Good to see an employer win costs

April 11th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A flight attendant sacked after being accused of eating food meant for passengers and berating a customer has lost a bid to get her job back at Air New Zealand.

Jennifer Kilpatrick was fired after a dispute about her behaviour on flight NZ19 from Rarotonga to Auckland in March 2012, and her subsequent sick leave.

She fought a long-running battle to get her job back.

In a judgement released last week Judge Perkins ordered Kilpatrick to pay $80,000 in costs plus $795.50 in disbursements to Air New Zealand. She was also told to pay $8,750 the Authority originally awarded.

It is rare for an employee to be hit with such a large costs bill, but you’ll see it was justified in this case as Stuff reports.

She then took a personal grievance case to the Employment Relations Authority claiming she was unjustifiably dismissed, but there was no merit found to her claims.

Kilpatrick appealed the decision to the Employment Court claiming unjustifiable dismissal and breach of contract, in a case that was heard in July last year.

But Judge Mark Perkins again threw out Kilpatrick’s claims and noted that when giving evidence in court she had been deliberately misinterpreting questions to give vague answers.

He found it difficult to understand Kilpatrick’s stance and believed Air New Zealand was well within its rights to start disciplinary action against her.

“Ms Kilpatrick failed to appropriately engage with Air New Zealand in good faith and in a timely manner,” the judge said.

“She refused to agree to meetings with management which were arranged so that Air New Zealand could hear her side of events and possibly get to the bottom of why she had behaved in the way she did and by which discussion she could possibly have saved her employment.”

In his costs decision released on Thursday, Judge Perkins said the way Kilpatrick had presented and conducted her case was inefficient and added significantly to the costs incurred by Air New Zealand.

Some of the details suggest she was very unsuited for a customer job:

A flight attendant on the Rarotonga flight, Michelle Coyle, gave evidence during January’s hearing that Kilpatrick had been combative from the start.

During a pre-flight meeting of attendants, she said she asked Kilpatrick if she preferred to be called Jenny or Jen, which was met with the response: “Neither, I am neither of them and if you want to call me that I’m going home; it’s over”.

During the flight Kilpatrick was responsible for the galley and her attitude was described as poor by Coyle.

Kilpatrick had not programmed the in-flight entertainment screens to include food orders, leading to complaints from passengers about a lack of food.

The galley was described as “a shambles” with carts out and no replenishing of tea or coffee.

One passenger also saw Kilpatrick eating one of the pies, which were supposed to be available for purchase by passengers but had not been added to the in-flight screen.

The passenger made a pointed comment to Kilpatrick about the situation, who then “rudely berated him” for watching her while she ate.

After shouting at several other flight attendants and calling them “useless” she was told to stop shouting but said “I’m not shouting, I have a loud voice”.

I wonder how she got hired in the first place. Maybe she presented well at interview.

FarroFresh seem a good employer

March 25th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

At first they sound not so good:

Luxury supermarket chain Farro Fresh is docking the wages of checkout staff whose tills don’t tally.

The posh food chain said the wage deduction policy cuts down on employee mistakes and deters theft.

But unions insisted the practice is outdated with most of the big supermarket chains, fast food industry and banks steering clear of the controversial practice.

I’m not a huge fan. I recall working at Woolworths when I was 14 and being massively offended when a manager told me the till I had worked on was out, and if it happened again I would have it deducted from my pay.

The problem is I was not the only staffer who worked on that till. So they just assumed the mistake (or theft) was from me. I would have quit rather than accepted a deduction for something I did not do.

Back then the tills didn’t tell you how much change to give, so you had to work it out yourself. I was pretty good at maths and enjoyed doing so, and was confident any mistakes didn’t occur when I was on it.

Draper explained that no deductions were made without the consent and permission of the staff member.

He said: “A checkout operator counts and signs out their float and this needs to balance at the end of the day.

“After each transaction, the till tells the checkout operator exactly how much change is to be handed over. This reduces human mathematical errors, and ensures tills balance.

“Unders and overs’ are tracked for every person on every shift. If the balance at the end of a month is greater than an allowable amount, then a meeting is held with the staff member. If it is less then no action is taken.”

He added: “If the staff member does not agree to a deduction then none is made, and it has to be 100 per cent transparent it is operator error.”

If you’re going to do it, this sounds a fair way to do it.

FarroFresh had grown from having just 12 employees in 2006 to over 350 today. Draper said staff got many perks including instore discounts, birthdays off, staff sandwiches, free coffees and hot chocolates via our baristas.

“For many employees this is at least two a day, at a cost of approximately $4 each.”

