Safe Work from Home Guidelines

Safe Work from Home Guidelines

(Free Template)

 

Our workplace has been designed to provide you with a safe and comfortable work environment.  To ensure this extends to your home or other off-site office, you will need to review and comply with these guidelines.

These guidelines should be read in conjunction with our Health and Safety Policy, as your Health and Safety responsibilities extend to circumstances where you are working from home or at another off-site location.

 

Guidelines for Home Work Spaces

  1. Please click on the link and review the ACC Guidelines for Computer Use
  2. After ensuring that your home work space is compliant,  complete the checklist below
  3. We also require you to complete a hazards register for your home work space. This should list each hazard, outline the risk/potential harm and actions taken to eliminate, isolate or minimise the hazard
  4. Please then sign the acknowledgement page and return a copy of these guidelines to your manager along with a copy of your home workplace hazards register

It is your responsibility to ensure that you thoroughly read the ACC Guidelines for Computer Use and implement necessary changes to your home work space. The checklist below is a guide; however, it is assumed when checking each item that you have read and understood the relevant section of the ACC Guidelines for Computer Use. Any changes that need to be made to your home work space to meet the attached guidelines are to be carried out at your expense unless agreed otherwise with your Manager.

Once the agreement has been signed, it will be assumed that the relevant safety precautions have been taken and will be maintained by you. Please maintain the hazards register, adding any new hazards as they are identified and putting measures in place to eliminate, isolate or minimise each hazard.

 

Home Work Space Checklist

Please check each item once you have read the relevant section of the ACC Guidelines for Computer Use and ensured that your home work space is compliant.

 

Key considerations for your home work space Tick
Suitable chair with back support and at the correct height with footrest (if necessary)
Suitable keyboard in correct position
Suitable mouse in correct position
Suitable computer screen at correct height, distance, and position
Adequate lighting for work tasks
Adequate sized work surfaces
Safe and suitable storage for materials
Work space not situated near loud and/or repetitive noise
Adequate heating/cooling and ventilation
Surrounding electrical equipment including cables safely installed, secured and in working order
Suitable physical location of work space within the home – ideally a separate room or area with adequate separation from high-risk and/or high-traffic areas (e.g. kitchen)

 

Other considerations (please include in your hazards register):

  • Is there a working smoke detector?
  • Is a fire extinguisher readily available?
  • Is a basic first aid kit readily accessible?
  • Are exits from the work area clear and unobstructed?
  • Are there any tripping hazards?
  • Are all floor coverings safe and non-slip?
  • Are there appropriate handrails on any stairs?
  • Are any young children adequately supervised by another adult?

 

Employee Acknowledgement

I hereby acknowledge that I have read and understood these Safe Work from Home Guidelines and the ACC Guidelines for Computer Use. In addition, I have made the necessary adjustments to my home work space in compliance with the guidelines set out in these documents and have completed a hazards register for my home work space.

 

Employee Name ____________________________________________________________________________

Address ___________________________________________________________________________________

Signed____________________________________________________________________________________

Date______________________________________________________________________________________

Employer COVID-19 FAQs – issued 19 March 2020

Question: What is the process from an HR perspective if my business needs to close temporarily?

Businesses may need to close temporarily for a range of reasons. It’s possible that the government will enforce a lock-down. Or, there may be a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 at your workplace and several of the team required to self-isolate, causing an operational disruption requiring closure. In addition, some businesses/industries have been so immediately impacted (e.g. by large contracts being suspended) that they need to close. If your business needs to partially or completely shut down temporarily due to the pandemic, we recommend that you go through a condensed consultation process with impacted employees.

This involves proposing your plan to employees, seeking their feedback, confirming your final decision/plan and then implementing the change. This can all be done within a short timeframe if required. If the closure needs to happen immediately, this consultation process can be carried out in the course of a single meeting or over a one- or two-day period.

