Pragmatic solutions and sound advice
Wynn Williams offers pragmatic solutions and sound advice to both employers and employees.
Our specialist employment team provides advice on all aspects of the employment relationship – from negotiating employment agreements, to large-scale organizational restructuring.
Our goal is to promote excellent employment relationships. We can help you avoid workplace disputes – and resolve them when they do arise – with our timely and pragmatic advice. We can assist with workplace disputes and investigations, and provide representation in all employment law forums. 
Are you currently facing an employment law issue? Or would you like advice on best-practice employment policies?  
Employment law services:
  • Drafting and negotiation of employment agreements
  • Disciplinary processes and investigations
  • Misconduct and performance issues
  • Representation at mediations, employment relations authority and employment court hearings, appeals 
  • Accident compensation obligations, representation at reviews and appeals
  • Advice and representation on health & safety in employment act investigations, prosecutions and appeals
  • Employer's obligations on sale and purchase of businesses
  • Redundancy and employee protection provisions
  • Secondment arrangements 
  • Enforcing employment agreement provisions relating to restraint of trade, confidentiality, intellectual property, etc.
  • Large-scale organisational restructuring
  • Employment relations act amendments
  • Holidays act
  • Kiwisaver act
  • Wages protection act
  • Parental leave act
  • Fair trading act


Recent Projects

  • Acting for a major local authority in relation to the investigation and prosecution of a number of employees regarding corruption and bribery.
  • Acting for a number of clients in relation to theft of confidential information, intellectual property and the interference with computer systems. This includes obtaining search and seizure orders.
  • Acting for private clients in defending claims of breach of restrictive covenants in restraint of trade.
  • Acting for private clients and corporate entities in relation to business transfer provisions in the Employment Relations Act 2000.
  • Providing employment, restructuring and health and safety advice, and representing local authorities for over 15 years.
  • Representing employers in collective bargaining and application of the collective bargaining provisions in the Employment Relations Act 2000.
  • Advising and representing many multi-national companies in relation to ongoing employment issues regarding the interpretation of employment laws and processes, and providing strategic advice on commercial aspects of their businesses.
  • Conducting bullying investigation and guiding employer through the resulting process
  • Assisting employers with Health and Safety compliance, investigation and prosecution, drawing on a combination of employment law experience and previous experience prosecuting Health and Safety cases.
  • Private prosecution of the New Zealand Defence Force under the Health and Safety in Employment Act, relating to the ANZAC day 2010 Iroquois crash.
  • Advising employers on disciplinary processes, performance management, and other employment processes.
  • Negotiation of various personal grievance claims for employers, and employees.
  • Employment restructuring of businesses.
  • Advising on and managing consultation processes on sales of businesses.
  • Defence of profit share claim against employer.
  • Drafting employment agreements.
  • Working with RTANZ staff and members on employment processes, documentation and advice.



90 day trial periods – soon to change for some

The Labour-led Government has announced that the use of 90 day trial periods will be prohibited for any business that employs more than 19 employees. The Bill proposing the changes is expected to be introduced to Parliament on Monday 29 January 2018

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Upcoming parental leave changes

Employers will need to be aware of the upcoming changes to parental leave which will take effect in mid-2018.

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New year's resolutions about staff - start the process now

In our experience, the lead up to Christmas and the New Year is when employers often look ahead to their staffing needs for the upcoming year. Often, it is at this time that employers identify employment issues.

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Legal do's and don'ts when hiring a new employee

In this article, we provide some tips to help you through the recruitment process – from advertising the role, to offering employment to your top candidate.

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Enforcement of Employment Standards

Recent decisions of the Employment Relations Authority indicate that the Labour Inspectorate is cracking down on workplaces to ensure that minimum employment standards are being met.

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Covert recordings by employees

Naoimh McSparron writes for the LawTalk Magazine on the admissibility of covert audio recordings in the employment context, the approach taken by the courts and the Employment Relations Authority (ERA), and the practical effect of that approach for those in an employment dispute.

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Training and Development in Performance Management

Amanda Douglas writes for the Human Resources Magazine regarding the employers obligation to ensure that employees are provided with the required training and development necessary to complete the job they are hired to carry out.

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Disruption to work as a result of the 14 November earthquake and aftershocks

As time moves on from 14 November, the wider issues related to the damage begin to emerge. One such issue is the effect of disruption to work due to damage to buildings, loss of suppliers, broken or impassable roads. There is a particular effect on trucking, transport and tourism companies which rely on our roads and infrastructure to carry out their businesses, but there will be others who find the jobs that they are providing are disrupted.

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Health & Safety issues arising from the 14 November earthquake and aftershocks

If you employ people or operate a workplace that others come to, and you have been affected by the recent earthquakes, you are likely to be thinking about your health and safety obligations. In an emergency situation like this, what is required of those who control a place of work mostly comes down to common sense. Your key drivers will be to ensure that people are not exposed to harm.