And, he said: “For the past two years all the turnover on Labour Day has been given back to the employees. Not the profit but the total turnover.”

That’s very generous. They sound like a good employer.

Is Labour seeing sense or is it a con?

July 18th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

Labour leader Andrew Little has indicated his party has changed its position and now backs controversial 90-day trial periods for new employees.

Great if true.

Speaking after a business breakfast this morning, Mr Little was asked about the 90-day trials, and he said Labour’s policy was to add a “fairness requirement”.

“The principle thing is, on the 90-day trial thing, every business owner I talk to about having to give feedback to someone under a trial, they all say, ‘Yeah, but I do that already’.

“So there won’t be any new onerous obligation in that regard. But it will make it fair and we want to write that into the law.”

Asked if his comments meant that the trial periods – previously opposed by Labour – would remain in a Government under his leadership, he said they would.

“We wouldn’t be talking about making the 90-day trial period fairer if we were going to get rid of it…the 90-day trail thing is there, we want to make it fair.”

Now what is crucial is what will be in this fairness requirement? If it is a requirement to follow the same process as for staff outside the 90 day period, then it is effectively abolishing the 90 day period.

If it is merely a requirement to give feedback to staff during the 90 day period, then that is a genuine change of policy – and one to be welcomed.

Stuff reports:

CTU president Helen Kelly called for clarification.

“Making it fairer gets rid of it, right? He needs to clarify that,” Kelly said.

“We would expect them to effectively get rid of them by making unfair dismissals unlawful.”

Kelly said the 90-day trial periods allowed workers to be dismissed for reasons which would otherwise not be fair, without giving the worker the option of taking a personal grievance claim.

If Labour introduced “just cause” provisions to the trials to allow personal grievances, the CTU could accept that, as this returned to the earlier rules in existing laws covering probationary periods.

Helen Kelly is saying that if you make them “fair” then you are effectively getting rid of them.

So until Labour actually comes up with a explicit policy, we simply don’t know. For now it might just be trying to say one thing to employers and another to unions, and hoping no one notices they are different.

But if it is a genuine change of policy, then it is a good sign for Labour. They’re running a two year consultation on the future of work, and beyond doubt the message they will be getting back is that work in 2015 is massively changed from the 1970s and work arrangements need to be more flexible to reflect that. If they spend two years onsulting and then come up with the exact same policy as in 2011 and 2014 – well it will look like a farce.

Woodhouse on zero hour contracts

July 13th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Michael Woodhouse has announced:

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse today announced a package of measures to prevent unfair employment practices such as ‘zero-hour contracts’.

“New Zealand has a well-functioning labour market in general and our employment relations framework aims to strike the right balance between flexibility and certainty,” says Mr Woodhouse.

“However there are some practices that I believe are unnecessary and unacceptable for modern working arrangements.

“For example, zero-hour contracts refers to employment arrangements, including permanent, where the employer does not guarantee any hours of work, yet requires employees to be available.  This is unfair and makes it difficult for employees to plan their financial and personal lives.”

It is vital that it is only the double standard situation which is covered, not all contracts with no guaranteed hours.If like some on the left you say no contracts at all should have no minimum hours, then you are abolishing every casual job in New Zealand.

As I have consistently said, I don’t think it is fair to require employees to be available for work, when the employer won’t guarantee any set hours.

The proposed changes will prohibit unfair practices including:

  • employers not committing any hours of work, but expecting employees to be available when required

  • employers cancelling a shift without providing reasonable notice or compensation to the employee

  • employers putting unreasonable restrictions on secondary employment of employees

  • employers making unreasonable deductions from employees’ wages.

These seem reasonable to me. I’m not sure there is a wide-spread problem in any of these areas – but there have been some cases where employers have acted badly – such as docking wages of petrol station attendants if someone drives off without paying. This is probably illegal under current law, but the bill being introduced will make it beyond doubt.

Gordon Campbell against Uber

June 28th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Gordon Campbell writes:

It would be nice to think that California – the home state of Hollywood – may have finally and decisively overturned the “contractor” fiction through which the likes of Uber and the film industry continue to exploit their workers. Uber and Warners do like to portray themselves as being at the forefront of technological innovation and business excellence. Well, it’s the 21st century, guys. Maybe its time you stopped making your employees accept 19th century work conditions as the basis for keeping their jobs. Basically, if your business model depends on offloading your own legitimate costs onto your workforce, then maybe the model doesn’t deserve to endure.

So Gordon Campbell thinks the Uber model does not deserve to endure. Has he not noticed that many taxi drivers are flocking to Uber because they earn much more money with Uber, as Uber doesn’t have huge sign up fees, or costs. They’re often better off. But Gordon, like many on the left, don’t like anyone being contractors.