In the case of temporary closure, you can seek to suspend employees’ duties or request they undertake alternate duties or work from home or another location. If suspended, it may be agreed that the employee first takes annual leave. After that, they may transfer to unpaid leave or you may come to another arrangement if your business is financially in a position to do so. We advise businesses to err on the side of generosity and try to allow for some special paid leave wherever possible – our experience suggests that you will be rewarded with the loyalty and support of your employees in the long run.

We recommend you first find out what wage subsidies may be available as this will be important to know prior to coming up with your proposal and talking to your people. You can find that information here.

While it is reasonable to run a shortened process in the case of an enforced immediate business closure, good documentation will reduce your risks and also ensure that your employees fully understand what is happening and why. Outlining the business case, plan and outcome in writing will allow employees to take this information home and digest it properly, as well as seek support and advice from friends and family.

Check your Individual Employment Agreements for a Force Majeure or Business Interruption clause – if you have one included, ensure that you are honouring these terms and conditions as a minimum and refer employees to the clause in your communications.

If you need assistance with documentation and running meetings, Positive People are available to help. 

 

Question: Should I have people working from home wherever possible?

Yes, wherever possible. Social distancing is the right thing to do, so we recommend following government advice and having people work from home if you can.

We have also heard of some creative solutions for reducing the risk in the workplace. For example, splitting the team into two and asking them to only attend the workplace on alternate days, and work from home the other days. This reduces the number of people in the office and would halve the amount of people exposed if someone becomes unwell.

 

Question: What should I do if my employees have children at school or daycare/kindergarten who are impacted by closures?

If you have a smaller business, you can approach this situation on a case-by-case basis but for larger businesses you need to think about precedent and fairness, so may need to decide on an approach that can be applied to all staff in the case of school and pre-school closures.

The first thing to consider is whether the employee can carry out some or all of their duties from home – or whether they can pick up alternate duties that can be completed from home. If you can accommodate the employee working from home, other things to agree include working hours, availability for phone calls and virtual meetings and/or required outputs. If the children are young there may be a requirement to be flexible with hours (e.g. some hours worked on the weekend when other carers are available, early in the morning or late at night) or reduce hours.

In the event that the employee cannot work from home (either due to the nature of their work or because their children are young and require constant supervision), you may agree that they should use annual leave first, and then transfer to paid special leave and/or unpaid leave.

 

Question: What are my obligations if an employee is advised to self-isolate?

In this circumstance you can apply for the government COVID-19 leave payment to pass on to them. Information on the payment and process is here. You may also choose to partially or fully top up this payment. However, you should also consider other alternatives, such as working from home. If you are unable to offer a top up and the employee has enough sick and annual leave balance available, you may agree for them to use this instead.

If an employee is required to self-isolate but they still want to attend work, you must tell them to stay away from the workplace and comply with the self-isolation directive. Allowing the employee to return to the workplace when they are subject to the self-isolation directive may constitute a breach of your duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. Likewise, if they become unwell (but are not under a self-isolation directive) but still want to come to the workplace.

If an employee comes to work when sick or in breach of the self-isolation directive, you may consider that this constitutes serious misconduct, being a breach of a lawful instruction and a breach of their employee health and safety obligations.  Following a full and fair process, this may warrant disciplinary action.

 

Question: What should we do if one of our employees lives with or has been exposed to someone who is ‘self-isolating’ due to travel, illness or exposure?

Again, smaller businesses may be in a position to take a case-by-case approach to this. This would allow you to take all relevant factors into account and agree on the best solution. However, if you have a larger business you will need to decide on the best approach and communicate this to your team.

Some businesses have decided that if an employee has any exposure to someone in self-isolation they must stay away from the workplace for 14 days. This scenario may not be covered by the government COVID-19 leave allowance but may be covered by the government wage subsidies. Alternatively, you may agree on the use of annual or sick leave, or offer some paid special leave where possible.

 

Question:  Can I require employees to work from home?

You are entitled to ask an employee to work from home.  You will have to provide the necessary equipment/systems, such as a computer, mobile phone, relevant software access etc. In some cases, employees may agree to work from home and offer to use their home equipment. In this case you may choose to come up with some form of compensation – for example, a contribution to the monthly wifi and phone bill.

