due to circumstances outside of your control. This coronavirus lockdown that we're experiencing at the moment is something that's outside of your control. So standing down your staff without pay may be an option. If you do have employees who have annual leave there, then you can let them take that leave and they've exhausted all their leave and then not to let them take their leave without pay.
    Another option that you have there is, you're able to bring forward your annual shutdown if you have a clause written into your employment documentation. Normally, businesses choose to shut down over the Christmas and New Year period. However, given the environment that we are in and you can consult with your staff and just let them know that you want to bring forward that you'll shut down, in which case you'll need to give yourself 14 days' notice of that intention. And I acknowledge the fact that we are a week into lockdown already. Some businesses may have gone into lockdown earlier having their staff work from home. If you are finding that the work that you're doing is starting to dry out and you're not sure that you're going to have enough to get you through the next three weeks, then you can bring forward that and you'll shut down.
    If you want to bring it down sooner, you can consult with your staff, but legislation does state that it has to be 14 days' notice. So with the government imposing annual leave for restrictions, what does this mean for you if someone in your employment is sick or contracts coronavirus while working from home? So if your employee isn't sick at all, then they just carry on normal working from home. And unless during that time they themselves get sick, they have a spouse or a child or someone, a dependent living with them who does get sick, in which case they may be able to take sick leave during that time.
    If your business doesn't have staff working from home, and then they're still on annual leave or unpaid leave. However, if they do get sick provided that they bring you a medical certificate, you can choose to pay them separately for their time. If they have sick leave, yeah. If they don't have sick leave, you can look to let them take their annual leave, or that will be unpaid leave. So if your employee does get sick while you're in the lockdown at the moment, then I would encourage them to go to a doctor or get some form of a medical certificate outlining that they're always set for either themselves or for someone that they care for.
    So it could be their child, it could be their spouse, it could be if they've got elderly parents staying with them, so that they can take care of them during this time. It could be that they're taking care of their parents. So their medical certificate will outline that they are unable to work due to having to care for this person. Once that person is better, then I would encourage you to get a medical clearance for them, regardless of whether it's them it's actually sick or it's their parents or child or spouse. If they've being allocated as being the person responsible for caring for that person during the time of the illness, then you want to make sure that that person is actually well before they can get to work.
    If they don't receive a medical clearance, then they just remain on leave. Like I said before, if they do exhaust all their sick leave, then you can look to pay them annual leave for their time, but you don't have to. So what happens if you've exhausted all your options and you can no longer pay your employees? The government has outlined that redundancies should be a last resort for businesses after they've exhausted all options available to them. So when you're deciding if redundancy is what needs to happen for you and your business, just consider whether you've looked into the wage subsidy and the government reduce the cap on that wage subsidy last week. So that means that there's no restriction on how much you will be given.
    Previously, there was $150,000 kit that has since been removed. So you may be able to receive more for that wage subsidy. And everything about when you've got staff who can take unpaid leave during this time. Have a think about whether you can reduce people's guaranteed hours. For example, if you've got people who are working 40 hours a week, can you consult with them and look to reduce it down to maybe 30, which would then allow you to keep people working for a little bit longer. Have you consulted with your staff and ask them to take...if you've got a wage subsidy, have you consulted with them as to whether they can take 80% of the pay rather than the full 100%.
    Once you've gone through that whole thought process, you've exhausted all your options that are available to you, then you can look to redundancies. They still will need to follow a process though. And granted, we can't do face-to-face meetings at the moment. However, there are so many options available to you. You can look at doing phone conferences, you can look at doing Zoom or Skype sessions. And that way, you're still having meetings with all of your staff at one time, rather than picking up the phone and finding each individual employee one at a time. The reason I would encourage you to do group meetings is, if you're looking to find one person at a time, by the time you get off the phone with one person, they're probably already on the phone to the next employee, talking through what's been discussed and potentially misconstruing the message that you actually want to get across.
    So if you are looking at redundancies, it is still a process that you need to follow. So what the process looks like as you're inviting your staff to a meeting to inform them that, you know, things are getting tough at the moment and you may be looking to redundancies. You want to get them to put ideas forward to you on other alternatives that you can consider during this time. For example, they may say, "Well, what about if some of us take voluntary redundancy?" Does it mean that that will save some people's roles or they may ask if they can reduce hours, all of that sort of thing? They'll come forward and they'll give you ideas on what they want to propose.