This is going to be a good test for Labour’s Future of Work Commission. The future of work is companies like Uber allowing people to be contractors and private drivers. Uber would die if they were forced to become employers, rather than merely a booking app.

Will Labour come up with policies that reflect the 21st century? Flexibility is what the 21st century is about, not forcing everyone to be an employee.

So it is okay for Greens to sack without cause, but not other employers?

June 9th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

“We haven’t renewed Ken’s contract,” said Shaw, who replaced Russel Norman at co-leader at the end of May. “We offered the contract to Andrew, who’s accepted it”.

So let’s be clear. They had an employee who wanted to carry on. He was not incompetent at his job. He had been there eight years. They didn’t sack him for incompetence or misconduct – they just decided to choose someone else who they thought would be better.

Now think if any other employer did that? Greens (and Labour) insist that employees not even be given a 90 day trial. They say that once an employee is hired, they must be kept in a job indefinitely, unless the position is made redundant, or they are sacked for incompetence or misconduct. They would kick up a stink if some other employer kicked someone to the kerb, simply because they had found someone better to take their place.

Legally they can do so, because Parliament has special contracts that give employees almost no rights. Their contracts expire when  ever there is a change of leader, MP or an election. And even worse they can dump you at any time if they merely decide you are no longer compatible. They oppose any other employer in NZ having those rights, but happily will use them for themselves.

Many staff in Parliament and the Beehive have “events based” contracts, which come with little job security, but a likely three month redundancy payout on termination.

However, this does not cover staff employed in the various leaders’ offices, meaning Spagnolo faced leaving with no redundancy.

Shaw said that the Green Party’s MPs saw the situation as unfair and so would put their hands in their pockets to cover the cost.

“There are some staff that get a redundancy payment and some don’t depending on what budget they’re on,” Shaw said.

“We…choose to match that so that our staff are treated fairly no matter which category they are under”.

The move means MPs “take the hit on that ourselves”, he said.

Now that is a decent thing to do, and good on them. But it doesn’t mean they escape the underlying hypocrisy of dumping a long serving staffer who wanted to stay on, just because they felt someone else could do a better job.

I’m not against that. My point is why are they opposed to all other employers being able to do the same?

Restaurant Brands scraps zero hour contracts

April 10th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Workers at KFC, Starbucks, and Pizza Hut will be guaranteed hours of work as their zero hours contracts are to be abandoned by the company which owns the fast food chains.

Restaurant Brands has committed to end zero hour contracts by July, in a collective agreement struck with Unite Union.

Under the controversial contracts, workers had to be available for work but had no guaranteed hours per week. 

Unite Union said its bargaining team unanimously supported the proposal, which guaranteed a worker at least 80 per cent of the average hours they had worked over the three-month period. 


This is a good thing.

Where an employer has regular guaranteed work and hours, they should try and provide some certainty to staff – especially when the staff have to be available for work.

But this doesn’t mean that zero hour contracts should be outlawed – far from it. Not all industries and employers are the same.

Negotiation is the way you deal with these issues, not one size fits all laws.

Tougher sanctions for bad employers

March 27th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Government has announced some changes to employment law, to deal with the small number of bad or abusive employers. They are:

  • A 500% increase in maximum penalties to $50,000 for individuals and $100,000 for companies
  • Public naming of employers who breach minimum standards
  • The ability to ban an individual from being an employer if they are consistently in breach of the law

These are targeted at the worse repeat offenders, and show a nice balanced approach to the law.


Paid lunch breaks?

March 25th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reported:

Cotton On appears to have backed away from plans to strip workers at its Auckland distribution centre of their tea breaks, but their union says it is not yet convinced the war has been won.

Don’t you love the emotional term “strip”.

All that happened is the employer put forward a proposal. Unless the union agreed to it, it couldn’t occur.

The union wanted to preserve the current entitlement to a 15 minute paid tea break and a 30 minute paid lunch break and he was not clear from Cotton On’s statement that both would be retained.

Staff get a paid lunch break??

This is a first for me. I don’t know of any other employer that pays you over your lunch break. Tea breaks yes, but not lunch breaks.

The union ran screaming to the media about the employer’s proposal. Ironically if the employer did the same, they’d be fined by the Employment Court for a breach of good faith. But do you note we were never told exactly what the employer proposed. Just emotional rhetoric over stripping breaks.

If Cotton On employees are getting paid lunch breaks, they’re doing better than most employees. Have you ever worked for an employer that pays your wages over your lunch break? I’d be genuinely interested to hear.