It is important to note that as the employer you still have various health and safety obligations to the employee when they are working from home.  As such, it is important to ensure that you have up to date policies regarding working from home safely. Even if they have previously been provided, it’s a good idea to re-send them and request a confirmation of receipt if the employee has not worked from home before.

 

Question:  How do I treat leave applications for an overseas holiday made prior to 15 March 2020?

If an employee made an overseas holiday application prior to the Government’s self-isolation directives on 14 March 2020, you can instruct them to take unpaid leave for the duration of the self-isolation period on their return, after first considering other alternatives such as working from home or other leave entitlements.

If you want to request an employee not to proceed with the holiday, you may consider compensating the employee for a proportion of their holiday booking fees. Hopefully this is a relatively rare event given the travel restrictions now in place across the globe, and MFAT advice for New Zealanders to return home from overseas travel as soon as possible. In addition, airlines and hotels are allowing for deferred travel arrangements in most cases.

 

Question:  How do I treat leave applications for overseas travel made after 14 March 2020?

Given current travel restrictions and advice, it is unlikely you will receive applications for overseas holidays. However, there may be circumstances where employees want to travel – for example, to attend a wedding or funeral. Regardless, you should advise employees that leave applications will be treated more strictly due to the restrictions in place due to COVID-19.

You may choose to communicate that annual leave for the purposes of overseas travel will only be approved in very rare circumstances, and that you will have to reach an agreement regarding the management of any self-isolation period upon their return.  You can also advise that if an employee proceeds with overseas travel without your agreement, this may constitute serious misconduct.

Of course, you are entitled to deny an overseas leave request on operational grounds if you cannot accommodate both the holiday and any self-isolation period required on return.

 

Question: What should we do about work-related national and international travel?

Remain aware of the Ministry of Health’s travel advice, which is regularly updated. You must consider this in relation to your health and safety obligations and make a decision from there.

At the time of writing, international travel is not recommended at all and as such employers have cancelled or postponed all overseas travel. If you still have people overseas on work-related travel you will no doubt be assisting them in coming home.

You may also decide that work-related national travel (via airline) only take place where it is considered essential and where it is agreed by the employer and employee.

 

Question:  How should I respond if an employee is concerned about contracting COVID-19 at work?

If an employee advises you that they believe they are at risk of contracting COVID-19 by attending work, you must consider the basis for the employee’s concerns. We know that for many, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing high levels of stress and anxiety. This is a very real and genuine wellbeing concern. Furthermore, some employees may be particularly vulnerable due to age, pregnancy or pre-existing conditions, or be worried about a family member who is. As an employer, it is important to show support, compassion and look for solutions.

If you agree that the employee’s concerns are reasonable, then you must take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure the health and safety of your employees, such as limiting meetings (or reducing attendees), moving work stations to increase distances between them, and implementing hygiene policies.

The employer and employee may agree to vary the employee’s duties or location of work in order to address the employee’s concerns.  Where practical, you could allow the employee to work from home for a reasonable period of time.

 

Question:  What do I need to do if an employee is exposed to or contracts COVID-19?
If an employee has been exposed to or contracts COVID-19 and has attended the workplace prior to diagnoses, you must first work with Healthline (call 0800 358 5453) to determine what actions you need to take. This is likely to include immediate closure while you assist in identifying close contacts and working with Healthline on advising them on steps for testing and self-isolation. You will also need to seek advice on cleaning the workplace prior to people returning to work. Any employee who has contracted COVID-19 must not return to work until they are cleared by a health professional.

In terms of how you treat the period of absence for anyone who has contracted COVID-19, contractual sick leave or the government-provided COVID-19 leave could kick in. Taking the government COVID-19 leave does not impact on an employee’s sick leave balance – these are separate entitlements. Employees do not have to take any or all of their contractual leave before becoming eligible for COVID-19 leave. Different forms of leave can be taken concurrently, but as the employer you are not required to pay the employee more for that time on leave than what you would have otherwise had the employee worked.

