Test Your Knowledge – The Privacy Act 1993

The purpose of the Privacy Act 1993 is to promote and protect individual privacy – in particular to establish principles on: collection, use, and disclosure of information relating to individuals and access by individuals to information held about them.

Below are some common misconceptions and facts about your Privacy, rights and requirements courtesy of the Privacy Commissioner NZ.

Q 1. True or False: if your profile on a social network is set so that only your friends can see it, your profile is completely private.

Click here to find the answer

Q 2. True or False: You always have control over the pictures you post online.

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Q 3. The Privacy Act protects your personal information. Personal information consists of:

A. Your name, age, weight, height, home address and phone number.

B. Your blood type, DNA code, fingerprints and medical records.

C. Your education, purchases and spending habits.

D. All of the above.

Click here to find the answer

Q 4. It’s really easy to share pictures and stories with your friends on social networking sites. When you’re posting items you should:

A. Post everything that you think is funny and interesting – your friends will love these things!

B. Don’t post anything – it’s a creepy world out there.

C. Think first. Would you be comfortable if your parents, teachers or bosses saw what you are posting?

Click here to find the answer

Q 5. When you’re surfing online, websites can collect this information about you:

A. My personal preferences.

B. My approximate location.

C. The software I’m using.

D. All of the above.

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Q 6. You’re buying an item of clothing at the mall. As you’re about to pay for them, the shop assistant asks for your address and phone number. You:

A. Give it to him. The shop probably needs it in case I want to return the jeans.

B. Ask why he needs it. Once you know what the shop plans to do with your information, you can decide whether to hand it over.

C. Refuse. It’s none of their business!

Click here to find the answser

Q 7. Under the law, you have a right to complain if:

A. You think your personal information was improperly collected, used or disclosed?

B. You run into difficulties trying to get your personal information from an organisation, or to get your personal information corrected when it’s wrong?

C. All of the above.

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Q 8. Can an employer contact a job applicant’s past employer for a reference?

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Other Privacy breaches/concerns that Chapman ER have seen of late are:

 

Q 9. Birthdays. Is it OK to email ‘All staff’ notifying them of an employee’s birthday so they can congratulate them or buy them a card or present?

A. It’s only OK if it’s a special birthday for example a 40th or 60th

B. It’s only OK to send to the employee’s immediate team

C. It’s only OK if the employee gives you permission

D. It’s never OK

E. It’s always OK

Click here to find the answer

Q 10. Resignations. Is it OK to send an email to all staff notifying them of the resignation of an employee and communicating where the staff member will be moving to or what they will be doing next?

A. Only OK if the staff member agrees to the communication

B. It’s always OK. The role is being vacated, the employee is leaving and the staff have a right to know.

C. It’s never OK and the staff will find out soon enough when the job is advertised.

Click here to find the answer

Q 11. Work emails. Can you monitor any information on your company’s computer system i.e. Information accessed and saved on your employee’s desk top?

A. No that is an invasion of your employee’s privacy.

B. You can only monitor work related information.

C. You can only monitor information on an employee’s computer if an alarm alerts you to pornography or inappropriate material being accessed

D. It is your system and you can monitor and access any information stored or accessed on an employee’s desktop, laptop, or other device

Click here to find the answer

 

Q 12. Which answer applies to information gathered from an employee during a workplace investigation e.g. Health & Safety, Bullying:

A. The employee can withdraw their statement at any time through the process

B. The employee cannot withdraw their statement once communicated

C. The employee can correct the information provided if it is recorded inaccurately

D. The employee cannot refuse to participate in an investigation process

Click here to find the answer

Employment Agreements Require Updates Now

We encourage you to update your employment agreements immediately as last years amendments to the Employment Relations Act are due to come into force for existing employees very soon. The new requirements, which relate to working hours, cancellation of shifts and restrictions on secondary employment, will apply from 1 April, 2017. The wording of some clauses in your current employment agreements may become ineffective from this date.

Below is a summary of the changes or please contact us if you would like assistance with reviewing your employment agreements.