A confused article

February 17th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The Government is set to tighten up the rules around zero-hour contracts – the casual employment agreements that saw petrol station workers docked wages after customers drove off.

This article conflates two separate issues. Zero hours contracts and if an employer can deduct wages for staff actions or inactions which cause a loss. The latter issue could occur no matter how many hours you are contracted for, and it is misleading to conflate the issues.

I think deducting wages of petrol station workers for drive offs is wrong, and illegal in many cases.

It comes as a union campaign to outlaw the controversial contracts – which are widely used in the fast-food and service industries – gathers a head of steam.

The terms mean staff work and get paid only when they are needed and often at short notice. Shifts can be cancelled, without reimbursement for travel or other costs. Holiday, sick pay and other employment rights are not guaranteed and in some cases employees are penalised for losses.

Again this is wrong. The article lumps together a number of what you may call employment abuses and calls them zero hours contracts. This is useful to Labour and the unions who have a campaign against them, but it is again misleading.

Zero hour contracts do mean staff only get paid when needed and can be cancelled at short notice. But it does not mean holiday pay is not guaranteed – that is an absolute right. It also has nothing to do with penalising employees for losses. That is a separate issue.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Woodhouse said he was motivated to act after it emerged Gull service station managers had billed staff when customers fled without paying for their fuel.

He has asked officials to look at a ban on practices “where there is no quid-pro-quo in the employment relationship”. It will form part of an ongoing review of employment standards that began last year.

Billing staff for drive offs is wrong and exploitative and may already be illegal. It is good the Government is looking into the law around that.

However, it is unlikely the Government will go as far as outlawing zero-hours contracts – because they suit students, part-time parents and the semi-retired. He rejected the ‘Certainty at Work’ legislation proposed by Labour last week, saying it was “blunt and unsophisticated and would make things worse for the workers”.

It could effectively be a ban on all casual work, which would devastate many employees and employers. As the article says, zero hours contracts suit many students who don’t want fixed hours.

My view is that zero hour contracts are absolutely fine – however if the employer does not guarantee a minimum number of hours, then the employee can’t be forced to work any particular hours – ie the employer has to persuade staff to work a particular shift – rather than just force them on, with no reciprocal obligation of minimum hours.

Kelly says current employment laws only provide for fixed-term or permanent employment.

“If someone is fixed term they have to be employed on genuine grounds. We think most casual employment is already illegal, it just requires enforcement.

So the CTU and their parliamentary wing want to abolish casual work. Nice.

Little pledges to outlaw zero hour contracts

December 2nd, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

It was an accident of timing that on the very day he was signalling the party needed to modernise its cloth-cap image, he should be invited to speak at Unite, the most militant of modern unions. There were liberal references to “mate” and “brother” from Mr Little in the question session that followed.

“Will Labour outlaw zero-hour contracts?” one delegate asked directly. Getting rid of them is a new campaign for Unite.

Mr Little had already criticised zero-hour contracts in the morning speech as a disturbing trend.

“Zero-hour contracts” give employers the right to tell employees from week to week how many hours they will be working, if any at all – hence the word zero.

Mr Little answered: “The idea that you sign up and enter into an obligation to make yourself available to the employer with no reciprocal obligation for the employer to provide work, that’s not acceptable.

“If it doesn’t change, we will outlaw it,” he said to resounding applause.

That would be a huge mistake.

I share the distaste that some fast food companies use zero hour contracts, when they have regular hours and demand. I wish good luck to UNITE for negotiating an end to them in those industries.

However Little will be making a huge mistake if he follows through on his pledge to outlaw them, as there are industries and businesses where they are essential.  If an employer literally has no work available, then it is insane to say they must pay staff to turn up and do nothing.

Also many students like zero hour contracts as it gives them flexibility also, to just work the shifts they can. Making it illegal for an employer and employee to agree to a casual contract would be draconian.  It would mean a diary owner couldn’t have a relief worker on call, for example.

Yes there is a problem in the fast food industry. But do not treat all businesses and industries the same. You’ll destroy lots of jobs and employers if you do.

Slightly different to petrol stations

November 23rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A supermarket boss told teenage checkout girls to fork out up to $700 when organised thieves walked off with full trolleys.

This sounds just as bad as the petrol station stories about making staff pay for drive offs, but there is a difference.

The mother of one of the Pak’nSave checkout girls said the company was “passing the buck” on to its least powerful workers. “Those sort of huge firms will just push you around and that’s just the way it is, they get away with it,” said the woman, who did not want to be named to protect her daughter from employment repercussions.

