Personal Grievances – When a Win is actually a Loss

A recent personal grievance case between Philipa Johnson and the National Business Review (NBR) resulted in a win for the employee, which actually ended in a financial loss for her when all was said and done. The Employment Relations Authority determined the employee was unjustifiably dismissed. However, the sting in the tail for the employee was that her legal costs were 10 times higher than the compensation she received.

As an employer, it can at times feel like the cards are stacked against you when dealing with a personal grievance. Frequently the better business decision can be to reach a settlement to resolve a dispute even when you have done nothing wrong. From a point of principle this may not feel particularly comfortable.

However, despite best intentions an agreement might not be reached, or you may decide the principle is more important. As a client goes through the decision process to determine which strategy to adopt, we take you through the risks of each pathway and the potential costs of both winning and losing a grievance in the Employment Relations Authority.

At the same time we analyse the risk for the employee and likely value of any compensation award, and this helps inform the decision on how  much to consider offering to reach a settlement if this is the preferred option. There are times the employee is either too greedy or poorly advised and their expectations of a settlement amount are unrealistic.

Affecting the level of the award Johnson received was the Authority’s determination that she breached her employment agreement when she took and distributed confidential information from the employer when she left their employment.

Johnson was awarded $1,666.67 in lost wages and $8,000 in compensation for the unjustified  dismissal. She had claimed $50,000. However, she was ordered to pay a $9,000 penalty for breaching her Employment Agreement, of which $6,750 was to be paid to the NBR and the balance to the Authority. Johnson paid a staggering $96,000 in legal fees.

The winning party ordinarily is awarded $4,500 in costs for a one day hearing in the Authority.  With this in mind, even without the penalty awarded against her, Johnson was always going to be on the losing side financially, as she claimed $50,000. This case demonstrates how principle can override common sense, and some people cannot be negotiated with.

Emma Heke in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine October 2018

Our client, Emma Heke, is featured in the NZ Lifestyle Block magazine this month. With great photography by Daniel Allen this article tells Emma’s story about making teas from her home in Nelson.

Buy your copy to find out more about this very successful small business making its mark in NZ and click here to enter the NZ Lifestyle Block competition to win 10 packs of delicious Heke Homemade Herbals teas, these teas are favourites in our office.

Volume wins big

The old saying that nice things come in small packages couldn’t be more apt in the case of another client who has been successful, this time at the 2018 Retail Hotlist Awards.

The very small shop in Church Street that is home to Volume – The Space for Books belies the stature of this perfect little bookshop. After opening just over 18 months ago Volume has quickly gained a reputation as one of the very best independent bookshops in New Zealand and this was recognised recently when they won the People’s Choice Award for BEST PROVINCIAL RETAILER at the 2018 Retail Hotlist Awards – not just for bookshops but for all retailers

This is proof that customers want great service and that is just what Thomas and Stella deliver everyday to every customer

 

Hopgood’s & Co win big

We are delighted our client, Hopgood’s & Co, has had huge success at the Silver Fern Awards. They were named Best Restaurant in New Zealand, Aaron Ballantyne was named as the Best Head Chef and they won the award for Best Dish in the competition.

Think about all those top restaurants in Auckland and from other parts of New Zealand and you will realise just how special this achievement is.

Hopgood’s & Co chefs Aaron Ballantyne, left, and Kevin Hopgood

Congratulations to Kevin Hopgood, Arron Ballantyne and the rest of the great team at Hopgoods.

Here are some links to articles about both Kevin and Aaron that Neil Hodgson wrote for his Taste of Nelson column, their extensive backgrounds, hard work and total commitment to quality have rightly been recognised with these awards..

 

 

 

 

 

Get the IRD payment dates right

We would like to remind everyone to make sure that when you are making tax payments to IRD they check that you have selected the correct tax type (e.g. INC for Income Tax, GST for Goods & Service Tax, DED for employer Deductions that include Kiwisaver contributions as well as PAYE etc).

Also, it’s very important that you select the correct period and year that the payment is going to. Most banks have a ‘Pay Tax’ or ‘Pay IRD’ tab in their on-line banking facilities so we suggest you follow the steps using this rather than setting IRD up as a regular payee.

Potential consequences of getting it wrong:

For example, if you are a company and you accidentally pay 2018 provisional tax to the 2017 year, and your 2017 annual accounts have not yet been completed, IRD will not allow this payment to be transferred to the 2018 year unless we fill out additional paper work, it will be applied to the 2017 year and that means it will show as overdue in your 2018 income tax account.  So please chose the year carefully.

Nelson Pine Industries Business Awards

At this year’s Nelson Pine Industries Business Awards hosted by the Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce two of our clients won awards; Emma

Heke won the Innovation Award for her range of specialty herbal teas and Shane & Annette McCrae from McCraes Blinds and Drapes were awarded a special Business Excellence Award in the large business category.

A huge congratulations to both businesses and the very hard working owners.

It is worth noting that Emma completed the year-long Barbican Training business course before she started her business, this meant she had a full business plan, finance plane, marketing pan and the skills to manage her new business. It just goes to show if you start off on the right track with a new business success can be just around the corner.

 

Employer Owes $2.4 Million To Employees

In a recent investigation into wage payment irregularities at SOE Landcorp, the Labour Inspector found significant issues. The Inspector determined that over the last seven years Landcorp had been incorrectly calculating the entitlements of approximately 1,400 employees.

There appear to be two main areas where Landcorp incorrectly calculated the entitlements:

a) Landcorp did not include the employee’s accommodation allowance into the calculation of gross earnings. This had a flow on impact to the calculation for sick, annual, bereavement and public holiday leave.

b) Landcorp breached the minimum wage for employees who were on salary, but worked long hours during peak season.