Zero Hours Contract

There are a number of changes to the Employment Relations Act, which address zero hour contracts, cancelling shifts, making deductions from employee pay, and prohibitions on secondary employment. Below is an article from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment which summarises the changes.

It is likely existing Employment Agreements will require updating to reflect these changes, particularly if you have Agreements with no minimum number of hours guaranteed. Please let us know if you would like your Agreements reviewed or having any questions on how these changes affect your workplace.
 

Addressing zero-hour contracts

The Employment Standards Legislation Bill includes a package of measures to prevent unfair employment practices in the New Zealand labour market, such as “zero-hour contracts”.

The changes aim to retain flexibility where it is desired by both, employers and employees, but also increase certainty by ensuring that both parties are aware at the beginning of the working relationship of the mutual commitment that they have made.

The changes mean that where the employer and employee agree to hours of work, they will be required to state those hours of work in the employment agreement.

The changes also prohibit the following practices:

  • employers requiring employees to be available to work for more than the agreed hours without having a genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds
  • employers requiring employees to be available to work for more than the agreed hours without paying reasonable compensation for the number of hours the employee is required to be available
  • employers cancelling a shift without the provision for reasonable notice or reasonable compensation
  • employers putting unreasonable restrictions on secondary employment of employees
  • employers making unreasonable deductions from employees’ wages.

When hours are agreed, these must be stated in the employment agreement

Where the employer and employee agree to set hours of work, they will be required to state those hours in the employment agreement. This includes agreement on any or all of the following:

  • the number of guaranteed hours of work,
  • the start and finish times,
  • the days of the week the employee will work
  • any flexibility in the above.

What if there are no agreed hours?

The employer and the employee do not have to agree on hours, times or days, but when they do, anything that is agreed must be recorded in the agreement. This will ensure employers and employees are clear in their commitments to each other.

In cases where no hours were agreed to, the employer must provide an indication of the arrangements relating to the employee’s working times. This is consistent with the current law.

Employees will be able to apply to the Employment Relations Authority for a penalty against their employer, if they agreed on hours, but have failed to record these in the employment agreement.

Preventing employers requiring employees to be available without a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds and providing reasonable compensation

The changes will prohibit employers from requiring employees to be available above the agreed hours of work stated in their employment agreement unless employees are reasonably compensated for that availability as agreed in the employment agreement. Employers will not be obliged to offer work that is above the agreed number of hours. Employees will be free to decline extra work unless they agreed to an availability provision and they are provided reasonable compensation for that availability.

What about availability provisions?

Availability requirements and compensation rates will need to be agreed and stated in the employment agreement. An employer can not include an availability provision in the employment agreement, unless there are some guaranteed hours in the agreement.

The employment agreement should also indicate the amount of availability the employer requests.

Employers will also need to have a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds to require employees to be available above the agreed hours. Employers also need to have a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds for the number of hours of availability.

When considering whether there is a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds, employers must consider:

  • Whether it is practicable for them to meet their business demands without using an availability provision
  • How much availability they’re requiring and the proportion of the availability to the number of agreed hours of work

What is considered reasonable compensation for availability?

When establishing what compensation an employer offers to an employee in exchange for their availability, employers must consider:

  • The number of hours they are requiring an employee to be available
  • The proportion of the availability to the number of guaranteed hours
  • Any specific restrictions the availability provision requires (e.g. must not drink while on call)
  • The employee’s regular pay rates
  • If the employee is paid by salary, the amount of the salary

Cancelling a shift only with reasonable notice or reasonable compensation

Reasonable notice and reasonable compensation for cancelling a shift will need to be specified in the employment agreement. When a shift is cancelled, the employer will need to give either reasonable notice or reasonable compensation before the commencement of the shift. If the employment agreement does not specify these, then the employee must be paid the full amount they would have earned, had they worked the shift.

What is a reasonable notice period?

When considering whether the notice period is reasonable, employers must consider:

  • The particular nature of business
  • The ability of the employer to control or foresee cancellations
  • The nature of the employee’s work and the likely effects of a cancellation on employees
  • The nature of the employee’s employment arrangements including whether they have guaranteed hours and if so, the number of guaranteed hours

What is considered reasonable compensation for shift cancellation?