Her daughter, then 18, earned $13.75 and worked 10 to 30 hours a week. She was working with a colleague on one checkout early this year when two women approached with two trolleys. After the first, full of expensive goods, was scanned the first woman asked her to get her some eggs.

When she returned the woman was unloading the first trolley into a car as her accomplice prepared to pay the checkout operator for both trolleys – until her debit card was declined. “She said, I need to get another card from the car, then she went out and they took off with the first trolley. Cunning, eh?” said the worker’s mother.

The supermarket’s owner-operator Andrew Soutar insisted the teens were liable to split the cost of the theft, about $700, because they should have prevented it.

This is slightly different. The staff allowed the women to leave without paying. Yes they were conned, but there would be procedures such as don’t leave your till unattended, and don’t let someone leave unattended without leaving the unpaid groceries behind.

This is different to petrol stations where staff can’t actually do anything to prevent drive offs.

Now having said that, it’s still pretty heartless by the store owner. Rather than make the girls pay, I would give them a warning, tell them if they didn’t follow procedures in future then they may be liable, and use it as a training example for other staff on the sort of cons you can get.

The petrol station owners were probably breaking the law. The supermarket owner is not I would say, but I think they are lacking some compassion. It was a fairly sophisticated con, and you should allow people to learn from their mistakes. Having said that, it would be useful to know how explicit and detailed the policies and procedures were on what to do in these situations.

Punish the thieves not the workers

November 21st, 2014 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Customers cost service stations millions by fleeing without paying, but low-paid workers appear to be bearing the brunt.

In the wake of a story yesterday highlighting the case of workers at Masterton’s Night ‘n Day store, which also operates a Gull service station, being docked wages after customers drove off without paying, employees at other stations have come forward with more examples of the practice.

At least one other service station in the Wellington area routinely docked workers for “drive-offs”, and dozens of reader comments and emails spoke of other instances.

“I asked my boss, ‘How are we supposed to stop the drivers?’ And he said . . . ‘You’ve got to try to do your best to stop them getting off the forecourt’,” said a Hutt Valley Caltex station worker, who asked not to be named for fear of losing his job.

That’s appalling. Would a retailer dock wages off staff to compensate for shoplifters?

Of course staff should attempt to stop drive offs, but in many cases it won’t be possible.

The solution for owners is to report drive offs to the Police, not to take it from their staff’s pay.

Zero hour contracts

November 17th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

3 News reports:

There’s a call to ban “zero hour” contracts following evidence their use in New Zealand is spreading.

The contracts don’t guarantee any hours of work and employees have to be ready to come in when they’re called.

Unions say employers have started following their overseas counterparts.

“McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Burger King, Wendy’s – all of the contracts have no minimum hours,” Unite Union’s Mike Treen said on Radio New Zealand today.

“People can be, and are, rostered anywhere from three to 40 hours a week, or sometimes 60 hours a week.”

The use of zero hour contracts when the employer’s hours of operation are well known in advance seems pretty scummy. If you know your opening hours you should be able to guarantee a minimum number of hours to staff.

NZ First says they must be outlawed.

Industrial relations spokesman Clayton Mitchell says the contracts are “a dreadful British experiment” that New Zealand doesn’t need.

“These contracts are despicable and cruel, and designed to put workers at the beck and call of their employer,” he said.

Banning them however would be very stupid and undesirable. Not all employers are the same. Some employers do not have fixed hours of operation. They only have work for their staff, when they have clients who have work for them to do. If you ban zero hour contracts for all employers, then you would potentially bankrupt some employers who would be having to pay staff to turn up and do nothing.

Treating all employers as the same is stupid and inflexible. McDonalds is not the same as a call centre, for example. The solution to the zero hour contracts at McDonalds is now a law change, but negotiations with McDonalds.

Falling for Labour spin

October 25th, 2014 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Hipkins also pointed out the irony of National MPs enjoying a leisurely 90-minute break for dinner during debate on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill, which takes away the statutory entitlement to … a meal break. You can set your clock by the time MPs rise for dinner – every sitting day at 6pm, stretching it out till 7.30pm. National hoped to pass the legislation this week but ran out of time.

Good spin by Labour, but falls short on numerous grounds.

First of all that is only the time during which the House is suspended. That does not mean it is a 90 minute break for MPs who do nothing else during that time. Almost every day of the week there are seminars, speeches, events they get invited to. Also most have a quick dinner in their office and carry on working on their correspondence, reading etc. Being present in the House is a small part of what an MP does.

Secondly I would note that that few jobs have you working from 9 am to 10 pm – a 13 hour day instead of a eight hour day.

