Modernising Parental Leave

The Employment Standards Legislation Bill which came into effect on 1 April 2016 brings some changes to Parental Leave, including:

  • Parental leave payment period extended to 18 weeks
  • Parental leave payment extended to non-standard workers and those who have recently changed jobs
  • Entitlements extended to a wider range of permanent arrangement carers with primary responsibility of a child under 6 years
  • Unpaid leave can be taken flexibly within the first year
  • Introducing “Keeping in Touch” hours of work – for example to do training, hand overs and ease back into work
  • Extending unpaid leave to workers who have been with their employer for more than six months but less than 12
  • Allowing workers to resign and still receive payments
  • Increasing penalties for fraud
  • Providing additional parental leave payments for parents of preterm babies

Some of the above requires certain eligibility criteria be met and some are by mutual agreement with the Employer, so it pays to communicate your plans. To read more about the changes and to find out the details about leave entitlements and criteria visit one of these sites:

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment


Fair & Productive Work Places

The 1 April 2016 legislative changes also address the zero hour contracts and includes changes to hours of work commitments and what employers can expect from employees and aims to increase certainty for both parties.

When the employer and the employee agree to hours of work, those hours must be stated in the employment agreement including the number of hours, start and finish times or the days of the week the employee will work. The employer and employee do not have to agree on hours but when they do it must be recorded in the employment agreement.

Employers are now prohibited from the following practices:

  • Not committing to any hours of work, and expecting employees to be available when required
  • Expecting employees to be available above their agreed hours, without reasonable compensation. Employers are not obliged to offer, and employees are free to decline, work that is above the agreed hours.
  • Requiring employees to be available, without a genuine reason based on reasonable grounds
  • Canceling a shift without reasonable notice or reasonable compensation to the employee. Notice period and reasonable compensation must be agreed and stated in the employment agreement. If the employee has commenced their shift or if reasonable notice period or compensation is not recorded, the employee is entitled to what they would have otherwise earned for that shift.
  • Putting unreasonable restrictions on secondary employment of employees. Reasonable ground for restriction could be related to risk of loss to the employer of knowledge, property or reputation or to prevent a real and unmanageable conflict of interest.
  • Making unreasonable deductions from employees’ wages. Employees must now consent to deductions from wages. Deductions to cover losses caused by a third party through breakages or theft may be unreasonable.

Health & Safety

With the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 now in force, it is a good time to review workplace practices and the roles of its’ people. Following is a brief summary and links to where you can find out more about the details.

The aim of the new Act is to improve New Zealand’s woeful health and safety record and turn it around to a positive, pro-active and robust health and safety culture in our work force. Everyone has a right to go home safely. The focus is on effective governance and it brings new responsibilities for everyone in the workplace. Changes include:

  • Increased penalties for non-compliance
  • Wider enforcement tools for non-compliance
  • A new three tiered hierarchy of offences
  • Duties owed by employers and principals is replaced by duty owed by ‘persons conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU)
  • New due diligence obligation on directors and officers to take reasonable steps to:
    • ensure PCBU complies with its duty to ensure health and safety of others
    • acquire and maintain current knowledge of health and safety matters, and hazards and risks associated with the company’s operations
    • ensure the PCBU has sufficient resources to manage health and safety risks and that it uses those resources
    • ensure the company complies with its health and safety duties
  • New duty owed by PCBU to take ‘reasonably practicable steps’ to ensure the health and safety of workers and other persons, including the environment not posing risks, provide adequate facilities, information, protection and training. Conditions in the workplace must be monitored to prevent injury. Worker participation in health and safety matters is increased. Workers also have a duty to take reasonable care with health and safety of themselves and others.

Management or Statutory Liability insurance policies will generally include amendments to existing Act or new Acts to be automatically included. Whilst the Act prohibits insuring against fines, certain others costs and financial consequences of a prosecution can be insured against and due to the wider duties the costs associated with a prosecution under the Act can be expected to increase. Now is therefore a good time to review your indemnity limit in your Liability insurance policy.

WorkSafe New Zealand’s user friendly website is a great resource with information, presentations, tools and resources.

The Institute of Directors have issued a document called Good Governance Practice Guidelines which provides directors advice on how they can influence health and safety performance in their organisations.  It includes further detail and provides more in-depth analysis of the changes and requirements placed on Directors.

Health and Safety at Work Regulations 2016 supporting the new Act is available to assist with compliance.

Health and Safety at Work Act 2015

When a Resignation is a Resignation

This Employment Relations Authority case is based on a sad set of background facts, but demonstrates when an employer can deem a resignation as exactly that.