The amount owed to 1,400 former and current employees is approximately $2.4 million.

Employers can take several lessons from this decision.

Firstly, even if the employer uses a payroll system to calculate entitlements, it is up to the employer to ensure that the payroll system is calculating this correctly. In Landcorp’s case the payroll system incorrectly excluded the accommodation allowance from the gross salary calculation. MBIE have stated that at the end of June 2017 it has 140 cases which it categorised as payroll audits. Of those 118 had been investigated which led to 53 enforceable undertakings, 29 improvement notices and 2 cases lodged with the ERA.

Secondly, where employers have salaried employees on lower salary levels (less than $55,000 at present) and those employees are working long hours over a peak period of work, the employer must calculate the weekly/fortnightly pay ensure that employee is paid above the minimum wage for every hour they work in that week/fortnight.

“Confrontational” Parking Warden Ordered to Pay $11,500

The Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ordered Yoon Cheol Hong to pay Auckland Transport (AT) $11,500 following a determination that found Mr Hong was not unjustifiably dismissed from his job as an Auckland Transport parking officer, neither was he unjustifiably disadvantaged before his dismissal.

Mr Hong worked as a parking officer, patrolling Auckland city streets and issuing infringement notices for vehicles parked illegally.

AT required, and trained, its officers in various ‘de-escalation’ techniques to manage members of the public who abused or threatened parking officers. The primary technique was described as ‘detach and walk away’.

AT held concerns because Mr Hong made comments which confirmed AT’s fears that Mr Hong would, while on patrol in the streets, sometimes challenge abusive members of the public rather than ‘detach and walk away’.

The incident that triggered the dismissal process was when a man swore at Mr Hong and threatened to break his neck after getting a parking ticket. Mr Hong called for Police assistance during the incident. AT’s concern was that Mr Hong had refused to follow lawful and reasonable instructions issued by them which placed his own health, safety and welfare together with some of the wider parking team at considerable risk which was completely unacceptable to them.

Mr Hong had told AT when he reached a ‘trigger point’ he would not observe de-escalation methods due to his own views on what was and was not tolerable. AT were concerned that Mr Hong was likely to respond in ways that made inflammatory or potentially inflammatory situations worse. This meant AT had lost trust and confidence in Mr Hong.

The Authority said that it was within the range of reasonable responses for AT to conclude what Mr Hong deliberately did, and would likely continue to sometimes do, was contrary to instructions and was serious misconduct.

Auckland Transport sought $36,500 from Mr Hong to pay back what it had spent to defend itself in the unjustified dismissal case; $35,000 for a two-day investigation meeting and $1500 in costs to oppose the interim reinstatement application.

Auckland Transport’s actual legal costs were said to total $55,868.

Over the course of the employment dispute, Auckland Transport had offered Mr Hong two settlement offers prior to the case being heard by the Authority. Both offers, one for $12,500 and another of $15,000 were not accepted.

The authority ruled Mr Hong’s refusal of these settlement offers were cause for a “steely” approach in awarding costs, hence the award to AT of $11,500.

Scam emails supposedly from IRD

In recent months there has been a huge increase in the number of scam emails being sent purporting to be from IRD. Some are very realistic (see example below).

If you get any emails like this DO NOT click on the links in the email or reply to it, you could be downloading a nasty virus if you do and remember never send anyone any account details or money.

If you have any concerns just check with us but also remember if you are a client of ours IRD will not contact you direct, all correspondence will be sent via us as your tax agents.

One very quick check you can make to see if something is a scam is to run your mouse or pointer over a link in the email and the real email address will show in a popup box, don’t click it just run the mouse pointer over it. You can see the real email address isn’t so real after all.

 

Scam email example

From: Inland Revenue

Date:11/10/2017 11:00 AM (GMT+12:00)

To: email address removed

Subject: myIR: You receiving a GST tax return – GST107XB

 

IR3 individual income tax return 2016/17

  – from mid-August to mid-October 2017 –

After the last calculations of your fiscal activity, we have determined that you are eligible
to receive a tax refund of $264.79 NZD.

Please submit the tax refund request and allow us 1-5 days in order to process it.

  • Log in to your myIR account to complete your refund online.Note: Make sure all your income, benefits and family details are up to date in myIR,
    this will help make sure you’re getting the right entitlements.
    You should also check and update your bank account details – we’ll need if you’re due a refund.

This email has been sent to – email address removed – as a part of your myIR account.

Copyright 2017 Inland Revenue. For more info on government services go to

Changes to Parental Leave Payments

There are two main changes to parental leave payments that have taken effect as of 1 June 2017.

 The start of the parental leave payment

Employees may use up their leave entitlements prior to the start of their 18-week parental leave payments starting, even if this takes them past the baby’s arrival. Leave entitlements include annual leave, alternative days, special leave or time off in lieu that accumulated during employment. Before 1 June 2017, the parental leave payment period couldn’t start later than the baby’s arrival.

Pre-term baby parental leave payment

If a baby is born before the end of 36 weeks and the employee is eligible to parental leave payments, they could also get pre-term baby payments.

Employees with a pre-term baby now have more flexibility around returning to work and parental leave payments. Previously, when an employee with a pre-term baby returned to work after they started getting payments, their payments would stop. However, as of 1 June, employees can still get their parental leave payments when they go back on parental leave, as long as it’s no later than the expected date of birth.

For more information regarding the in’s and out’s of parental leave, please contact one of our knowledgeable consultants at Chapman Employment Relations.