Health and Safety Update - 15 months since new Act

This update was provided recently to Battersby HR's safetyWIRE health and management system clients.

It's now more than 15 months since the new Health and Safety at Work Act came into force for NZ employers and workplaces. We trust that things are going well at your place with all the new obligations and ways of doing things.

There are a couple of updates from WorkSafe that we would like to advise safetyWIRE customers about now that we have had time to consider and assess them.

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Minimum wage went up on 1 April 2017... Employers are you paying the right amount?

The minimum wage applies to all paid employees aged 16 and older, although there are different rates if your employee is 16 or 17 and is new to the workforce or if they are completing training. 

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A note about public holidays to finish the year....

Christmas and New Year Public Holidays 2016/2017 Full details of how to pay your people public holiday pay is online here but briefly ...

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Sorry I’m late, Sir…..

Another year has passed with  all sorts of challenges for employers. Employee absenteeism or lateness is always a problem and can put pressure on a  business in a number of areas - meeting deadlines and stress on work colleagues who have to take up the extra workload.  Some absenteeism or lateness is unavoidable due to sickness of the employee or family member or other emergencies out of their control.

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Safety mistakes costly for employers

Lawyers are expecting big increases in penalties when the results of cases based on the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 are released.

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Warnings about Warnings ...

Most employers know they can not dismiss an employee without a good reason (Substantive Fairness); however many employers make basic mistakes by not meeting the required procedural requirements before issuing a warning or dismissing an employee (Procedural Fairness).  

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A win for the employer - Employee v Contractor

A case brought before the Employment Relations Authority (Authority) requested a determination as to whether Mr and Mrs S (Mr/Mrs S) were employees or independent contractors. Their work was terminated, and as they claimed to be employees, they brought a claim for unjustifiable dismissal.

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The Health of Health and Safety - "Healthy Work" announced

Since the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 Act came into effect some four months ago, there has been much written and spoken (accurately and inaccurately) about some of the new employer obligations. In particular, around the “Health” part of Health and Safety, which has not necessarily been explained before, but the new Act now expressly provides for mental health issues in an increasingly stressed-out and competitive workplace.

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Pay as you go Holiday Pay

A business engaged a new worker on a “fixed term part-time” basis because of the uncertainty and frequency of available work, and decided to use the “pay as you go” holiday pay method of calculation - 8% of gross earnings.

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Time to Ditch Performance Reviews?

Many businesses either have or are ready to let this process go - business structures have changed and there is now a need to be agile. A shortage of skilled talent has turned the focus to coaching, creating employee engagement and continuous development.

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How could an employer get it so wrong?

A New Zealand company placed an advertisement on a (Chinese) website seeking to employ a “full time part time Warehouse Worker” in October 2014.  As there were no suitable applicants, the company re-advertised in December: “Warehouse Worker… (best if have working experience in a farm) 50 years and below, salary negotiable, 8 hours per day, 6 days per week, if good performance can apply for work permit..”. (Note - it is illegal to employ anyone without the right to work in NZ.)

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Recent Employment Law Changes

April was quite a month for employers to sit up and take note – the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and its supporting regulations 2016 took effect on 4 April. Just a few days earlier, the Employment Standards Bill came into effect (1 April 2016) requiring employers to update themselves on new employment legislation requirements.

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Employment Law Update - Employment Relations Standards Bill

The Employment Relations Standards Bill comes into force on 1 April 2016. 

Among other things, it contains changes dealing with hours of work, cancelling shifts and the ability of employers to restrict their employees from working for other employers. 

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Zero hours contracts officially history

A law change which outlaws zero hours contracts has passed into law with unanimous support.

The Employment Standards Legislation, which had its third reading this afternoon, also extends paid parental leave to a wider range of workers.

MPs applauded as it was passed into law. A large union-led campaign has fought for an end to zero hours contracts.


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New calculations for PAYE on holiday pay

This article covers the Commissioner’s operational position on calculating PAYE on holiday pay

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Employment and Health and Safety Legislation updates

Minimum wage rate to increase from 1 April 2016

New Health and Safety at Work Act and Regulations are out now
Employment Standards Legislation Bill
Employee or Contractor? 
Easter Trading 

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Employment Standards Legislation Bill

The Employment Standards Legislation Bill proposes to amend the New Zealand employment law to ensure it responds to the modern, dynamic business environment and encourages fair and productive workplaces.