When considering whether the compensation is reasonable, parties must consider:

  • the length of the notice period stated in the employment agreement
  • the remuneration the employee would have received for working the shift
  • likely costs incurred by the employee in preparation for the work

Prohibiting unreasonable restrictions on secondary employment

Employers will be prevented from restricting secondary employment for employees, unless they have a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds to do so. Those grounds won’t be prescribed but will be related to:

  • the risk of loss to the employer of knowledge, property (including intellectual property) or competitive reputation.
  • Preventing a real and unmanageable conflict of interest

Employers must not restrict employees to a greater extent than is necessary. They should consider whether particular cases warrant restrictions instead of putting blanket restrictions on secondary employment.

Prohibiting unreasonable deductions from employees’ wages

The current law already requires employee consent to deductions from wages. The new legislation will mean the employer must consult with the employee on each specific deduction, even where the employee has given general consent to lawful deductions in their employment agreement. This obligation does not extend to lawful deductions for things like Kiwisaver or student loan repayments etc.

The changes will also mean that even where there is consent, a deduction must not be unreasonable. For example a deduction to cover losses caused by a third party through breakages or theft may be unreasonable, particularly if the employee had no control over the third party conduct.

Payroll – End of Year & Start of New Year

Employer monthly schedules and ir-files filed with IRD are based on the payment date of the pay run (not the pay period end date). After you have finalised the last pay for March and printed your end of year reports (make sure this includes leave liabilities/balances), go ahead and file your ir-file with IRD as usual.

The next step is to review and update your employees’ salary and wage information. Ensure all employees on minimum wage have their rates updated to the new minimum wage of $15.75. The new rate needs to be applied from 1 April. If 1 April falls in the middle of a pay period, you can either pay different rates by inserting an extra line with the different rate, or apply the new minimum rate for the whole pay period.

If you have contractors using the WT tax rates on schedular payments (including those hired by labour-hire firms), they are from 1 April able to choose their own tax rate, subject to minimums. New contractors, existing contractors (if they need to change tax rate or starting a new contract) and those opting in to the schedular payments rules need to complete the IR330C Tax Rate notification for Contractors form.

ACC levies, ACC threshold and student loan repayment threshold are automatically updated if you are using payroll software.

Want to read more?

Tax and Contractors

IRD Contractor Changes 

 

Migrant Worker Exploitation Cases Becoming More Prevalent

A migrant worker who was forced to pay her employer a premium to secure herself a job has been awarded $42,813 by the Employment Relations Authority.

Kapilaben Patel was employed as a chef by Curry Pot on Lincoln Ltd for three years from 2011 until mid- 2014.

The ERA found that Patel and her husband had made payments of around $15,000 in return for a job offer with Curry Pot Indian restaurant in Lincoln and assistance and support with a work visa and a residency application. Evidence showed that $5,000 was paid to the Curry Pot Indian restaurant four months before Patel started working there and 11 days before an employment agreement was signed and submitted to Immigration New Zealand.  Patel stated she also paid the directors of the restaurant cash payments.

Patel was awarded $31,413 for unpaid wages, working on public holidays and holiday pay from 2011 until 2014 plus $11,400 in reimbursement for the premium paid to secure her employment.

The company accepted there may be some statutory holiday pay owing to Mrs Patel but disputed all the other amounts claimed. They claimed she did not work all the hours claimed or that she paid them premiums.

“Advances may have been made from Mrs Patel to staff at Curry Pot but these, aside from one payment of $5,000 into the Curry Pot account, were personal in nature and not premium payments and they have nothing to do with Curry Pot” it said.

Minimum Wage Increase from 1 April

The Government have announced that the minimum wages will increase by 50 cents to $15.75 an hour from 1 April 2017.

Cafe Deducted Pay for Breaks Worker Was Never Allowed to Take

Natalie Cornelius was employed as a crew member in a café in Napier. She became concerned by her employer’s practice of deducting 30 minutes wages from her pay each day. This was allegedly to cover breaks which she is adamant she was never allowed to take.