However, in the event that the employee has been exposed to or contracted COVID-19 at work, we recommend that wherever possible, you ensure that the employee is paid no less than they would normally be paid for the period of self-isolation or illness.

 

Question: What should I do about my upcoming conference / training or other work-related event?

If the event is overseas or would involve a large number of people gathering inside (more than 100), it should be deferred.

If the event is in New Zealand but requires travel for participants, you should seriously consider deferring it if possible. With the possibility of a government enforced lock-down of workplaces, it may be more cost effective to postpone the event now than to wait until the last minute.

If the event is local and does not require travel, check for the latest guidance for small events and make a decision from there. Keep in mind that attendance is likely to be lower than usual if you go ahead. People may choose not to attend due to their own wellbeing concerns, their own company policies (if they do not work for you), childcare responsibilities (if schools close), self-isolation and illness – bear in mind that common colds are likely to increase as the weather cools but people are advised to remain vigilant and stay at home if unwell.

 

Question:  I may need to downsize the business due to the economic impact of COVID-19. What is the process?

As the economic impact of COVID-19 continues to worsen, you may be in the difficult situation of needing to seek to reduce expenses by restructuring your business and implementing redundancies.

As with any restructure, employees must be advised of the proposed changes, and their feedback must be considered before any changes are made.  However, given the nature of the economic impact from COVID-19, it would be reasonable for the timeframe for this consultation to be shortened significantly.

Although inevitable in some situations, redundancy should be a last resort. Be sure to consider alternatives such as voluntary redundancies, reductions in hours (again, some people may volunteer), reductions in pay, changes in roles and locations. You may also agree on leave arrangements – for example, you may agree that employees use one day of annual leave per week until their balance reaches zero, before transferring to one day per week of unpaid leave.

As with temporary closures and suspensions, ensure that you are up-to-date with government wage subsidy offers prior to coming up with your change proposal.

 

Question: I have offered an overseas candidate a job and they have a visa application pending or they have a visa approved and were booked to travel to New Zealand. Can they still come?

UPDATED: At 2.40pm on Friday 20 March we received the following update from Immigration New Zealand:

You will be aware that the Government has put in place new restrictions at the border. We realise many employers have additional immigration-related concerns now that most foreign travellers cannot enter New Zealand.

The Government has further strengthened border travel restrictions, closing our border to almost all travellers from 23.59 on Thursday 19 March 2020.

The current temporary border measures

Exceptions can be made on a case-by-case basis by Immigration New Zealand for:

  • humanitarian reasons
  • health and other essential workers
  • citizens of Samoa and Tonga for essential travel to New Zealand
  • the holder of a visitor visa who is the partner or dependant of a temporary work or student visa holder and who normally lives in New Zealand.

No other foreign traveller can enter New Zealand. Returning residents and citizens must isolate themselves for 14 days upon arrival.

Visa processing information

INZ’s Beijing, Mumbai and Manila offices are temporarily closed. INZ remains committed to minimising the impact on visa processing times.

Residents with expired travel conditions cannot travel to New Zealand. They may apply for reinstatement of resident visa travel conditions.

INZ cannot extend visa durations. Visa fees or levies paid for completed applications will not be refunded or deferred for another visa. Applicants may withdraw an undecided application

 

 

19 March 2020

PositivePeople February 7, 2020 No Comments

MAXIMISE YOUR TEAM’S POTENTIAL – GET YOUR HR SET UP RIGHT

Running a medium-sized business is demanding, every which way. It’s all about customers, it’s all about marketing, it’s all about strategy, it’s all about cash-flow, it’s all about product, it’s all about supply chain, it’s all about quality, it’s all about innovation, it’s all about health and safety, it’s all about compliance, it’s all about administration, it’s all about delivery.

And, it is absolutely, definitely, all about your people and their productivity.

Our experience tells us that many of the sleepless nights are the result of “people problems”.

So, the questions to ask, and answer are:

  1. How does a business owner minimize employee issues and also optimize their productivity?
  2. How can this best be done in a cost effective and efficient way?

We all know from experience that the people in your business really do make or break you, so the decision to elevate HR matters closer to the top of your priorities becomes imperative to your success.