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Minimum Wage to Increase to $15.25

The minimum wage will increase by 50 cents to $15.25 an hour on 1 April 2016, Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse announced today.

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Oh what a tangled web…. Or Commission omission

From the Employment Relations Authority recent files… 
An employee (Mr B – Sales Manager) raised concerns with his employer (company owned by two shareholder/directors) about unpaid sales commission. After he left the company he raised a Personal Grievance, outlining 18 issues to be determined by the Authority.  Whilst Mr B was not successful in all of his claims and because of the complexity of the case, this article will outline some of the key issues raised. 

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Employment 101

Most of us take for granted the processes and procedures around when we employ people, initiating what is the beginning of an employment relationship – which is of course a legal relationship - between an employer and an employee. Under the Employment Relations and Holidays Acts, employers and employees each have obligations to each other, and often it’s all too easy to overlook some of the fundamentals.

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Christmas Holidays

Public Holiday entitlements – 2015/2016 Christmas and New Year period

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Hit the road Jack ......

A company involved in high end watch repairs employed a part-time person (25 hours per week) in March 2015 - part of the job was to package repaired watches and prepare despatch documentation for return to account holders.  There was no employment agreement.  

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Keep records or face fines - employers warned after recent ERA cases

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment reminded employers today about their obligations to keep accurate employment records and produce them when requested by a Labour Inspector – or face enforcement action and penalties.

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I spy……  over the years it has become more widespread for employers to use video surveillance in the workplace.

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Casual v part time employee

An employment message to employers 

Be careful how you manage your "casual" employees - it may be that they are, in reality, permanent part-timers. Before contemplating the termination of any employee's employment for any reason, you should seek advice. 

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Privacy Act sets boundaries for personal data collection

How long has it been since your company's staff and customer privacy policy was reviewed?

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No more office gossip if you want to get ahead .....

We have all heard that ‘it is more important to be respected than liked', but is this right? What about the person who says, "I respect ‘so and so' but I could never work for him or her because I just don't like them"?

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Timing is everything

An interesting recent case from the Employment Relations Authority addresses whether and when a Personal Grievance can be lodged outside of the statutory 90 day time period.

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Employment Standards Legislation Bill introduced

NZ's Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse released the Employment Standards Legislation Bill today, which will amend various employment-related statutes. The aim of this omnibus Bill is "to promote fairer and more productive workplaces by providing enhanced protections and benefits for both employers and employees". The proposed changes are wide-ranging and affect a number of key pieces of employment legislation.

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Health and Safety Reform Bill Changes

Changes to Health and Safety laws are another step closer with the Select Committee recently reporting its recommendations back to Parliament.

Some of the key changes from those previously publicised include:

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Setting Remuneration – Do you rely on gut feeling?

Payroll can be the single largest overhead for many businesses in the wine industry. Using gut feeling or “the grapevine” to determine remuneration levels is one thing, but reputable market data ensures employers make an informed decision about what they should pay their staff.

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Change of focus for Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

A change of focus led to a change of organisational structure for the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). David Smol, Chief Executive of MBIE announced the final structure last week.

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Govt moves to strengthen employment standards

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced a package of measures to strengthen enforcement of minimum employment standards.

“Employers are the backbone of our economy and most do a great job in meeting their employment obligations, but there are a number of serious breaches occurring,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“Those who breach minimum employment standards have an unfair advantage over law abiding employers and it is unfair on employees who work hard to support their families.

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Minimum wage to increase to $14.75 from 1 April 2015

From the website:  

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced the adult minimum wage will increase from $14.25 to $14.75 an hour from 1 April.

The starting-out and training hourly minimum wages will increase by 40 cents to $11.80 an hour, as this is set at 80 per cent of the adult minimum wage. 

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Wear helmets on quad bikes – they’re part of the job

Press Release: 16 December 2014

A farming couple from Canvastown near Blenheim have been fined $20,000 each for offences involving the use of quad bikes on the farm where they have a share-milking partnership.

There were multiple sightings, dating back to 2012, of Phillip Andrew Jones and Maria Anna Carlson riding quads without helmets and in some cases Ms Carlson had small children with her on the quad.

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Christmas and New Year Public Holidays 2014/2015

Fortunately for employers, calculating public holiday pay entitlements is relatively straightforward this year.

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New drink-driving alcohol limits

Effective 1 December New Zealand drivers need to be within certain limits if consuming alcohol before driving a vehicle.  