Ms Cornelius tried to raise her concerns in writing and verbally however she says her employer inevitably reacted in a rude and belligerent manner and failed to address her concerns. Things got to a point where Ms Cornelius felt she had no choice but to resign.

Ms Cornelius subsequently raised a claim of unjustified dismissal, albeit constructively, by her employer, HPG Private Ltd (HPG). The claim was heard in the Employment Relations Authority in May 2016 where Authority Member Loftus agreed with Ms Cornelius that she had been constructively dismissed and awarded her the sum of $4,000 as compensation for hurt and humiliation.

In regards to the 30 minute deductions from Ms Cornelius’s pay each day for her breaks that she said were not taken, Member Loftus accepted Ms Cornelius’s calculations and awarded her $2,080. In all Ms Cornelius was awarded a total of nearly $12,000 for lost wages, inappropriate pay deductions, hurt and humiliation, plus costs.

Under recent changes to the Employment Relations Act, the duration and time of breaks is no longer strictly regulated. In the past, stringent rules governed how long rest and meal breaks had to be, and when they had to be given. For example, one 10-minute paid rest break during a work period of between 2 hours and 4 hours; one 10-minute paid rest break and one 30-minute meal break (unpaid unless agreed otherwise) during a work period of between 4 hours and 6 hours and so on. Now there are no specific rules for how long, or when, rest and meal breaks should be.

Employers and employees should bargain in good faith over the timing and length of breaks. All employers are required to provide employees with rest and meal breaks which give employees a reasonable chance during their work period to rest, refresh and take care of personal matters.

Under this legislation, some employers may be exempt from giving breaks. For example when employees agree to reasonable compensation in exchange for breaks, or where the employer cannot reasonably give the employee rest and meal breaks because the workplace environment or position make it impractical (for example, emergency medical staff, a sole charge customer service position, etc). However, the employer will always be required to compensate the employee if this situation arises. Compensation could be alternative time off equivalent to the missed break (i.e. finishing 15 minutes earlier but being paid until the end of the shift), or extra remuneration.

Could your Volunteer or Woofer be an Employee?

Did you know, that anyone working in return for food and accommodation is likely to be an employee? This means they are entitled to the same minimum employment rights as a paid employee and you need to register as an Employer, file Employer forms with IRD and pay PAYE, check they are allowed to work in New Zealand, keep time and wage records and enroll them in KiwiSaver if they are eligible. You need to make sure they receive minimum entitlement including that the value of what they are getting is not less than minimum wage, and pay sick leave and accrue holiday pay! If you do not deduct PAYE, you still need to calculate the amount of PAYE on the market value of accommodation etc provided and pay it to IRD.

This is not an exhaustive check list, please contact us if you need further information or have any queries.

Easter Trading Law Change

A recent change to the Shop Trading Hours Act 1990 now enables councils to decide whether shops in their district can open on Easter Sunday. The change is from Easter 2017, depending on each individual council. We will update you closer to the time with our councils’ local policies.

For employers who plan to open on Easter Sunday, this means you must tell staff of their right to refuse to work, eg by group email. This must be done:

  • between eight and four weeks before Easter Sunday, or
  • as soon as possible if new staff join your business less than four weeks before Easter Sunday.

For employees, the law change means they can:

  • refuse to work on Easter Sunday without giving a reason and without repercussions — but they must tell you they’re not going to work
  • raise a personal grievance against you if they believe they’ve been:
    • made to work Easter Sunday, or
    • treated badly for refusing to work Easter Sunday.

An employee who doesn’t intend to work Easter Sunday must tell you in writing within 14 days of receiving the right to refuse. This can be by letter or email.

The Power of Values in Driving Organisational Change

Most people instinctively understand the concept of values, after all we all have them, but most people tend to think of them as something that relates to a person and not an organisation. However, many successful businesses and organisations, across a range of sectors, are successfully using organisational values as a base to improve the culture in their organisation, drive improvements and deliver real benefits to their customers.

