We understand that people matter
Being honest, insightful and easy to deal with is what sets us apart from others.

We understand that people are your key asset. In our experience the best legal solutions are developed through understanding your business, knowing the issues and collaboratively applying practical, commercial and innovative approaches to solving problems.
Much of our work is complex and we are routinely called upon to work on our clients’ most sensitive matters. To help you take care of your business, we rely on our ability to understand the legal issues and to be responsive and sensitive to what matters and apply our technical excellence.

With team members in Auckland and Christchurch we offer national coverage for your employment and people matters. 

We are recommended and recognised as a leading firm for Labour & Employment by The Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2020 and Chambers Asia-Pacific 2020 legal guides.  One client commented that "the team has strength in depth.  Excellent internal communication ensures that our needs are serviced carefully and promptly by a well-briefed team who understand our business. The team is also very responsive and accessible so that advice can be sought quickly. Attention to ongoing matters is thorough and prompt.”  Another describes the team as "very effective - not only well versed in the law, but able to advance effective strategies to help us achieve our desired outcomes".


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.



Will drug testing be thrown out the window?

The landscape is changing, with medicinal cannabis now legalised and an upcoming referendum testing the appetite for the legalisation of personal use of cannabis. So, what is the impact on drug testing in the workplace, and the systems that employers already have in place?

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Extended Subsidy or Restructuring – What are your options at the expiry of the Wage Subsidy?

On 14 March 2020, as part of its budget announcement, the Government outlined that the COVID-19 Wage Subsidy would be extended.

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Covid-19: Employment considerations moving to Level 3

The government has announced that New Zealand will move to COVID-19 Alert Level 3 from 28 April 2020 for two weeks, at which time it will be reviewed. Under Level 3, people are required to work at home unless that is not possible. Workplaces can only open if Workers cannot work from home; and Workplaces are operating safely; and Customers are not allowed on premises; and Businesses can trade without physical contact. Does this affect your business?

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COVID-19: Health and Safety requirements for returning to the workplace under Level 3

With the announcement that New Zealand moves to Alert Level 3 on 28 April 2020, many businesses are asking what they need to do to prepare for a return to the workplace. Health and safety planning will be needed to ensure that effective COVID-19 controls are in place and that the health and safety of workers, and other people, is not put at risk.

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COVID-19 Essential workers leave scheme established

On 2 April 2020, the Government announced an “essential workers leave scheme” in relation to essential workers who are unable to work from home and become sick or are vulnerable, or who have sick or vulnerable members of their household.

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2020 Employment law calendar - have you got the key dates noted?

2020 has not been the year we all expected it to be. The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new and unprecedented “normal”. However, this year was due to see a number of changes to our laws which will impact on employment relationships. These changes are still going ahead despite the pandemic (although in some instances altered by the pandemic), and it is important that you are aware of them. To ensure you are up-to-date with these law changes we have set them out in a ‘2020 Employment Law Calendar’.

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COVID-19 Employment update for Alert Level 4

Following the government’s announcement yesterday, you may be wondering what you need to do with your staff. All non-essential businesses are required to close from 11:59pm on Wednesday 25 March 2020. 

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COVID-19: key messages for employers

COVID-19 is already having an impact on the workplace with many employers having hard conversations about the many ways that this pandemic may affect their operations and, therefore, their employees. Many of the issues created by this public-health crisis are unprecedented, resulting in difficult questions being raised over how employers are expected to react.

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Novel Coronavirus – an increasing concern for the workplace

We all expect employers to act in good faith and follow good human resources practices to avoid workplace issues or problems. But sometimes when issues such as a potential outbreak of a deadly virus occurs, what can employers do to protect their workers?

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The gig economy – a changing workforce

The internet is increasingly playing an important role in all aspects of our lives, including the important role of finding work. Likewise, the way we manage our work with the use of online platforms has dramatically grown in the last decade.

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Unpaid internships: exploitation or opportunity?

