MBIE is encouraging employers to consider the benefits to productivity and regulatory compliance of promoting good mental health amongst employees as the nation marks Mental Health Awareness Week for 2018, suggesting workplace activities to promote wellbeing. Worksafe NZ has previously reminded employers they must manage employee stress and prevent stress factors like workplace bullying.
A company and its two shareholder directors have been fined $132K for breaches of employment standards, and on the stand down list for 2 years, and ordered to pay reparations totalling $30K. It was found they had lured three migrant students to work in a remote shop before grossly underpaying and exploiting the students and falsifying records to conceal the exploitation.
A partner of the major law firm Russell McVeagh has resigned after an allegations of drunken sexist conducts at a client function were substantiated. The resignation comes after a major review of the firm's culture exposed serious concerns about widespread sexism and sexual harassment. The 'RMac situation' has prompted wider questions about the place of women in NZ's legal sector.
An MBIE investigation has revealed 73 of 75 Chorus subcontractors investigated had breached employment law by requiring "volunteer" labour, imposing extended unpaid training periods, and breaching the Minimum Wage Act's provisions. Serious concerns have also been raised over migrant worker exploitation. Labour Inspectorate action is forthcoming, with possible penalties of up to $100K.
The Employment Relations Authority has fined a hospitality operator $10K for failing to keep accurate employment records. The penalty was aggravated by the operator's "grudging and partial" co-opeartion with the Labour Inspectorate's investigation and their showing "no real remorse", highlighting the importance of assisting the investigation and demonstrating contrition for breaches.
A New Zealand Defence Force internal investigation has cleared five instructors at the Waioruru Military Camp of having inappropriate relationships with recruits, while another officer has been cleared of assaulting a recruit by a military tribunal. The absolutions come months after seven staff at the camp were discharged following allegations of impropriety.
A Nelson food retailer and fast food franchisee has been convicted of exploiting 12 migrant workers in his employ. The man was sentenced to 9 months' home detention, 200 hours community service, and to pay $150K in reparations. Several workers were grossly underpaid and made to work in breach of visa conditions, and some were forced to do domestic work for his family.
Employers and their representatives in employment matters have been reminded of the importance of not discussing matters "without prejudice" that they may later seek to rely on in evidence, even at very early stages of disputes, after the ERA recently ruled matters discussed on this basis were not admissible in proceedings before the Authority.
The Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety has launched the third phase of WorkSafe's SafePlus online tool. Designed to help SMEs improve their health and safety, the latest phase of the tool helps businesses have their staff self-assess the company's leadership on and worker engagement with health and safety issues to help them work on compliance.
Reforms of the State Sector and Crown Entities Reform Act have come into force. The State Services Commissioner will now have to expressly authorise Crown entity chief executive's terms and conditions of employment, rather than simply consult on them as at present. The reform is part of current government efforts to depress public sector pay and conditions.