Thirdly the law change does not take away an entitlement to a meal break – it merely restores flexibility in what they are. This was the situation up until around ten years ago when Labour decided to pass law mandating inflexible breaks, which caused chaos in industries such as air traffic controllers.

One size fits all statutory requirements tend to be stupid, and Labour’s one was. 99.9% of employees will be unaffected by the law change.

On Labour’s Youth Employment Policy

August 5th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

A reader e-mails:

Maybe your  readers can figure this one out….

Labour’s Youth Employment policy announced today includes  the Kick Start Apprenticeship scheme. This will offer a payment of $9,100 ( the equivalent of the dole) each time an employer provides a full time permanent job, salary and training to an unemployed youth who is 18 or 19, been on the dole for at least 3 months and is at medium to high risk of being on the dole full time. 

This might make sense if it weren’t for the fact  that Labour’s Work and Wages Policy will significantly increase the minimum wage and remove youth rates and 90 day trial periods! 

I can just see employers flocking to grab $9k for the privilege of putting huge effort into inexperienced  unmotivated youth with no comeback if they don’t work out, and paying them the same as experienced workers…..Not much chance of government being a player either as Labour has promised that government employers will to pay at least $18.40 to first time employees .  It will be cheaper to leave them on the dole!!!

Very good points. 90 day trials allow employers to take a risk on a young inexperienced voter.

Why stop at a four day week – let’s go for one day

July 5th, 2014 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A four-day working week promoted by one of Britain’s top doctors is a “radical” concept worthy of debate, considering the importance of a healthy work-life balance, a Canterbury health leader says.

A business leader in the region, however, says the idea is “nonsense” and imposing a rigid standard would be a backwards step.

Professor John Ashton, the president of the United Kingdom Faculty of Public Health, told British media this week that “a mal-distribution of work” was damaging people’s health.

Ashton called for Britain to phase out the five-day week, saying it would help combat high levels of work-related stress and illness.

Too many people were working “crazy” hours and a significant number of people were not working at all, he said.

“We need a four-day week so that people can enjoy their lives, have more time with their families and maybe reduce [workers’] high blood pressure.”

Why stop at four days? Think how much better off we’d be if we only worked three days a week? Or two days? Why not one day a week?

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health Dr Alistair Humphrey, of the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB), said it was “a challenging and thought-provoking idea” worthy of debate.

No its’ not.

Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce chief executive Peter Townsend said it was “nonsense” to suggest a four-day working week would solve everyone’s problems.

“I get a bit tired of people who just put straight lines in the sand. That is not how the world works these days. You deal with things on an individual basis. If someone in your workplace is [showing] signs of stress you deal with it,” he said.

“A young couple that might be paying off a mortgage with no kids might want to work 60 hours a week. It is all about being accommodating and flexible.”

Exactly. the idea of a law that sets a maximum working week for everyone is socialist nonsense.

Auckland manufacturing company Manson Marine & Engineering allows its staff to opt for four-day weeks once a month. Staff work 10-hour days that week and earn an extra 12 days off a year as a result.

That’s a great example of flexibility – at an individual company level.

Name and shame bad employers

June 13th, 2014 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Businesses that breach employment standards could be “named and shamed” under Government proposals.

Some employers could also face jail sentences, steep fines, bans on doing business or seizure of equipment.

The options are laid out in a paper released by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Labour Minister Simon Bridges wants to crack down on migrant worker exploitation.

About 17 per cent of employees report that they are not getting one of more of the minimum legal entitlements, including holiday entitlement, minimum wage or having an employment agreement.

The Labour Inspectorate says it is seeing growing evidence of “more serious and intentional” breaches, such as the exploitation of migrant workers and vulnerable groups.

In a discussion document, the ministry proposes a series of tougher sanctions.

It says current penalties – a maximum $10,000 fine for an individual and $20,000 for a company – are not high when used.

Between January 2008 and March 2013, labour inspectors took 69 cases to the Employment Relations Authority, and the average penalty was $2826.

Officials are canvassing opinion on the options, which include naming and shaming businesses that breach standards.

This would be for those who deliberately breach the law with “serious and harmful effects” or those who commit “moderate to serious” breaches. A similar policy was adopted in Britain in 2011.

Another option would extend financial penalties to deter unlawful behaviour and to ensure there is no financial gain from non-compliance.

Fines would also be targeted at individuals to stamp out “phoenixing” – when directors wind up a company and begin another to avoid enforcement.

I support all of these.

Most employers are good employers who treat staff well.

There are a small minority who are exploitative, especially of migrants. They breach labour and human rights laws. I think we do need to be tougher with the very bad employers.