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Every business needs employment agreements for staff

Statistics NZ says that 170,000 workers in our economy do not have written employment agreements. If you or your business is employing someone, it is a legal requirement to have a written employment agreement in place, even if the worker is part-time or casual.

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Is your 90 day trial period correctly worded?

We advise all clients to include a 90 day trial period in the employment agreements for new employees who have not worked for your company before. A recent decision of the Employment Relations Authority* means that the employment contract needs to clearly specify when the 90 day trial period begins.

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Employment agreements - are you compliant?

Changes to employment law came into force in April of this year. In light of these changes, employers may be required to update their employment agreements. Employers will have until 1 April 2017 to ensure their existing employment agreements are compliant with the new laws.

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Drug and alcohol policies

A recent decision of the Employment Relations Authority has highlighted the importance of procedural fairness when disciplining staff for a failed drug test.

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Small Business Update

There have been many changes to our laws over the last few years that directly affect New Zealand businesses. In this article, we have brought together key information on the most important changes.

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The Employment Standards Legislation Bill

The Employment Standards Legislation Bill will see some sweeping changes made to our employment laws, due to come into effect from 1 April 2016. The Bill makes several amendments to key pieces of employment legislation with the aim of "(promoting) fairer and more productive workplaces by providing enhanced protections and benefits for both employers and employees".

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New Health & Safety Legislation - not something to fear

It is true that all organisations are going to be affected by the changes to the Act and that the duties of care imposed cannot be transferred or insured against, but it must be made clear that many organisations who prioritise health and safety will be already doing most of what is required.

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What employers need to know from today - key changes

There have been multiple changes to New Zealand's employment law framework. The biggest of these, changes to the Employment Relations Act, take effect from today. But there are some other changes too which employers will benefit from being aware of.

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LSG Sky Chefs NZ Ltd V Pacific Flight Catering Ltd and Anor

This Supreme Court decision is the finale in a long running dispute over the apportionment of employee entitlements under the restructuring provisions of the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA). The Supreme Court dismissed LSG's appeal seeking reimbursement of employee entitlements for employees transferred to it under Part 6A of the ERA.

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Employment Law Changes – a snapshot for employers

Parliament has voted to pass the Employment Relations Amendment Bill ("the Bill"). It has yet to receive Royal assent and the Bill will become law 4 months after that. The changes do not therefore have immediate effect but they are imminent. This is a short summary of the main changes which we think will affect our clients.

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Private Health and Safety Prosecutions

A number of private prosecutions under the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSEA) have been signalled in recent months. Having recently been counsel in a HSEA private prosecution, Tim Mackenzie outlines the issues that practitioners considering a HSEA prosecution should consider. Registering an interest Any party interested in a potential prosecution must first formally notify Worksafe New Zealand (Worksafe) of an interest in any enforcement action being taken. Worksafe must then advise the interested party of any decisions taken including a decision not to prosecute. If Worksafe declines to prosecute it is sensible for your client to consider their reasons and give weight to them.

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Consumer Law Reform: Unsubstantiated Representations

The inclusion of a new prohibition on businesses making unsubstantiated representations is one of the key amendments to the Fair Trading Act. Businesses are prevented from making representations about their products or services if they do not have reasonable grounds for the representation when it is made, whether or not it later turns out to be true. These changes come into effect on 17 June 2014.

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Consumer Law Reform: Uninvited Direct Sales

Parliament has abolished the Door to Door Sales Act and replaced it with new provisions in the Fair Trading Act covering door to door and telemarketing sales. The new provisions cover uninvited direct sales where a supplier approaches a consumer uninvited in their home or workplace or by phone to try and sell them products or services and an agreement is entered into for those products or services costing at least $100 (or where the price is uncertain). These changes come into effect on 17 June 2014.

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Increased Protections for Consumers: What Businesses Need to Know

Some of the most important changes to New Zealand's consumer laws in recent times were enacted at the end of last year. These changes will affect nearly all businesses in New Zealand. If you are an owner or manager of a business you will need to consider whether your documentation and processes need to be updated to comply with the new laws. While a few of the changes are effective now, the majority of changes do not come into effect until 17 June 2014. There is a longer timeframe before the prohibition on unfair contract terms comes into effect (17 March 2015). This article provides a brief overview of the key changes. We will be circulating a series of articles over the coming months to provide more information on the most significant reforms.

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Disclosure of Job Candidate Information

A recent decision of the Human Rights Review Tribunal contains significant developments for employers over their obligations to withhold and disclose private information. The decision, Waters v Alpine Energy Limited, has allowed an unsuccessful job candidate to view information regarding the recruitment process, including CV's of other candidates. This has caused a stir in the industry.

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New Health & Safety Bill Introduced to Parliament

As discussed in our previous articles Impact of Health and Safety Reforms at Governance Level and Government Announces Law Reform Package for Workplace Safety, the Government’s “Working Safer” package aims to significantly reform New Zealand’s Health and Safety law. One of the most fundamental components of this change will be the introduction of entirely new legislation. This will replace the Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992 (HSE).

