Unless you work in the Human Resources department in your company, or are an employment law expert, you probably haven’t had much experience with employment law. The best case scenario is that you’ve actually never even been exposed to it at work, because you’ve always been treated fairly and haven’t had to take an extended leave or had any issues with your pay.

Even if you have no idea what employment law encompasses, however, you’re still affected by it, because employment law provides you with a safe and fair framework in your workplace. To help you understand how employment law is important to you and your company, this article will give you a brief overview of how it affects your company, and how to learn more.

Essentially, employment law protects employees from unfair treatment from their peers and/or managers, provides opportunities for all employees, and allows for all employees to receive the same benefits when in need. It also grants basic employee rights like mandated time off, and regulates companies to uphold them.

Discrimination

Protecting employees from discrimination is one of the main reasons employment law exists. Human Resources is sworn to anti discrimination and allowing every new hire be screened equally, and provide the same opportunities to employees regardless of race, age, gender, or sexual orientation, just to name a few.

The Human Rights Act of 1993 was enacted in New Zealand to put rules in place for companies to avoid discrimination, and to establish consequences and courses of action for employees who have experienced discrimination. The Human Resources (HR) team in your company is typically your first point of contact in the event of discrimination, but you can also reach out directly to Human Rights Commission if you feel you aren’t able to go to your HR department for whatever reason.

Discrimination can happen anywhere in a company, which is why this act is so important to the rights of all employees. Right from the beginning of a hiring process, applicants can potentially be discriminated against by almost anything, even down to their name on their CV, or how old they are. Discrimination can continue throughout an employee’s career, affecting their job performance, possible raises or promotions, and can ultimately play a part in corrective actions and termination.

In some ways related to discrimination laws, an act regarding whistleblowers has recently been enacted in NZ as well to protect employees who report serious wrong doings with their employer. Before this act, the repercussions for “telling” on your boss, your peer, or even your whole company could mean losing your standing in the company, or maybe even losing your job. Your rights as an employee are now protected, however, and you have a safe place to speak up when something is wrong.

Wages

Employment law exists in the world of salary and wages to ensure that employees are paid fairly for the work they do. This includes being paid at a minimum living wage to allow for all employees to be able to survive off their pay.

Other wage laws include rules about overtime. Depending on the company and the type of employee, companies may require overtime pay to be administered when an employee works in excess of 40 hours per week. This makes sure that if employees will need to work over their regular hours in a work week, they’re compensated fairly for the extra hours.

Leave of absences

Allowing employees to take regular leave, extended leave, or other types of leave such as parental or sick leave is an essential part of what employment law regulates. These laws allow certain types of leave without repercussion, and without danger of losing your job.

Since there are so many situations where continuing to work is impossible, such as jury service, having a baby, or being extremely sick, employment law has required companies to allow for minimum leave days to allow employees to live their life without fear of losing their job.  

Harassment

An extremely important facet of employment law is the prevention of harassment in the workplace. Before any regulations existed, employees were more at the mercy of their employers, with the balance of power being completely uneven. Part of the Human Rights Act also prohibits the harassment, sexual, verbal, physical, or any other unwelcome advances in the workplace.

Preventing harassment in the workplace now is vitally important to build a safe culture within the company. Employees need to be given the freedom to speak up and know they’re safe to do so without retaliation. Prohibiting harassment begins with required classes for all employees to be on the same page, and for providing safe places for employees to speak up.

Terminating employees

Terminating an employee can be a complicated, long, and risky process if you haven’t taken the time to document and justify your decision. For some employers, it can be a bit frustrating to try and terminate an employee because of all you need to go through to cover your actions. And especially when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that an employee will not succeed, employers may simply wish they could easily and quickly terminate the employee.

But, it can also be an incredibly unfair decision if employment law guidelines aren’t followed, which is why they were created in the first place. Part of employment law protects employees from being unfairly discharged, and more importantly, allows them to have a chance to improve. While there are some regulations that allow you to terminate an employee immediately depending on circumstances, these rules are in place to simply give employees a chance and to make sure the reasoning is fair and true.

While plenty of infringements of these rules occur all over the world, it doesn’t necessarily mean that employment law has failed the public. On the contrary, besides setting the rules for employers, a lot of the purpose of employment law is to provide an outlet for employees to report these infringements and be protected under the law. Because of employment law, and continuous improvements to it, employees have a better chance at being treated fairly and are able to build careers based on trust and equality.     

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