90 day trials benefiting small businesses and disadvantaged job hunters

June 11th, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Small businesses are more likely to hire disadvantaged job hunters since a 90-day trial period was introduced in 2011, research shows.

Recall Labour and Greens vow to abolish these, which would make us (off memory) the only country in the OECD without them.

A national survey of employers found that 72 per cent of those which used trial periods had not dismissed an employee during that time, while 27 per cent of employers had dismissed at least one worker during the trial period.

The report said smaller employers were most satisfied with the 90-day trial because they faced greater risks and costs when recruiting.

Larger employers benefited less, mainly because they had more robust recruitment processes and greater resources to manage risk, it said.

Under the 90-day trial, about one third of employers said they hired staff they would not have otherwise taken on.

The costs to an employer of a wrong staff hire can be quite massive, and job interviews are no substitute for seeing how someone actually performs.

Changes to the Holidays Act had partially met objectives and had minimal impact on firms’ costs, the report said.

Employers and unions said the ability to allow cashing up to occur and to transfer public holidays was sensible.

Didn’t the unions oppose the option of cashing up the 4th week of leave? Could never work out why – it gives employees more flexibility and choice.

Changes to union access and communication during collective bargaining had little impact on employers and unions and did not increase the number of problems reported.

Yet they claimed it would. Shows the recent changes have been minor, yet useful.


Finally an end

April 2nd, 2014 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Former Radio NZ news manager Lynne Snowdon has lost her marathon employment dispute with the state broadcaster.

In a decision issued today the Employment Court has scored the legal battle – believed to be the longest running employment dispute – at 3-0 to Radio NZ.

Judge Tony Ford said it was a rare case where Radio NZ had been able to establish on “entirely convincing facts” that Snowdon was substantially responsible for the irreconcilable breakdown in the employment relationship.

Snowdon went on sick leave in January 2003. She was dismissed in April 2005.

It’s insane that this case has dragged on for ten years. Hopefully this brings it to an end. I’ve followed the case for many years and had little doubt it would end this way.

Judge Tony Ford dismissed grounds claiming Snowdon had a disadvantage grievance, was unjustifiably dismissed, and that Radio NZ had falsely represented the financial situation at the heart of Snowdon’s complaints.

He said it had been a relatively straightforward employment dispute that had spiralled out of control.

Snowdon’s husband, John Hickling, told the court last year that it had cost Snowdon and her family more than $3.5 million to fight at that stage.

Snowdon let her grievance become an obsession. Off memory it all began as a dispute with then CEO Sharon Crosbie over the budget for the news division. If you don’t like the budget your boss gives you, then go find a new job – don’t turn it into a ten year dispute. If they really have spent $3.5 million on the fight, then that is even sadder, No one forced them to do so.

Since then the case has consumed another 47-day hearing.

Again, insane.

The judge said Radio NZ was entitled to costs and if the parties could not agree between themselves they would be decided by the court.

As a taxpayer, I want them to recover as many of their costs as possible.

Herald on revealing CVs

March 11th, 2014 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

The law is not always an ass but it can produce an absurdity. The decision of the Human Rights Review Tribunal to make a company disclose to a failed job applicant the CVs and reference checks of others going for a job is an example.

The aggrieved party complained to the tribunal that he was discriminated against on the basis of age. He wants to see the credentials of others who applied or succeeded in the process. Under the court system’s rules of “discovery”, which the tribunal adopts, all information pertinent to an action needs to be handed over from the defendant to the plaintiff. The tribunal has dismissed an application from the company involved, Alpine Energy, to block that discovery under a section of the Evidence Act which covers confidentiality.

So Alpine and its recruitment agency must give the man the information it has on the successful candidate and those who contested and lost. This would include not only names, applications and CVs (although the tribunal and the failed job-seeker have agreed it need not include addresses and contact details) but also reference and perhaps security checks.

A pretty appalling decision. You apply in confidence for a job. Revealing that you applied could endanger your current job. Also very unappealing forcing a company to justify why it didn’t employ someone. Employment decisions are often somewhat subjective – how well they interviewed, whether or not they would fit into the team culture, whether their CV had typos in it etc.

Amazing – presentation helps with jobs

February 17th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Maya Croll-Wright, 19, has several years of experience in hospitality, strong motivation and an outgoing personality. Yet, she struggles to find a job. Why? She has tattoos, blue hair and describes herself as overweight.

“I have had countless job interviews after applying for every job I can find. But as soon as they see me in person, it all goes downhill.”

In the past two months, Croll-Wright says she had about 20 interviews for jobs in cafes, shops and restaurants around Christchurch. She has been rejected from every one.