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Minimum Wage Obligations for Salaried Employees

Are you aware that you have an obligation to ensure at least the minimum wage is paid to your salaried employees?

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Redundancies: Justifying your Decision to Restructure

Of recent times, there has been development in the law surrounding redundancies and an employer's decision to restructure their business. With many employers looking to restructure, it is timely to summarise these developments.

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Select Committee Report on Employment Relations Ammendment Bill

The Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee reported back on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill just prior to Christmas.

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Impact of Health and Safety Reforms at Governance Level

Recently, increased workplace safety attention has been directed toward the governing level of employer organisations. Particular catalysts for this have been the two recent Royal Commissions of Inquiry (Pike River and Canterbury Earthquakes), and a report from the cabinet appointed Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety (the Taskforce).

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Government Announces Law Reform Package for Workplace Safety

Recently the Government announced its intention to overhaul the current employment health and safety laws, through the release of the Reform Package Working Safer – A blueprint for Health and Safety at Work. The Reform Package represents the most significant reform of New Zealand's workplace health and safety regime in 20 years.

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Restraints of Trade in a Competitive Market

There are two words that every employer fears from a key employee, "I'm leaving."  The situation is only made worse when you find out that your key employee is leaving to join a competitor!

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Changes to Employment Legislation

2013 looks to be the year that the Government will implement many of its pre-election policies.  On 26 April 2013, the Employment Relations Amendment Bill ("the Bill") was introduced by the Minister of Labour.  The Transport and Industrial Relations Select Committee has now called for submissions on the Bill.

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Discretionary Misconceptions: Bonus Payments in the Employment Relationship

Many employment agreements contain a bonus provision which will often be couched in terms that, on the face of it, seem to vest complete control of the operation of the bonus with the employer.

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Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace

Everyone knows that an employee who turns up at work under the influence of drugs or alcohol poses a very real risk not only just to their own safety but also to the safety of other employees and customers - especially where the operation of heavy machinery is involved.  This doesn't always (but can) involve blatant drug or alcohol use at work.  Sometimes, as an employer, you are dealing with the after-effects of drug or alcohol use by your employee the night before.  In other instances, you are trying to screen for drugs and alcohol in a safety sensitive area.

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Avoiding Employment Costs of a Business Sale or Restructure

If you sell or transfer your business, you need to consider the employment consequences of selling the business or transferring the business to another entity.  Many employers do not think about this. However, when you do sell your business to a third party, or even transfer it to an associated entity, you trigger the restructuring and redundancy provisions of the Employment Relations Act 2000 ("ERA 2000").  If you don’t have the right measures in place, this can be costly – even where the employees continue in their same roles with the new employer or entity.

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Proposed Employment Relations Act Changes

The Government has announced further reforms to the Employment Relations Act (the "Act") which it proposes to include in legislation, which would come into effect in the second half of 2013.

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Supreme Court Decides Vulnerable Workers Right to Bargain for Redundancy Entitlements

Recently, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in a long running dispute between OCS Ltd and 50 members of the New Zealand Services & Food Workers Union ("SFWU"). The decision concerns the rights of 'vulnerable' employees to bargain for redundancy entitlements.

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Competing with Former Employees

As a nation we don't look favourably on people who gain an unfair advantage over their competition.  The New Zealand public were outraged when Belarusian shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk was found to have taken performance enhancing drugs at the recent London Olympics.  She was stripped of her gold medal and told to hand it over to New Zealander Valerie Adams.

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Handling Redundancies in Tough Times

Canterbury business owners have received a number of blows over the last couple of years.  The ongoing global financial crisis coupled with the effects of the Christchurch earthquake and subsequent aftershocks have hit many businesses hard.  Some business owners can no longer carry on as they have done in the past and now must consider downsizing their business to keep afloat.  This may result in business owners having to make the tough decision to lay off some of their staff. 

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Requirements for Employment Agreements From 1 July 2011

While written employment agreements have been required since the Employment Relations Act 2000 came into force, not all employers have complied with this obligation. In an effort to ensure greater compliance significant penalties can now be imposed on employers who do not have employment agreements with their employees.

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Significant Changes to Our Employment Laws

A number of important changes to our employment laws came into force on 1 April 2011. These changes will affect employment agreements and employment relations between employers and employees before, during and on termination of an employee's employment.

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Reported Decisions

  • Lambton-Young v Nairn Industries Ltd (1990) 3 NZELC 97,874
  • Ace Finance Ltd v Shanaher (1995) 2 ERNZ 500

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Wynn Williams Christchurch
Level 5, Wynn Williams House, 47 Hereford Street, Christchurch 8013, New Zealand.
PO Box 4341, DX WX11179, Christchurch 8140.
+64 3 379 7622
+64 3 379 2467
Wynn Williams Auckland
Level 11, AIG Building, 41 Shortland Street, Auckland 1010, New Zealand.
PO Box 2401, Shortland Street, Auckland 1140.
+64 9 300 2600
+64 9 300 2609

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