A key purpose of an internship is to gain experience, skills or contacts that may assist a prospective employee to gain employment or work opportunities in the future, but is it exploitation?

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Fundamental changes to contractor arrangements deliberated

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is looking at reclassifying contractors and, if imposed, this could change the contractor landscape. MBIE recently released a discussion document, Better Protections for Contractors, seeking public feedback on MBIE’s proposed options to address its concerns of misclassification of employees as “independent contractors,” and workers who are in the “grey zone” between employees and contractors.

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Holiday obligations - Miri Kirihimete, Season’s Greetings and Happy Holidays!

Many employers and employees use the festive season to take planned holidays, manage leave balances, and in some cases close the office, factory or shop. Amanda Douglas and Anthony Drake explain some of the employer's obligations.

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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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Diversity for goodness sake?

Diversity is generally defined as acknowledging, understanding, accepting and valuing the differences among people regarding age, ethnicity, gender, physical and mental disability, race, sexual orientation, and religious or political beliefs. Regardless, discrimination on any of those grounds would be unlawful under the Human Rights Act 1993.

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What employers need to know about synthetic drugs

In recent times, New Zealand has seen an influx of synthetic drugs come on to the market. While an employer may be diligent in carrying out on-site drug testing, a frightening reality is that a traditional on-site drug test may not pick up synthetic drugs.

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Workplace bullying - employer fined

Most employers are committed to providing a safe and productive working environment free from all forms of physical, emotional and verbal abuse. However, from time-to-time a case comes before the courts which is noteworthy.

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Employees’ rights under triangular employment relationships expanded

New Zealand’s response to the age of flexibility is a new law that will come into force on 27 June 2020 which will enable employees to raise a personal grievance against any organisation that has the ability to direct or control the employee’s day-to-day work.

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Give me a break!

On 6 May 2019, changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000 came into force that change how employers should deal with rest and meal breaks.

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Distinguishing between employees and independent contractors

The application of the Employment Relations Act 2000 and different tax treatment are key reasons it is important to correctly establish whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor. This article looks at how to distinguish between them.

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Social media trolling: an employer’s responsibilities

There is an increasing prevalence of internet trolling where thoughtless, cruel and harmful messages are posted. This creates challenges and responsibilities for employers to keep employees, whose job it is to be online, safe from pernicious trolling and hateful tweets.

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How should you structure your business? Contractors versus employees

Anthony Drake, Partner at Wynn Williams talks to Jake Millar, CEO of Unfiltered about how to structure your business. 

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On, or off the clock?

There is a trend in a number of recent employment cases where the courts have considered the demands of work and the demands of family or personal life. In a recent decision of the Employment Court the full court ruled that an employee’s private time is a valuable commodity and accepted the proposition that where an employer purports to reserve the unilateral ability to require an employee to work past their usual hours it does materially constrain a worker’s ability to plan their life away from work.

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Wellness in the workplace

Generally, one in five New Zealanders will experience a mental health problem this year, and more than 50% will go through mental distress or mental illness at some point in their lives. We see in the media that, when it comes to men, they are generally less likely to talk about their mental health and can be reluctant to reach out for help or support. This is something that employers need to be alive to when considering the health and safety of all their employees.

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The use of probationary periods

On 6 May 2019 the Government scrapped the use of trial periods for employers with more than 20 employees. However, employers are still entitled to use probationary periods at the beginning of an employment relationship to assess a new employee’s skills or for an employee who is changing jobs with the same employer, but it is important to be aware of the legal obligations they impose.

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New employment provisions for domestic violence victims

New law, to make provision for victims of domestic violence, comes into force on 1 April 2019. Those affected by domestic violence will be entitled to: 10 days domestic violence leave per year, ask for short-term flexible working options and not be discriminated against due to being affected by domestic violence.

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Employment law calendar 2019

A summary of the key changes in employment law for 2019 and the important dates to note.

