Top Tips - Employing Staff in New Zealand 04 Jul 2016

We have seen a lot of employers falling into some common pitfalls when interacting with their employees. These are our Top 10 Tips for employers for avoiding the most common employment relations issues.

1. Do a thorough pre-employment check Make sure to screen all potential employees before hiring them. Things such as criminal history, medical-and drug-testing, and good referee checks can help avoid employment problems down the road.

2. Finalise and sign employment agreements before an employee starts work The employment agreement is the most important document of the employment relationship, so make sure it is finalised and signed before the employee starts work. A 90 Day Trial Period will only be enforceable if the agreement is signed before the employee starts work.

3. Choose the correct employment agreement Whether you use a permanent, fixed-term, or casual agreement will depend on the circumstances, and each carries its own benefits and risks. Do not be tempted to use a fixed-term agreement to establish whether an employee is suitable for permanent employment.

4. Have policy documents on display and easily accessible Employee practices are often governed by company policies as well as by the terms of their employment agreement or job description. Whether they relate to health and safety, company vehicles, IT, or telecommunications, employees can only be bound by rules they are informed of, so have all policy documents accessible and encourage employees to read them.

5. Keep proper records of every employee This includes records of the employee’s annual and sick leave entitlements, wage/salary records, job descriptions, and a copy of their employment agreement. Make sure you have a file for each employee, and that all their records are filed in it.

6. Always consult with employees before adjusting their hours, roles, or terms Employers cannot unilaterally change the terms on which an employee works. Consulting with employees on these matters is vital, and you may find that they have ideas you had not considered.

7. Keep up-to-date with developments The law is changing all the time; make sure to keep up-to-date with the latest changes to employment law, even where it seems irrelevant to your specific business. It may be that the law has wider application than you expected, or that it becomes relevant further down the track.

8. Act promptly and follow correct disciplinary and redundancy procedures Where you suspect an employee of misconduct or poor performance, act promptly and always follow clear and fair procedures. Never ambush employees with allegations or performance review meetings. Give employees full and timely notice of any disciplinary meetings, and allow them time to prepare and respond.

9. Do not be afraid to go to mediation Most employment problems can be resolved by either informal negotiation or in mediation. Mediation is a voluntary and highly flexible method of resolving disputes, and often leads to mutually satisfactory outcomes.

10. When in doubt, come to us Whenever you have concerns about an employee or the terms of your employment agreements, talk to your lawyer before taking any steps. We can help to determine the best approach to take, resolve disputes as quickly as possible, and assist in improving your employment agreements.

Parry Field has been assisting employers in New Zealand since 1948. Based in Christchurch we have the experience and resources to help you.