Corrine Tribe had only been working for her employer for four weeks when she was diagnosed with cancer, advised her tongue would need to be removed and other tissue transplanted to replace it – her treatment and recovery period was expected to be a year. Two days after receiving this news Ms Tribe emailed her employer with the following:

“Whilst I would dearly love to hope that the job would be there for me I appreciate that a business cannot be run like that and that you probably need to move on, cut your losses and employ someone new,” …”I am concerned that my ability to speak clearly, whilst not hindering the job itself, may make it difficult for a new employer to take a chance on me so if it was at all possible for me to keep in touch with the hope of anything that may come up at JSC I would be very grateful.” Ms Tribe also asked what was the best day for her to finish.

The employer asked her to confirm her resignation in writing, however Ms Tribe refused. The company determined the email was a resignation, and replaced Ms Tribe with a new employee. To the employer’s surprise, a month later, Ms Tribe arrived at their offices asking about returning. The company advised her there was no position and subsequently Ms Tribe raised a personal grievance, claiming the email was sent during a highly emotional period and should not have been accepted as a resignation. She described herself as feeling that she did not know ‘which way is up’ at the time.

However, the Authority noted Ms Tribe did not write the email immediately after she received the devastating news but after reflection over two days. The Authority found that her email was sufficiently clear and unequivocal and therefore the employer was entitled to conclude Ms Tribe had resigned. Ms Tribe was ordered to pay the employer $3000 in costs.

Resignations are not always clear, and we would advise caution if there is the possibility of doubt. Any resignation given in the heat of the moment should be provided with a cooling off period, and we recommend any communication is best followed up in writing and notes taken.

This employment information is supplied by Chapman ER –

Misuse of Employers Information Costs Employee Millions

It’s something employers everywhere worry about; an employee uses their customer details and other business information for their own financial gain which also negatively impacts their business.

In one case recently the Employment Relations Authority found an employee, Michael Mitchell, had breached his duty of good faith and fidelity to his employer, Nova Energy.  Mr Mitchell had uploaded a client list and rates onto a USB drive prior to resigning from his role.  He then went on to use the information in a competing business that he set up, called National Energy Limited (NEL).

He was able to determine which of Nova Energy’s clients were paying high margins, who had a recent contract and who was near the end of a contract.

Nova was able to provide the Authority with calculations of their losses related to Mr Mitchell’s activities which totalled slightly more than $1m annually.  Nova claimed that Mr Mitchell should pay this amount, as damages, for a projected 10 year period.

The Authority reduced the period to 7 years, taking into account relevant discount factors.  However, they also ordered Mr Mitchell to pay a penalty of $30,000 and his company, NEL, to pay a penalty of $50,000, to Nova Energy.  This was in part due to the deliberate nature of Mr Mitchell’s actions, and for NEL, it was because they aided and abetted the breaches made by Mr Mitchell.

It is perhaps worth noting that Mr Mitchell did not have a restraint of trade agreed with his employer.  We sometimes see clients request a strong restraint clause for an employment agreement to address concerns such as those noted in this case, but often it’s other clauses that provide the desired protection, such as confidential information requirements and non-solicitation wording.  Do talk to us if this is something you would like to check for your business’s employment agreement templates.

This employment information is supplied by Chapman ER – 

Barbican Training Centre

Barbican Training Centre is an organisation we love to recommend to our clients, they provide outstanding training for people new to business or those who want to improve their business management and IT skills

Their 2016 training menu is ready to go with information and enrollment sessions starting NOW!  Their programmes are still FREE and are open to permanent NZ residents aged 16+ at Nelson, Blenheim and Motueka locations.

Here are the quick facts for 2016…


BusinessNO FEE 36 weeks, one evening or morning a weekStarts 29 February

In Nelson, Motueka and Blenheim


Certificate in Small Business Management, Level 4Run a successful business and develop your own business plan

Register here


ComputingNO FEE 18 weeks, two evenings a weekStarts 7 March

In Nelson and Blenheim

Certificate in Computing, Level 3Get computing skills for the office

Register here


MoneyNO FEE 20 weeks, one evening a weekStarts 14 March

In Nelson, Motueka and Blenheim

Certificate in Money Management, Level 3Get money savvy and learn the secrets of the rich

Register here




24 weeks, one evening a weekStarts 1 June

In Nelson and Blenheim

Certificate in Applied Small Business Growth and Development, Level 5Ramp up your business and management skills

Register here


Programmes delivered in partnership with Te Wānanga o Aotearoa.  Places are limited and allocated on a first come, first served basis.  Open to permanent NZ residents over 16 years and not enrolled in another relevant government subsidised training programme.

To get the whole menu with all the facts, visit

or contact Pip Bruce

Barbican Training Centre Limited

+64-3-547 6138

2016…Awaken the Force

Agriculture Sector, Health and Safety News – Are you Ready for April 2016?

As the clock ticks ever closer to the 4th April 2016, we should all be preparing our farm business models, and educating ourselves and our staff as to how each workplace will meet compliance with the recently passed new Health & Safety law – The Health & Safety at Work Act.