Two options exist.

Some owners feel that HR Software systems will do it all – allowing for ease of access to information, hence making the management of team members easier. This is true. However, the danger in this is that HR software systems only make the administration of records and systems easier. They do not provide the relational contact that lifts productivity.

And this is where, in addition to having a great HR Software system, there is a need for deep HR.

What is deep HR?

Deep HR takes hold of the culture of your business and gets everyone involved and engaged in your business. Effectively it elevates all employees, from top to bottom, into the position of looking after the business for you. It builds engagement, enthusiasm, pro-activity, energy, thoughtfulness, common sense.

All the things that you wish your employees had.

What is involved in deep HR?

It is not as complex as it sounds. As a medium -sized business owner, you will not be wanting a complicated HR system that is time-consuming, expensive and difficult to introduce and maintain.

What you will be looking for is an approach and way of running your HR that minimizes your risk and also gets your team humming, looking after your business for you.

What to do

  • Establish where your stand with your current HR systems and approach
  • Identify shortfalls
  • Develop an HR strategy that will support and promote your business
  • Develop a realistic and affordable staged HR program
  • Allocate the time and resources to make it happen
  • Monitor progress and fine-tune as appropriate

You want your people to be really working for you.

Here at Positive People we have been in this business of assisting medium sized businesses optimize their people contribution for 25 years.

Call us on 09-445 1077 or email us at info@positivepeople.co.nz to talk about how we can help.

 

 

 

 

PositivePeople October 14, 2019 No Comments

Flexible Work – Making it happen.

Alan Pettersen, our Positive People Director, is open to flexible working arrangements as long it’s good for our clients, our company and ourselves. It’s about balancing everyone’s needs.

This comes into focus particularly during the school holidays as many of our consultants juggle work with the pressures of kids at home and the expense of holiday programs. No two situations are the same so Alan adopts the approach that as long as it works for everyone, complete flexibility is possible.

One of our HR Consultants, Chanel Finnigan, shares how flexible working arrangements during these school holidays have worked for her:

“In the first week of the school holidays I’ve really valued being able to take my children to New Plymouth to visit their cousins and check in with my Mum who has  had a couple of falls recently. Each day I’ve done work in the morning, managed to enjoy time with extended family in the afternoon, checked in with the needs of my clients again in the late afternoon and relaxed with my family in the evening. I worked additional hours in the two weeks leading up to the holidays so I was ahead of my project timelines and was therefore able have a week of no scheduled meetings.  I’ve valued being able to deliver my work with a flexi-time, flexi-place solution.”

Having a flexible approach to work is a key part of job satisfaction for the Positive People team, and one that is essential to the employment brand. Alan says

“I know I have a great team and I also know how hard it is to recruit and retain top HR professionals so it’s critical we live our employment philosophy  which is “to provide exciting opportunities for our people so that they work hard, love their jobs, love Positive People, have fun, are stimulated and challenged, and live a balanced life.”

Getting this right means all our clients have access to highly skilled HR experts, and we have a highly engaged team.

It’s a win for everyone.

PositivePeople August 28, 2019 No Comments

What we’ve learnt in 25 years of HR Consulting

It’s Positive People’s 25th Birthday!

So, this is a Special Edition.

Alan Pettersen, our Director, started Positive People working from a clunky computer placed on a dressing table. A year later and with the help of his son, Alan lined the garage and he had moved into his first office. The all year round air-conditioning came screaming in under the door. Great in summer, challenging in winter. A few years later and he was in a real office with space to meet with clients and hold meetings!

Now we are celebrating Positive People being in business for 25 years, with a dedicated, committed, talented and experienced team of 7 HR Consultants providing the best service that we can to businesses across Auckland and sometimes further afield. We would also like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all of our clients for your ongoing support.

