|[DUNCAN COTTERILL] GET READY: MINIMUM WAGE TO INCREASE TO $22.70 PER HOUR ON 1 APRIL 2023
Please note: we have only included the payroll related sections of this article, use the link (below) to the full article.
Recent weather has devastated many communities New Zealand. Having only recently addressed issues arising from COVID-19 lockdowns, dealing with flood and storm damage is yet another hurdle for businesses to overcome.
We learnt many things during the various lockdowns, many of which are applicable during present circumstances.
We have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions which we hope can provide some insight into how to ensure employment risk is minimised during these difficult times.
2. How do we manage remote working arrangements?
By now, many businesses will be used to remote working in some form. Ideally, each business will have established policies and IT infrastructure in place to manage remote working.
One of the key difference between COVID-19 lockdown and the recent weather events is that employees’ homes may have been damaged. In many cases, an employee may not be able to work remotely as they have their own damage to deal with and/or may be without power or internet. Where an
In cases where an employee has advised they can work remotely, it is still important for businesses to conduct risk assessments. A ‘workplace’ under the HSWA includes a remote working environment, meaning an employer’s obligations extend to an employee’s home. An employer may approach such
assessment by engaging the employee (through an appropriate questionnaire) to assess risks in their home, including physical risks (trips, slips), health risks (mould, flood damage), and risks relating to security and confidentiality.
3. Do we have to pay employees if there is no, or reduced, available work?
This is a situation we encountered during COVID-19 lockdowns, and indeed one that the Courts have provided clear views on.
The key question is whether an employee is ‘ready, willing and able’ to work. That question is answered from the employee’s perspective. So, if work is unavailable for any reason, but the employee is otherwise ready, willing and able to work, then the employer will need to pay the employee. In contrast, if
the employee is not able to come to work (such as transportation issues, or caring for family), then the employer is unlikely to be obliged to pay the employee.
This applies to current and ‘intending’ employees equally. Employment law extends to employees who have signed an employment agreement but are yet to start work. They must be treated with equal care and attention to employees that are presently working. Most importantly, employers cannot revoke
There may be many cases where, due to storm damage, employers cannot open or facilitate remote working, but otherwise still need to pay employees. The next section addresses ways to work with that scenario.
4. What do we do if we cannot afford to pay employees?
This will be a pressing issue for many businesses affected by the storm, in particular SME businesses. The law is protective of an employee’s right to be paid, but there are ways to mitigate financial harm. Below are some suggested methods that can be used individually or, where practicable, collectively.
Reduction of hours
For waged employees, a reduction in hours will correlate directly to remuneration. For salaried staff, businesses ought to seek agreement with employees on a pro-rated reduction in remuneration to account for the reduced hours of work.
Reduction of pay
If this is being considered, businesses need to take care to conduct a proper restructuring process. Just because the reason for the restructure may be clear to all, employment law obligations still apply even in the most dire of circumstances. Seeking legal advice before commencing a restructure is important.
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