They are, for drivers over 20 years of age, almost half of what they were before so are likely to have an impact on people over the festive season. For drivers under 20, the limit stays at zero.  

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Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014

Employers have just a few months to prepare for the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2014 which will come into force on 6 March 2015.

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Keep it safe when sourcing replacement parts

A NZ company was recently fined $55,000 and ordered to pay reparation of $50,000 after a worker was seriously injured.

Read the full details:

Essentially, the message is that the piece of machinery was bought second-hand and was missing a steel lid which was manufactured and installed by a company employee. Workplace NZ said that the new lid should have been designed and installed to the manufacturer's specifications. The replacement and the latches used to secure it were substandard and contributed to the serious injuries suffered by the victim. Machinery owners need to ensure that appropriately qualified engineers are involved in the maintenance, repair and modification of plant.  "It's not good enough to just whip something up and hope it will do the job.," said Workplace NZ chief investigator Keith Stewart. The company also failed to implement a safe operating procedure and its hazard identification process and staff training were also found wanting."

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Are job descriptions a waste of time?

This is a question that is often asked – “Why do we need job descriptions?”  

“Are they a waste of time?” The answer from most small or medium sized business owners is often “Yes.”

But they shouldn’t be.  Many small businesses don’t have job descriptions and most of those that do, don’t use them.  The reason given is...

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Changing management styles in a changing world

The fast pace of technology and communications is changing the way businesses operate and managers have to embrace this phenomenon as well as leading, motivating and managing others. 

"Situational leadership".....

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On the face of it.....

It seemed a good case but.....

In a recent determination from the Employment Relations Authority an employer’s decision to dismiss an employee was not justifiable – to the tune of $8,635.

The employee was engaged as a trainee driver by an airport shuttle company from 12 March 2013 until he was dismissed on 21 May 2013.

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Workplace Bullying - Guidelines

Workplace Bullying

In the absence of specially defined legislation for New Zealand workplace bullying, WorkSafe NZ has released a set of best practice Guidelines to provide clarity – particularly for employers around preventing and responding to workplace bullying.

What is bullying?  (as defined in the guidelines)
Bullying is a workplace hazard
Bullying affects personal health
Bullying affects business productivity
Bullying behaviours are specific and have a range of solutions
Bullying is prevalent in New Zealand’s workplaces and needs to be addressed

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Minimum wage rate increases 1 April

Straight from the MBIE mailout:
New minimum wage rates take effect from 1 April 2014
The new adult minimum wage rates (before tax) that apply to employees aged 16 or over will be:
$14.25 per hour, which is
$114.00 for an 8-hour day,
$570.00 for a 40-hour week.

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Costly Error - Redundancy while on Parental Leave

A recent determination from the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) shows just how costly it can be for employers when they get things wrong.

In February 2012 “Mrs A” was employed as a National Key Accounts Manager by a company specifically to service a national supermarket chain.

In April 2012 “Mrs A” applied in writing for six months parental leave.  The company verbally approved this leave, with a return to work date of January 2013. (Note - the company should have put the approval in writing in accordance with the Parental  Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987 [PLEPA]). 

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Holding on to your employees

And a new year begins…
    with staff changes?

The New Year can bring a wave of movement in the job market. 

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Employment Categories and Employment Agreements - Employers still don't get it right!

Basic requirements – but some businesses are still not compliant.

It is still surprising how often we discover that employers are still employing people without written employment agreements…  For one thing, it is illegal -  the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA) requirs employers to have a written employment agreement in place for every employee on the payroll.  But it is also not good business practice – by not having one in place, employers risk a fine of up to $10,000. 

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Is Social Media working for you?

Do all employees represent companies outside of work hours?  The simple answer is “Yes”.  

As soon as a conversation takes place within a group of people and the question arises as to where one works, what the company’s business does and what they are like to work for, an employee becomes the best sales representative or total destroyer of the company, brand or image.  It’s how they portray the company that counts.  In this situation, however, the circle of influence is small.

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Restructuring and Redundancies

An employer has always had the right to restructure a business for good commercial or business reasons - for example cost savings when times are tight and profits are squeezed.

The standing principle was that if an employee was made redundant as a result of the restructure and the employer acted genuinely, historically doing  what a fair and reasonable employer would (now, “could”) have done in all the circumstances, the Employment Authority (or Employment Court) would not have sought further reasons as to the restructure, in a situation where that decision were challenged by an employee by way of a personal grievance.

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