So, what have we learned over the years?
  1. Tech keeps changing, but people don’t – HR is about people, first and foremost
  2. Communication stands at the centre of HR – Good HR is all about great communication
  3. Values drive the organisational culture – Develop good values and deliberately attach desired behaviours to them. A great culture will follow.
  4. Great employees choose you, not the other way around – Constantly develop and fine-tune your employment brand to stand out as a sought after employer
  5. The greater the flexibility the greater the employment attraction – Work hard to create an ultra-flexible workplace wherever possible
  6. Workplaces are diverse and becoming increasingly so – Embrace diversity in all its forms
  7. Organisations make changes faster than ever before – Develop solid selection processes and early performance interventions so you’re always at the top of your game
  8. Everyone is more knowledgeable – Solid employment documentation and systems are essential, now more than ever before
  9. Training and developing employees is non-negotiable –The on-going growth and development of individual team members is essential.
Want to know more about what we’ve learnt doing what we do? In coming newsletters we will explore these topics in more detail.
Contact us for any HR related assistance. After 25 years of HR Consulting, we can help. Contact us on 09 445 1077 or info@positivepeople.co.nz

Responsible Digital Communication in the Workplace

Responsible Digital Communication in the Workplace

Many employees today spend a large portion of the day sending and receiving emails, IMs, DMs, social media posts and text messages. However, it’s very easy to be tripped up by the rules of digital etiquette, especially when you take into account the huge volume of messages, we send every day.

Effective digital communication in the workplace requires attention to detail and professionalism — every time.

So, how to you manage digital communication in the workplace?

As always, we think it’s important to be clear about your expectations, communicate these and then manage accordingly. Here are our top tips for responsible digital communication in the workplace:

  1. Consider your audience

As the sender you must consider the nature of your relationship with the receiver and tailor your approach accordingly. Using emoji’s is usually fine with colleagues, not so much with the CEO of a key customer.

  1. Apply the ‘front page test’

Never include anything in an email that you wouldn’t be comfortable with being made public. The main reason for this is that it could be! Also, it’s easy to accidentally send an email to the wrong person. If the content is sensitive, a phone call or meeting may be more appropriate.

  1. Use formal emails when required

These days we often don’t need to post or attach a letter. However, if the matter you’re emailing about is important and requires documenting you should keep this in mind and write your email accordingly. In these situations, your message should read almost exactly like a letter would.

  1. Be on brand

You represent your company in all of your work communications. If you work for a lawyer or accountant there will be different parameters than for those working in a less formal environment. Your level of professionalism and formality should be consistent with the company brand and industry.

  1. Be careful with social media

Social media posts by nature usually reach a wider audience faster than emails or other forms of digital communication. Be aware of your privacy settings, who can view each post you make and how the post reflects on you.

  1. Keep the personal separate from the professional

Always bear in mind the line between personal and professional communications. If you are communicating from a work account, about work and/or during work hours – keep the entire message professional. If you have a personal relationship with the recipient, send a separate message (or use another platform like text or IM) to communicate about other matters such as your after-work plans.

  1. Understand the consequences

If the content of your digital communication breaches the Code of Conduct of your company in any way or is otherwise problematical, you should be aware that a disciplinary process may follow. Communications sent using company resources are not private. All messages should be written as if your manager has been CC’d.

Positive People have developed an interactive workshop covering Digital Communication in the Workplace. Contact us today via info@positivepeople.co.nz or 09 445 1077 to talk about how this module can be tailored to suit the needs of your business.

2018 Employment Legislation Changes

What the changes mean for you

Although the details of the changes haven’t been confirmed yet, here are our thoughts on what some of the changes might mean for your business.

Restriction of 90-day trials

For those that employ less than 20 people, there won’t be any change. However, if your numbers are creeping up towards 20, you will need to keep across that to ensure that you’re not including a trial period if you’ve become ineligible.

If you employ 20 people or more, you will lose the ability to use the 90-day trial. You will still be able to apply a probationary period. These were in play prior to the trial period being introduced and some employers have continued to use them instead of the trial.

For more information here on the potential changes to the 90 day trial period and probationary periods

Restoration of meal breaks

In 2015 there were changes to rest and meal break entitlements. Where previously there had been minimum entitlements, the 2015 changes made it up to employers and employees to negotiate when and how long rest and meal breaks should be. An employer is currently required to compensate employees where they cannot give an employee rest and meal breaks, but the legislation does not state what that compensation should be.