Then change the hair colour, and maybe you should have fewer visible tattoos until you have more work experience. In front line customer service roles, presentation is a fact of life. If that is where you want to work, then you may need to compromise on how you wish to look. It is less of an issue in back room roles.

An unjustified dismissal

January 15th, 2014 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

An interesting case from the Employment Relations Authority. A Fonterra worker was dismissed for taking part in two Harlem Shake meme videos filmed at Fonterra’s Takanini plant.

Reading the judgement I agree that dismissal way way over the top for a pretty minor infringement of the rules. The health and safety risk was minimal, and the appropriate reaction would have been a warning at most. Dismissal was an over-reaction and it is good to see an order for reinstatement.

The 90 day trial

December 6th, 2013 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Tens of thousands of workers have been sacked under the 90-day-trial period, with many let go because they “did not fit in”.

Figures published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment show about 69,000 employers took on at least one new staff member in 2012 under the legislation.

That’s 59% of employers.

It is not known how many workers were dismissed during the 90-day-trial period, but the figures revealed 27 per cent of employers said they had fired at least one new employee during or at the end of their trial.

This means at least 18,000 people lost their jobs in the first three months of employment last year, with the actual figure likely to be much higher.

When asked why they had dismissed staff, most employers said it was because they were unreliable or had a bad attitude. Other reasons included employees not having the necessary skills, not getting on with colleagues, and not fitting in.

The law has been widely criticised by unions and the Labour Party, which says it will repeal it if it is elected next year.

If Labour don’t repeal it, the unions can vote in a new leader!

Until we gained the trial period law in 2009, we were I think the only country in the OECD that didn’t have a grievance free trial period.

In terms of dismissals during the period, 56% said it was because the employee was unreliable and had a bad attitude. 51% said it was because they did not have the skills to do the job.

But Hospitality New Zealand Wellington president Jeremy Smith praised the trial period, claiming it had been positive for both employers and employees.

Mr Smith, who owns several bars and hotels including The Old Bailey, St Johns and the Cambridge Hotel, said he had hired dozens of staff he would not otherwise have considered.

Because of the transient nature of hospitality, it was often difficult to check references so a trial period “levelled the playing field”.

“We’re in a position now where we’re a lot more comfortable giving people an opportunity.”

And this is backed up:

Labour Minister Simon Bridges believed the legislation was working well.

In 2012, more than 131,000 people were employed on a trial period and nearly a third of all employers who used the trial period said they would not have hired their most newest staff member without it, he said.

Goldsmith bill on personal grievances

November 15th, 2013 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

Audrey Young at NZ Herald reports:

Executives who are fired from their companies would be less likely to get excessive golden handshakes under a private member’s bill being promoted by National list MP Paul Goldsmith.

And employers would be less willing to put up with high-paid staff not doing their jobs properly.

But it appears that Mr Goldsmith would have more chance of his bill being passed under a Labour-led Government than the National-led one.

Mr Goldsmith is proposing that employees with salary packages worth more than $150,000 not have the automatic right to a personal grievance, which they have under present employment law.

This is a very commendable bill. It doesn’t mean that employees over $150,000 will not have access to employment law. It means that they can contract out of it. And it is hard to argue that someone earning $150,000 is a vulnerable worker who needs protection.

They will still have access to general contract law, and can sue for breach of contract.

Under the current law, even if an employee is paid out under the terms of his or her contract, they can still take a personal grievance case to try to get a higher payout.

Mr Goldsmith says that means that employers are more likely to put up with someone who is not doing the job well or “make a more generous golden handshake to make the problem go away”.

He said he had been approached by business, and small business in particular, who saw it as a problem.

His bill did not go as far as Australian law which automatically exempts a high-paid employee (earning over A$129,000) from being able to take a personal grievance.

The Goldsmith bill just allows a high earning employee and an employer to sign a contract that limits personal grievances. So it might just say that in the event of an inability to work together, the employee will get paid x weeks salary.

The bill has been put into the private member’s ballot. Labour Minister Simon Bridges said while National supported the proposed bill, the Government would prefer to get officials’ advice.

But Labour’s labour spokesman, Andrew Little, said last night that it was the sort of thing a Labour-led Government would be keen to look at, especially for chief executives.

He had a concern with the $150,000 threshold because it could include highly skilled engineers, for example, working for companies such as Fonterra, who were well down the chain of command and control over the company.

Subject to a discussion about the threshold, he agreed with the bill in principle and thought Labour would support it to select committee.

The threshold seems right to me. It isn’t about the job title. Andrew seems concerned that it might impact some EPMU members, but if an engineer is earning over $150,000 they seem pretty capable of negotiating a good contract.