Top tips to get your employment law systems and documents sorted for 2021

We’ve noticed that for many, 2020’s Covid-19 concerns, lockdown(s), Wage Subsidy, and Alert Level periods meant that employment-related administration fell through the gaps. We understand. We also understand that many employers do not have internal HR support or extra resources to spend on external consultants. 

At the same time, we see employers with the best intentions finding themselves at the receiving end of personal grievances, and allegations of breach of employment relations and minimum standard obligations, simply by not having the “back to basics” employment documentation and systems in place.

With that in mind, we have drafted up our top tips to help you get back on top of the “basics” in 2021:

1. Employment agreements:

Make sure that all employees have an employment agreement, and that they are up to date with current legal requirements and fit for purpose. In the rush to get people on the job, this (very important) step can be missed. Missing this step is not only a breach of the Employment Relations Act 2000, but it also means as an employer you cannot rely on useful clauses such as 90 day trial periods (if you have 19 or fewer employees).  We recommend getting template agreements up and running, including ensuring (with professional support) they are legally compliant.  Setting up templates may mean spending a little upfront, but it is likely to save you a lot of grief and further cost later down the track.

2. Record keeping:

Are you keeping compliant Wage and Time and Holiday and Leave records?  Are you aware of what details need to be included?  Employees are entitled to these records on request. Failure to keep and provide them (with the correct information) can result in liability under the Employment Relations Act 2000 and Holidays Act 2003.  When a relationship with an employee starts to turn sour, this is often one of the first requests we see from them or their representative, and not being able to comply puts the employer on a bit of a back foot from the get-go.

3. Calculating holiday pay and other leave payments:

This is not as simple as it should be, and even where employers are using payroll providers to assist, the calculation methods used are not always compliant with Holidays Act 2003 requirements.  It is worth checking this issue – liability generally goes back six years, and even with a small number of employees, small miscalculations can add up.  If issues are identified by way of a Labour Inspector audit, that can also result in more extensive problems, for example, issues supporting work visas for international employment candidates.

4. Processes:

Do you understand the key requirements of a disciplinary process? What about performance management, medical incapacity, or a restructure?  Different processes are required to address these issues. Understanding the basics of each goes a long way to mitigating legal risk, and unnecessary personal grievances and other legal claims from affected employees.

5. Policies:

We do not necessarily favour having overly detailed or long policies, or a policy to cover every topic under the sun, particularly when they may not be relevant to your industry.  However, there are some key areas where policies should exist, including health and safety, and bullying and harassment. 

6. Personal grievances:

Do you need a refresher on what types of issues can be raised, and how to avoid them?  If an employee raises a personal grievance, do you understand how to respond, without generating further liability, and/or aggravating the situation?  Again, while we hope you are not faced with claims this year, having a basic understanding of the types of claims and processes that follow is always useful. 

For more information

We can work with you to come up with a plan, be it new or updated documents, or for us to come to your workplace (or have you to ours) to work through some training.

Are you in an industry where several employers have the same issues? What about a group seminar, targeting issues or topics that your industry needs to address. Reach out to our employment law experts on 04 472 0020 and let us know how we can assist you – we look forward to hearing from you.  

Top tips for employers