Across the whole rural industry each individual (from governance to the casual worker), business, organisation, association and industry within our industry is being challenged by how it will work simply, effectively, be able to maintain compliance without the myriad of paperwork that could break the time bank. There is also fear out there of the possibility of ‘missing’ that critical compliance measure that could leave the business exposed to undesired risk should an accident occur. The newly appointed legal obligation to manage the risks within the farm workplace control for all contractors and staff is a worry for many. That the application of legal duties has now also been expanded to include any person who holds a governance position in a business like a partner, trustee or director. In most farm businesses that will mean husbands and wives and farmers’ family members, as well as farm owners.

Governance & boards seek confirmation from the OnFarmSafety New Zealand team that their farm systems are being well managed in this Health & Safety space, and yet often what we find is that managers and staff have not had clear support and guidance from the business owners as to expectations regarding rules, responsibilities, liabilities, reporting and very rarely get comprehensive feedback. Often governance lack the required knowledge to develop the policy. Being deemed competent is also proving a challenge as we are working in a predominantly self-taught industry. Does that mean we all have to be certified and in what?

As a business we are inundated with calls as to how to, what’s compliance, and where to go to for good farm focused health & safety advice. Hence our business model’s core focus is on farm with the farmer owners and their teams taking the time to listen, assist, educate and counsel. Our comprehensive Australian / New Zealand standardised audits establish not only the compliance status, but the start of the business action plan and an enormous amount of education is part of every farm visit. Our paper based and online systems mirror the client’s needs for not only their farm activity but also that of their service providers – shearers, fencers, agricultural air provider, bulk spreader, vet etc. What we are seeing out there is that if there is a system in place, often it is a generic waste of time and money and there is no management understanding as to application. Our advice would be to be very careful as to the off-the shelf quick fix options being pushed out there at your expense.

It takes time to get these Health & Safety systems right. Don’t take shortcuts and expect a few signs and a sign in book to suffice. We need industry leadership and participation to develop rural industry standards starting with what practical good practice looks like, and consulting with associations, and then regulation. The regulator is waiting for our industry to take the lead. There is some really good material and supporting safety management tips within the codes, acts, and guidelines available – it just takes time to analyse what’s relevant and required by your farm business. That’s what we at OnFarmSafety NZ assist with – specialise in the relevant industry health & safety requirements for individuals and the whole farming industry.

Working with OnFarmSafety New Zealand, rural health & safety specialists, can assist you to ensure compliance in the same way you would address your other key farm business aspects. ie tax, finance, animal health. Don’t discover health & safety by accident!

For Nelson/Tasman & Marlborough region, contact Sandra on 027 757 0011

Email Toll Free 0508 ON FARM  Website:


Company Director Changes

From 28 October 2015 all New Zealand companies must have at least one director who lives in New Zealand, or who lives in Australia and is a director of an Australian registered company. We have been working with our clients to help ensure these requirements are met.

However, if your situation changes, for example you are moving overseas and the company you are a director of will be left without a director living in NZ, then you need to appoint a NZ based director. The same applies if the director you appointed, that at the time was living in NZ decides to move, you would need to consider a new appointment of a NZ based director.

If you are thinking of moving overseas, short term or long term, please contact our office to check the requirements.

Health & Safety Law update

Update kindly provided  by Chapman ER.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 has been passed into law and will come into effect on 4 April 2016.

WorkSafe NZ want to see a 25% reduction in NZ’s workplace serious injuries, illnesses and fatalities by 2020. If Australia’s improvements are any indication on what we might expect, given our new legislation is based on Australia’s law, this goal may be achievable as a report released in July 2014 stated they had experienced their lowest number of work-related deaths in 11 years.

WorkSafe NZ aim to provide guidelines about the new legislation, but in the meantime they advise five key areas that organisations should focus on which includes:

  • Familiarising yourself with the key concepts of the legislation
  • Reviewing your health and safety practices
  •  Identifying health and safety risks in your business and take steps to prevent these from causing harm
  • Leading by example
  • Making health and safety part of your workplace culture


Protect against Cyber Attacks

Cyber attacks, like email hacks, computer viruses and misuse of credit card details are getting more and more common. Research shows that 8 in 10 New Zealanders have experienced a cyber attack of some kind. By taking the following steps you could stop hackers getting through and reduce the impact if any do sneak through.

1. Update your software – regular updates guards against the latest hacks and bugs. So next time you see an update notification, click “yes”

2. Be wary of phishing – banks, IRD and Trade Me and similar sites will never ask for your password. Don’t click on links in emails to log in to ‘your account’,  if it’s a scam you will just have given away your username and password. Instead, always type in the address in the address bar and then log in.

3. Find your weak points – look at your systems with a critical eye and ask yourself if you’re making it easy for an unauthorised person to gain access. Avoid using the same passwords for multiple systems. Make sure staff have individual logins when possible. And change your passwords regularly.

4. Introduce processes – this could be specific times to make batch payments or deposit money and a designated password holder for a specific system. This will make it easy to spot suspect transactions.