Free help for business owners with your Employment Relations Act questions

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 more than 6,000 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 6,000 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

    Top quality advice and attentive service

    Employsure's specialists are available. 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

    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.

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

    or Ask A Question

    Over 6,000 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
    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

    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