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Government passes changes to employment relations law

On 6 December 2018, the Government passed its flagship Employment Relations Amendment Bill. The Bill seeks to restore a number of minimum standards and protections for employees, as well as strengthen collective bargaining and union rights in the workplace.

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The Christmas party - what are the employer's responsibilities?

We have all heard stories where people let their hair down at the Christmas party – and the boozy office bash turns messy. A number of untoward things can take place! We have reached that time of the year when we need to remind ourselves and staff about acceptable and non-acceptable behaviour.

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The risks arising from electronic mail

Electronic mail (email) has become the main mode of communication in the business world. Email has modified the character of corporate and personal communication. It removes the time and place restrictions previously associated with more traditional methods of communication. When engaging in business correspondence through email people perceive it as an informal mode of communication.

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Have you got the right staffing structure?

There has been a lot of news headlines about liquidations. So, if you are finding things tough, what can you do? Staff costs are a large expense for any business. Often, you can rearrange your staffing to be more efficient. To do this, you need to carry out a restructure process, which can involve looking at your organisational structure to determine whether any positions can be merged or whether any positions can be removed.

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Is it time to review your employment agreements?

We live in an age of constant change where disruption, innovation and evolution are norms. In the business sector, it is good practice for employers to regularly review employment agreements, job descriptions, key-performance-indicators, wages and salaries, and the existence of the job itself.

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New domestic violence law – how will this affect employment relationships?

The Domestic Violence – Victim Protections Bill was passed into law this week and amends the Employment Relations Act 2000, the Holidays Act 2003 and the Human Rights Act 1993. The changes come into effect on 1 April 2019 and enable victims of domestic violence to request a short-term variation to their employment arrangements for the purposes of dealing with the effects of being subject to domestic violence.

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Surrogacy – who gets what?

Should surrogates and parents through surrogacy receive the same legal rights to leave and pay when their child is born? In New Zealand, surrogacy is an altruistic arrangement on the part of the surrogate mother and it’s illegal to pay her more than her reasonable expenses. So who gets entitlements under New Zealand’s statutory Parental Leave legislation?

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The power of 'big data' and privacy reforms

George Orwell wrote literary criticism and one of his best known books is the dystopian novel ‘1984’. The novel was written in 1947 and identified such terms as “Big Brother”, ‘doublethink’ and ‘newspeak’ which have become part of everyday language. Who would have thought 70 years later we would still be grappling with the same fairy-tale relationship between morality and privacy.

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What's going on around your water cooler? Finding love at work

The Me Too movement and the use of its hashtag on social media has changed the way many employers should view the workplace environment. Workplace culture is now under the microscope like never before! One of the biggest dilemmas employers face is often the mismatches of perceptions at work where one person thinks they are flirting, while the other person feels like they are being harassed or objectivised. The situation becomes even more complex with office romances.  

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Legal checklist for recruiters

Amanda Douglas writes for the Human Resources Magazine, detailing the steps to follow for legislative compliance when recruiting.

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Employment Relations Bill introduced – changes to trial periods and more

With a new government comes new legislative changes. Following announcements by the Labour Government that changes would be made to employment laws , the Employment Relations Amendment Bill has now been introduced into Parliament.

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Is it OK to collect biometric data from workers?

The collection of biometric data includes not only fingerprint, but voiceprint, or the scan of a person’s retina, iris, face or hand, and is becoming increasingly commonplace. It is easy to see how some employers could view the introduction of electronic scanning as helpful to eliminate common forms of timekeeping fraud and to produce a more streamlined operation.

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Can I turn my phone off?

Technology is changing the way we work and think. There is an expectation in the modern connected world that employees will always be available to respond to the employer’s or customer’s demands. A lack of availability or responsiveness is often perceived as detrimental to competitive advantage.

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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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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.

Keep reading...


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.

Keep reading...


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.

Keep reading...


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. 

Keep reading...


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.

Keep reading...


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 25, Vero Centre, 48 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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