    From there, you'll go away, you'll consider what it is exactly that they've put forward to you. Consider whether it can work for your business, whether it as a viable option. And then what you do is you invite them back to a meeting, you will discuss with them what the proposal is going to be. If you're looking at redundancies in your outline, what the selection criteria is, for example, if you're only looking to put off a couple of staff rather than a whole business...or the whole business, I should say, then what you do is you outline what the selection criteria looks.
    So is it that you are looking for two people to remain out of a department as opposed to four people? And you'll put through what qualifications you want the person to have, the skills and experience, while still keeping it broad enough that it will take into account all of those employees. That way it might be construed that you're specifically looking to keep two certain people on or a certain number of people on and exactly who those people are. You should never pre-empt who exactly you want to put there or never make it known that you are actually looking towards one person over another this. Granted, this is a different time at the moment, what we're going through.
    So it may be deemed fair and reasonable that that process needs to be shortened for whatever reason. I'd still encourage you to follow the process as much as you can and always seek independent advice before you go ahead with a process like this. So what happens if you've got employees while they're working from home, who have children that they need to take care of? What I would encourage you to do is investigate with your staff, whether they're actually able to continue to do the job in the full capacity or whether they need to take some form of leave.
    Potentially, your employees will have their partner or spouse or someone else at home with them, who may be able to take care of the children while your employee continues to work. Not always a given but that is an option that's there. What you can also do is have a chat with the employees and see whether you can actually structure a bit of a routine so that you're swapping the childcare between the two parents if both parents actually need to work. I have spoken to some of our clients who have both husband and wife or full families working for them and in order to ensure that they can still run the business while still taking care of their employees. And what they've done is actually they've rostered the periods so that one parent is always caring for the child, and one parent is always working.
    While the parent who's caring for the child isn't at work, they're taking leave during that time. If you find that your employees aren't able to work at all, and then they'll either need to take annual, non-service leave if that's an option for your business or unpaid leave. If you have employees who have children who are over the age of 14, then legally they're old enough to take care of themselves for short periods of time. So it could be deemed reasonable that you have an employee at work who's got a 14-year-old at home or older who can help look after the younger ones.
    However, if you have employees with children younger than 14, I wouldn't encourage it that those children are left to their own devices. Legally in New Zealand, you do need to be of the age of 14 to be home for a short period of time. So that's where I'm drawing a bit of advice from. If your employer is saying to you, "No, my children are pretty, you know, self-reliant and they can take care themselves, I can get their own lunches and I can check in on them," chances are that those kids are actually going to struggle with it anyway. You know, as big of a change as is it for us, it is a big change for the children to adjust into suddenly being at home, going to not seeing their friends.
    So they are going to be more reliant on their parent. So I would encourage you to have that conversation with your employees and just see what options they have available to them. So you're one of the lucky businesses who can have their employees working from home and still function, how do you manage your staff and ensure that they're completing the tasks that are required of them? Working from home does require you to have a large trust school with your employees. Granted, people work different when they're working from home than when they may be working in the office.
    Some people may absolutely thrive working from home, and some people may really struggle, probably the extrovert type, so you're used to having people to talk to in the office. And so make sure you have regular catch ups with your team just to ensure that they have direction on what needs to happen for that day. Make them feel like they're still part of the team and they're not out isolated. You can look at different ways to make these catch ups happen so that people do still feel like they're part of that team. You know, you've got phone conferences, you've got Zoom, you've got Skype, which a lot of businesses are actually making use of these days.
    Personally, Zoom is something that I use to keep in contact with my team, to keep in contact with my manager, so that, you know, our team is still feeling like they're part of a team, that they're not missing out on anything, that we're still communicating and they haven't been left out on their own, we haven't forgotten about them. If you do find that working from home is no longer a viable option for you, then you can consult with your staff advising that they're now required to take annual leave or unpaid leave. And then you may get to a point where you find that working from home cancel will happen but you need to have shorter hours to ensure that there's still work for people to go back to.
