We specialise in representation of workers. We know that huge numbers of you are now facing change and uncertainty – and that you will have questions about your rights during the lockdown. We have addressed some crucial issues below, and are here to talk with you about any specific issues of concern.
Workers rights under the Employment Relations Act continue, whether or not the employer takes the wage subsidy. The employer is obliged to follow the processes if the employer wants to change rates of pay or hours of work. Failure to do so, can give rise to a personal grievance against the employer.
It is important to keep in mind that the Holidays Act continues to apply, despite the Level 4 lockdown. In terms of annual leave, that means:
- In the first instance, employees and employers should agree on when annual leave is to be taken. Parties might agree that a worker can top up his/her wage subsidy payments using annual leave. If a worker asks to do this, the employer cannot say no unless there is a good reason to do so (such as the business not being able to afford it, currently).
- If an employer and employee cannot agree on when annual leave is to be taken, the employer can then decide. However – the employer must give 14 days’ notice of any requirement to take annual leave. This notice period will be important wherever an employer seeks to force workers to take annual leave during the current lockdown period.
The employer cannot require a worker to take sick leave unless that worker (or a member of their family) is sick. That is the normal rule, and it continues to apply.
Redundancy, during any period for which the wage subsidy is an option, might well be hard for an employer to justify. If the employer would be able to keep the worker employed using the wage subsidy, redundancy shouldn’t be on the table. In other words, an employer seeking to make a worker redundant would have to show that the wage subsidy would make no difference to the viability of the business.
As per usual, an employer proposing redundancies must follow a fair process (including following any requirements set out in the employment agreement).
ACC remains operational, along with Fairway Resolutions (who carry out review hearings). The District Court also remains open, for filing of appeals against review decisions.
It is therefore crucial that all ACC claimants looking to challenge either 1) a decision from ACC, or 2) a review decision, comply with the relevant timeframes (3 months to lodge a review application, 28 days to file an appeal against a review decision). Those deadlines continue to apply.
ACC cover and entitlements are open to those who contract Covid 19 in the course of their work – so long as their work places them at a significantly greater risk of contracting the virus. This would likely apply to such workers as medical staff, carers, airline staff etc. Unfortunately ACC cover will not be available for people who contract the virus outside of their work.
When you return to work (or if you are continuing to attend work in an ‘essential’ business during the lockdown) your employer must engage with you in relation to how risks to your health can best be managed.
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Why choose Armstrong Thompson Barristers and Solicitors?
Armstrong Thompson is a specialist law firm, with offices in Wellington and Tauranga, New Zealand. We specialise in accident compensation (ACC) law, and also act for clients in health and safety law and employment law. Armstrong Thompson’s staff understand that ACC, employment and health and safety disputes can be distressing, and we work closely with you to resolve your issues with as little difficulty as possible. We are willing to act for you in your ACC, employment and health and safety law issues no matter where in New Zealand you live.
Hazel Armstrong is the co-convenor of ACC Futures Coalition, which aims to uphold the integrity of New Zealand’s accident compensation scheme. The firm also works closely with unions on issues such as ACC, employment disputes, contract drafting and health and safety consultation.
Armstrong Thompson believes in providing clients with clear and practical advice. We understand that engaging in legal disputes can be stressful, so we aim to make the resolution process as clear and stress-free as possible. We act for clients from all around New Zealand.
We are aware that hiring a lawyer can place a financial strain on those in disadvantaged positions, which is why Armstrong Thompson endeavours to keep our fees competitive. We are also registered legal aid providers, meaning we can provide legal services to those unable to fund their own case. We also have fee agreements with several unions around the country.