Organisational values represent the guiding principles for the way employees go about their jobs and interact with the customers of the organisation. They define non-negotiable behaviours and they underpin the organisation’s vision.

Placing organisational values at the heart of an organisation can deliver some powerful tools when addressing your organisation’s culture. For instance, organisation values can:

  • Provide a framework for how your employees (from the CEO down) treat one another at work
  • Provide a framework for how your employees treat your customers
  • Provide a framework for achieving your vision and increasing organisational effectiveness
  • Can help to create an environment that facilitates job satisfaction
  • Can help you identify employees who agree with your company’s vision and will fit with the culture
  • Can be used in marketing your organisation’s products or services

To be effective the organisational values cannot just be invented around the Board table or with the Senior Management Team. For this values led approach to be successful, four things are critical:

  • Employees and customers’ opinions about the organisation should form a crucial part in developing the values;
  • The values must be embedded from the top to the bottom
  • The values must be visible in every day work across the organisation
  • The values must be aligned to customer expectations

A brilliant example of an organisation using values to enhance its ability to improve the quality of delivery is the Waitemata DHB. It is referred to as the “Waitemata Experience” and is a values based culture change focused on achieving better outcomes and experiences for its patients. Cruicially the DHB realised was that they couldn’t improve patient outcomes without improving staff outcomes. They determined the DHB’s values by collaborating with their staff and their customers. Their organisational values are:

  • Everyone matters
  • Work with compassion
  • Feel connected
  • Better, best, brilliant

They then worked to develop 16 core standards that relate to the values and drive goals, decision making and behaviour within the DHB.  The DHB sought and analysed feedback from employees and patients and was surprised that the employees’ and the patients’ views didn’t always align on similar topics, for example, employees tended to believe that a good clinical outcome was the top priority for patients, but patients indicated that a good clinical outcome was expected. What the patient saw as a top priority was to be able to ask questions and to be listened to by the health professionals they were dealing with.  Patients also indicated that they wanted to feel welcomed and to feel that the place was a friendly one to visit. Whereas employees indicated that appreciation and recognition by their peers and managers was high on their list of needs.

The DHB has indicated that while the Waitemata Experience is still a work in progress the impact it has had on its employees and patients has been a significant and positive one.

If you are interested in improving the culture of your organisation or keen to explore what organisational values might be able to deliver for you, please contact us.

Are You Guilty of the Following?

Here are five of the most common slip ups employers have been making recently.

1. Not having your employee sign the employment agreement prior to starting is liable to result in problems including:

a. Any 90 day trial period clause would be void

b. Terms and conditions could be difficult to enforce and costly to negotiate after the fact.

c. Depending on how long it takes to get an agreement signed a precedent could be set that dictates what those terms and conditions will be

d. Not having an IEA is in breach of the Employment Relations Act

2. Not doing reference checks at all or not doing thorough reference checks on preferred candidates can lead to problem employees further down the track. If you do reference checks don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions such as ‘Were there any formal performance or disciplinary issues related to this candidate?’ or ‘Would you rehire them into the role they were doing before they left?’ ‘Was there ever any reason to question their integrity?’ Look closely at who their referees are; have they left out their last immediate manager? Why?

3. Not following process. Whether you are restructuring, performance managing or disciplining, there is a process that must be followed. There is a legal process and you may also have a documented internal process. It is important to comply with these to avoid any risk of a personal grievance.

4. Hasty decisions! Don’t make them. It is easy to make snap decisions or say things without thinking through the implications or seeking help first. Once you have communicated your decision or spoken certain words it is almost impossible to take them back or rectify the situation without some cost involved.

5. No Recognition. Failing to recognize good workers can cause employees to become disgruntled. Sometimes these are your best people that will walk and when they go you didn’t see it coming. Celebrate successes of teams or individuals and recognize a job well done. Success breeds success and is contagious. Conversely one disgruntled employee can poison those around them and quickly damage your culture.

 If you are unsure of the correct process when it comes to your employees, call us first. We offer 10 minutes free telephone advice for any new matter.