    So you can consult with your staff about reducing, about getting them to take annual leave or unpaid leave for a period of time. Like I said before, employees who are used to working in office environments, who are used to having people around them, may really struggle during the staff isolation. I know I'm normally based at home anyway, so for me personally, this isn't a big adjustment that I need to make. Those employees who are used to working in an office, suddenly working from home, chances are they're looking around and saying things that need to be done like the washing the house with the dishes and all of those sorts of things and they may get sidetracked.
    So keep those communication lines open with your staff while they're in self-isolation. Make sure that if your staff are part of the essential services list, so they're still working, that you're looking for ways that they can still be as isolated as possible during this time, not just to protect themselves but to protect the people around them as well. This can involve things like putting them on shift work. So structuring the day so that you've got some people who come in for a morning shift, some who may come in for an afternoon shift or some who might do a day shift and then an evening shift. Stick to those Western meal breaks. And what I mean by that is, have the rest of the meal breaks so that not all of your employees are taking that break at the same time.
    You might have one person going to break at say 12:00, the next one take their break at 12:30 and so on. If you've got meetings, regardless of whether people are in the office or in the business itself, then do those meetings over Zoom or Skype or through phone conferencing. That way you are limiting the number of people who are in the room, you're limiting the exposure that people are having to each other. If you can operate that way for whatever reason, then try and keep those meetings short, make sure that there's enough space between the employees, so you're looking at about a two-meter space if you can do it that way, or take the meetings to no more than 15 minutes.
    You can look at flexible labor arrangements. And by that I mean, you've got employees who are taking leave or unstructured time. And so it might be that you've got shorter hours and those employees can take leave and might be that you're on a roster system where you've got one team who might work for a week and then you're on leave for a week, and then we'll come back to work. So you've got those sorts of options available to you as well. Ensure that you're providing your staff with the PPE equipment that they need as well. As a minimum, a lot of businesses are ensuring that they're providing face masks and that their employees are wearing gloves. Either then incorporating things like ensuring that they're de-sanitizing equipment and the cleaning routine has [inaudible 00:17:33] quite a bit. So everything is getting wiped down as soon as someone touches it.
    If you notice that you've got employees at work who start coughing or showing signs of the coronavirus, then I encourage you to send them home get them seen too by the doctor. The government did announce that the selection criteria for testing has been widened now, and essentially anyone who shows signs of having the Coronavirus will be tested so that we can get a bigger idea of how that spread is happening. So definitely don't expect people to come into work if they're not feeling very well, if they're coughing, if they're sneezing, if they've got a fever, they should be staying at home. So make sure you're communicating that to your staff as well.
    So the wage subsidy was something that the government announced quite early on in this whole system and around the time that they announced their alert levels. What the government did was they put together a wage subsidy for employers in all regions designed to support your business if you're impacted by the COVID-19 and face the prospect of laying off your staff wages or reducing the hours. So if you're an employer, you're a contractor, you're a sole trader or a staff employee, then you may qualify for the COVID-19 wage subsidy. The subsidy is designed for wages and salaries only and covers 12 weeks. It's paid as a lump sum payment, which covers 12 weeks for your employees and to keep those staff employed while you consider what changes may be needed in your business.
    There are requirements that need to be met, and you need to fill in forms, you need to ensure that you're still attempting to pay your staff at least 80% of the wages. If you can't do it, it needs to be outlined as to why and you need to be making the best efforts you can to retain the employees for that subsequence period. So currently, that amount is $585.80 for employees who are working 20 hours or more. And for employees who work 20 hours or less, that amount is $350. Like I said, it's paid in one lump sum, but it's designed to cover 12 weeks of wages for your employees. What about if you've got employees who haven't been working with you for 12 months or if you've got people who are on variable hours.
    So if you've got employees who have been working for you for less than 12 months, they'll still be entitled to their subsidy, and they'll still get the payments and just carry on as per normal for, like, your other employees who have been with you for a long period of time. For those employees who have variable hours though...and by variable hours I mean, you can't work out what it is that they work each week, whether they would always work over 20 hours, whether they may fall below that 20 hours. What you do is you look back over the last 12 months, you take the average of what they've worked each week, and basically that will let you know whether they've worked 20 hours or more, or 20 hours or less.