The upcoming change will see a re-introduction of required meal and rest breaks to be provided over a work day or shift. However, we don’t expect this to be a huge change for most employers. Many have chosen to continue to apply the same breaks as before the 2015 changes – either written into the employment agreement, or in practice. In addition, the current legislation does state that employees are entitled to breaks. If anything, this change will just provide clarity again on what this means.

Reinstatement restored as primary remedy for unjustified dismissal

Reinstatement as the primary remedy means that if an employee is dismissed and successfully challenges the dismissal (the Employment Authority finds that unjustified dismissal has occurred), reinstating the employee to their former role is the first remedy to be considered. In 2011 the Employment Relations Act was amended to remove reinstatement as the primary remedy for unjustified dismissal. However, since then it has still been available as an option and some commentators have pointed to a growing trend in reinstatement as a remedy in recent years.

It’s restoration as primary remedy is unlikely to have a widespread impact. Most employers rarely, if ever, end up in front of the Authority. Also, where reinstatement is genuinely not practical for either party, other remedies for unjustified dismissal can and will still be considered.

 

Month: January 2018

Employment Law Changes

This year we are expecting to see a significant shift in the employment legislation landscape, and last week’s announcement signals the start of these changes.

The following changes were confirmed last week:

  • Trial periods will be restricted to small business (up to 19 employees) only. All employers will be able to use probationary periods, but unlike the 90-day trial, these do not allow unjustified dismissal
  • Guaranteed rest and meal breaks
  • A number of changes relating to collective bargaining, including removing the ability of employers to opt out of multi-employer collective agreements.

The bill is expected to have its first reading before February 3rd. In addition, we have the following changes to paid parental leave and minimum wage coming up:

  • The minimum wage will rise to $16.50 per hour ($0.75 increase) from 1st April, with increases set to continue to a targeted $20 per hour by April 2021.
  • Paid parental leave will extend from 18 to 22 weeks from 1st July and to 26 weeks from 1st July 2020

Other changes being indicated include:

  • An increase in minimum redundancy protection for employees affected by restructuring. This could go as far as a statutory entitlement for redundancy pay of at least four weeks for the first year of service and two weeks for each subsequent year of service, up to a maximum of 20 years
  • Contractors who work under the ‘control’ of an employer, but are not employees are likely to see their rights extended for more statutory protection
  • Legislation may be introduced to make it easier for women to bring claims if they consider they are not being paid equally. In particular, changes are likely to give women in female-dominated industries better access to collective bargaining
  • Reinstatement is likely to be re-introduced (it was removed in 2011) as the primary remedy for unjustifiable dismissal claims.
  • Minimum employment standards being extended to apply to all employees working in New Zealand, including foreign employees working for foreign companies. This will impact employers with a globally mobile workforce.

It’s a case of ‘watch this space’ for the possible changes outlined above, followed by looking to see how changes will impact employers and industries when implemented. We’ll keep you informed via this blog, or follow us on LinkedIn or Facebook for regular updates. If unsure of anything, contact us.

 

PositivePeople October 30, 2017 No Comments

ARE YOU ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THE LAW WITH YOUR EMPLOYMENT RECORDS?

As an employer, you must keep wage and time, and holidays and leave records that comply with the Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Holidays Act 2003. It sounds simple enough, but we all know that it’s often easier said than done. Most employers have a nagging concern that if audited there are likely to be a few gaps (or more than a few in many cases).

Earlier this year, a labour hire company working in the Waikato was fined $57,000 for failing to retain employment agreements or records of wage, time, holidays and leave. Stories like this are a sharp reminder for employers to address any gaps in employment documentation.

So, as a minimum, what do you need to keep on file?