    And if they've worked more than 20 hours each week or the average comes out to be more than 20 hours, then you're entitled to the $585.80. If they fall below the 20 hours, then you're entitled to the $350. What some businesses are doing if they've got employees who work less than 20 hours and that $350 is more than what they earn, is they'll just pay them the normal wage. And that money can set aside for other employees or to ensure that you can keep them going for a bit longer. If you've got employees where the $585 doesn't even cover what they would earn, what you can do is either let them take and you'll need to top it up, or you can top them up yourself. It's up to you there. If you're paying them less than 100%, then you consult with them.
    Normal wages is classed as what they would normally get each week. So if you've got employees who are guaranteed 40 hours and receive $20 an hour, then 40 hours is what the normal wages are. It doesn't take into account things like bonuses, and commission and that sort of thing. It's just the normal wage. Minimum wages came into effect yesterday. And there was a lot of pressure on the government to put that on hold but we've gone ahead with it. What that means is, if you have any employees who are now paid below $18.90, you need to top up their wages and give them a pay increase $18.90 an hour. For your full time employees that work 40 hours a week, it means that they're getting an extra $48 a week before tax.
    This increase is in line with the government's plan to achieve a $20 an hour minimum wage by 2021. Whether there is still something that carries on, it remains to be seen, but those are the guidelines that they are actually wanting to achieve. If you have employees on an inclusive wage or salary, what that means is the employer contribution of KiwiSaver is included in the hourly rate or in the annual salary. Then you need to ensure that you're paying 3% above $18.90. What it basically means is that, if your employees are paid $18.90 an hour and your employer contribution is part of that, they're going to fall below the minimum wage which reaches the X basically.
    You need to ensure that they're paid at least $18.90 hour in the hand before tax with your KiwiSaver contribution taken out of it. If you're a company that pays your employer contribution on top of the hourly wage, that's fine, just increase their pay to $18.90 an hour. We have had a question come through. "So we have a wine tour business and have casual tour guides. How long can you continue without offering them work before laying them off and making them redundant?" So when you mention casual employees, if they're a true casual employee, and by this I mean, someone who doesn't have an expectation of ongoing work.
    So a casual employee is someone who would have some sick leave or annual leave, come and prepare when you're busy for a couple of hours, there's no [inaudible 00:24:20] of work for them. So for example, they wouldn't work one day a week and that one day might change. It's not that they're working 40 hours a week for you. They're a very casual person. So you might bring them up on a Monday and say, "Hey, we've got some work coming up, are you free to come in and cover that?" Or it might be that they...you know, you might ring them for one day, one week and then not offer them any work for another couple of weeks.
    And then you might give them a call and say, "Hey, can you come in for a couple of days, we've got someone on leave?" So that's generally what a casual person is. There should be no expectation of ongoing work. They're not expected to receive calls, just like you're not expected to offer them work. So if you can honestly say that those people are casuals that there is no passion of work, then you don't have to offer them any more work. Essentially, if there is a pattern of work there, it all depends on your business really, how you can operate, whether you can keep them on, whether you need to lay them off or all those sorts of things before you make them redundant.
    If you can show that there's no work there, you're not sure when the works coming through, you've done everything that you can to help them out through this time, then redundancies are an option. And we did have some clients who look for redundancies straightaway, and we've got clients who've tried to hold off on redundancy. So it's whatever works best for your business and when they're actually sending your business under, so to speak. So hopefully, that's out. Another question, regarding the COVID-19 wage subsidy, how should pay slips look? Is this subsidized in your name, sick leave or should the pay show ordinary hours?
    With the wage subsidy, I would just show the ordinary hours on their pay slips. If you consulted with them and you're paying them less, then you just calculate that out and put that into your payroll system. If they're taking annual leave during this time, their annual leave should be paid at the normal rate, in which case, you and your annual leave will be shown on the pay slips, that you're taking sick leave during that time then you'll break out the different types of leave. So essentially, if you're getting the wage subsidy, you just chuck it in as in normal hours and it might just be that then this...you'll put on any annual leave that they're getting or taking or any sick leave that they're taking. So it will still look like a normal pay slip.
    Thank you very much for joining us this morning. The idea of this is basically that we can give you as much information as we can and help answer any questions that you may have at this time. Like I've said, it is a very different time for everybody. There are a lot of questions that are coming up. And so if there's any way that we can help, please reach out to us. You can follow us on social media, we've got Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube channel. Or alternatively, give us a call on 0800-675-701 or email us at [email protected] Thank you very much for joining us this morning. Have a great afternoon.

    FAQs

    What is the basis of employment law in New Zealand?

    Core statutes in New Zealand include:

    • Employment Relations Act 2000
    • Health and Safety at Work Act 2015
    • Holidays Act 2003
    • Numerous supporting statutes include:
    • Human Rights Act 1993
    • Minimum Wage Act 1983
    • Wages Protection Act 1983
    • Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987
    Is it illegal to work without a contract in NZ?

    Yes. Every employee in New Zealand must be covered by a collective agreement or have a written individual employment agreement. Failure to ensure the employment agreement is in writing may result in a fine of $1,000 per employee.     

    How much notice does an employee have to provide when quitting?

    Notice periods in New Zealand are not legislated. An employment agreement should include the notice period required to be given by the employee or employer to end the relationship. If the employment agreement doesn’t have a notice period, then fair and reasonable notice must be given. This should take into account length of service, type of job, how long it might take to replace the employee and common practice in the workplace. Depending on the role 2 to 4 weeks’ notice is often seen as fair. Keep in mind that when an employer wants to give notice to end an employment relationship, they can only do so on completion of the relevant fair and reasonable process.    

    What are my obligations to my employees?

    Employers should provide a safe workplace and comply with employment legislation, employment agreements and any other agreements and policies and procedures that apply to their workplace.

    Employment relationships are underpinned by the duty of good faith. Good faith means dealing with each other honestly, openly, and without misleading each other. It requires parties to be active and constructive in establishing and maintaining a productive relationship in which they are responsive and communicative.

    Can an employer refuse annual leave?

    In some cases you may not be a in a position to approve annual leave at the time the employee requests it. An employer may decline a request for annual leave if they have a genuine business reason for doing so. However, the rules specify that an employer must not unreasonably withhold consent, so they must have considered the request and provide a valid business reason.

     

    For example, another employee has already requested leave for this period of time, or it is an exceptionally busy period for the business and annual leave cannot be granted during this period.  Employers should keep in mind that an employee must be allowed to take their entitled leave within 12 months of their entitlement arising should the employee wish to do so.  In addition, if the employee elects to take two weeks’ of entitled leave continuously this must also be allowed.

    What is the Employment Relations Authority?

    The Employment Relations Authority is an investigative body set up to resolve employment relationship problems by establishing facts and making a determination according to the merits. Authority Members are appointed by the Governor General. The Employment Relations Authority has exclusive jurisdiction over employment relationship problems.

    What is the MBIE?

    Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is a group of governmental departments relating to the business sector.

    Can I change my employee’s contract?

    If you need to make changes to an employee’s terms and conditions of employment:

    • Provide any affected employees with information about the proposed changes
    • Seek your employee’s feedback
    • Consider any feedback raised
    • Avoid making any final decisions until you have consulted with affected employees
    • Record all changes in writing.

    The specific process will depend on the type of change and the individual employees so always contact an employment relations specialist for specific guidance.

    Still Have Questions?

    Call our employer helpline now!
    Call Now