  1. You must keep records for seven years – even if the employee has left. You can keep these records on paper or electronically, as long as the information can be accessed easily and converted into written form.
  2. For many businesses, your payroll system will keep the necessary wage, time, holiday and leave records. If you don’t have a system which contains this information, it is essential to keep your own accurate records.
  3. You must also keep a signed copy of each employee’s employment agreement, as well as current signed terms and conditions (if amended since the agreement was signed) and a clear description of all roles.
  4. In addition, it is recommended that you keep copies of work visas and drivers licences (if applicable), evidence of compliance with health and safety responsibilities, and contact details for each employee as well as their ‘in case of emergency’ contact.

What happens if you don’t keep employee records?

If you don’t have the required documentation, the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) or a Labour Inspector may issue an infringement fine. The minimum fine is set at $1000, with a maximum of $20,000 per three-month period if there are multiple breaches.

As well as being a legislative obligation, good record-keeping prevents misunderstandings and protects you and your employee if there is a problem. As such, it is also important to retain all documentation pertaining to performance and disciplinary processes and investigations, at least until such time as any formal warning expires. In a large proportion of cases before the Employment Relations Authority, although the outcome itself may be considered fair and reasonable, the employer has fallen short of the procedural requirements in running the disciplinary process. Hence, retaining evidence of your process is essential.

A recent example was an IT worker, awarded $40,000 after it was found that his employer did not provide all relevant information to him, conduct and/or document a thorough investigation process, or issue formal warnings prior to dismissal. Likewise, in July this year, a cruise ship engineer was awarded $44,000 in lost wages and compensation after the ERA found the dismissal process followed by the employer was flawed, and lacking evidence of a proper investigation or fair hearing.

Don’t get caught out! Please call us to discuss how we can help ensure your employee documentation is in order.

 

 

PositivePeople August 23, 2017 No Comments

GET YOUR BASES COVERED – GET YOUR HR BASICS RIGHT

In today’s busy life, with smart phones constantly buzzing and demands coming from every direction, it is normal and common for us to get really busy, for matters to become over complicated and for us to forget the basics. When you get pressurised and possibly even stressed, or things seem out of kilter, it is helpful to go back to the basics.  Are you getting enough sleep? Are you eating well and exercising regularly? These are the essentials which keep us grounded, keep us going and keep us sane.

HR is just the same.

Having employees is challenging as you never know what new situation or behaviour you will face each day. It is often in these situations or when we are faced with a crisis that we realise there are gaps in our HR policies or processes. These are the foundation of effectively managing your team, yet often they are overlooked.

The starting point for dealing with an employee issue is to reference back to your employment related documentation. What is in the job description? What is in the code of conduct? What is in the terms and conditions? What is in the employee handbook? What does the Employment Agreement say? What is in the policies?

Do you have a provision in your employment documentation that relates to the situation you are facing and could provide the solution as to how to handle the situation? Have you set clear expectations for your team members and have these been documented and well communicated?

Too often, however, when we reach for the Employment Agreement, appropriate policy or other essential employment documents, we realise that there are critical gaps. Given the particular circumstance at hand, this is no help to us. A person transgressing can wriggle free when there are holes in the employment documents, and the situation can be, or can become, difficult to remedy.

The key to being confident about handling whatever HR issues are in front of you is to ensure you have the HR  basics covered before you need them. A solid IEA, backed by comprehensive policies and a code of conduct is worth its weight in gold when you have a tricky employment situation. It makes sense for every employer to review these annually to make sure they are in line with legislative changes, and to ensure they have been well communicated to their team members. Communication in advance of an issue can avoid the occurrence of the issue altogether.

Most employees don’t deliberately break rules. When they do, it is often a combination of pressure, a difficult situation or a lack of understanding of workplace expectations and standards. Having sound employment foundation documents not only helps minimise risk, but also helps your team to feel secure and confident in the knowledge that they understand the behaviours and performance standards expected of them.

Just like lack of sleep, it is often not until we get cranky and stressed that we realise we need an early night. Don’t make the same mistake with your team. Make sure you have all your HR basics covered before you need them.

When was the last time you reviewed your HR employment documentation. Positive People can help you make sure you have the right foundations in place to manage your team well.  Call us to find out more. Click here for more information.