This month in New Zealand law has us looking at new leadership in the law world and new legislation for the country. First on our list will be reviewing the new Chief of the Employment Relations Authority, which may have a big impact on employment relations across the country going forward. Time will only tell on this. We’re then diving into some new legislation that’s being introduced that would also have a big impact on healthcare and women’s rights. We’ll finish with our favourite part of this article, which is looking into some of the big mistakes that companies have made in their employment law practices which are easily avoidable, and provide you with some general advice to take back to your workplace. Let’s dive in. 

New Chief of the Employment Relations Authority appointed

First, for some background, let’s review with the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) does, and how it affects you as a business or employee. 

For employees, the ERA provides important guidance and support when facing a dispute in the workplace. They are typically an informal group that investigates a case and provides a ruling which then becomes legally binding. This is a common way to settle a dispute that has exhausted all avenues internally in a company, between employer and employee. The ERA is independent, and was set up as a result of the Employment Relations Act 2000. Many employees use this as a last resort, once they’ve exhausted all options internally first. 

For employers, the ERA can be intimidating and a result of a broken relationship with an employee. While it’s typically best to resolve grievances and disputes in house as often as possible, there may occasionally be an issue that simply cannot be resolved without a third party intervention. This is where the ERA steps in. The positives for the employer are that they no longer need to deal directly with the employee in question, and may be able to resolve an issue through the mediation offered through the ERA. The negative is that by this point, the relationship with the employee will likely be extremely strained, and will be unlikely to repaired and have the employee come back to work.   

Now back to our breaking news: New Zealand’s newest Chief of the Employment Relations Authority is Dr Andrew Dallas. The official website of the New Zealand Government as described Dr Dallas as someone who has worked with the ERA for several years, with a PhD and author of a legal text. He will serve a three year term. We’re looking forward to seeing how Dr Dallas shapes the ERA’s goals over the next three years. 

Abortion legislation introduced 

Always an extremely heated and contentious topic, New Zealand is now calling for public submissions for an Abortion Legislation Bill, with the closing date being the 19th of September 2019. The essentials around this bill are to decriminalise abortion, making it easier to refer yourself to an abortion provider, and other goals like keeping the area around abortion providers safe for those entering and exiting. This page here will allow you to make your submission and provide your opinion around this issue, along with providing more information about the bill itself. 

Farm company perverting justice

Perverting the course of justice sounds pretty intense, and so it should. With a fine of $273,288 being considered, it’s no wonder that this is a serious offence. In this case, a farm company director in New Zealand was investigated by the WorkSafe NZ Health and Safety commission. WorkSafe bases their investigations on the Health and Safety at Work legislation, found here. Essentially, a worker was asked by the director of the company to lie to WorkSafe regarding basic health and safety requirements. The director pleaded guilty to this, and was also convicted for not ensuring a safe machine for the worker, causing massive injury to the worker.  

This is clearly a huge problem, and hopefully it seems quite obvious to you that it’s not only against the law, but is ethically a terrible situation. As said above, it also perverts the course of justice. Thankfully, the worker in question had the courage to eventually stand up and explain what really happened, resulting in these charges. While the full considered fine of over $270,000 was not actually implemented due to the director’s financial constraints, a hefty fine of $25,000 and $16,110 was charged, which still puts a massive dent in a company’s pocket. Full details on this case can be found here

The key takeaway from this situation is to work transparently and follow the legislation set under the Health and Safety at Work legislation. 

Trademark Checker 

Finally, before we go, some interesting and less intense news! A new tool called Trade Mark Check has recently been released on the Intellectual Property Office of NZ’s website. This exciting tool makes it simple to check to see if a trade mark image, logo or word is a unique one, which makes it easy for small businesses just starting out to ensure their logo or trademark is appropriate. 

This is huge news, especially for small businesses, as it can save money down the line. Branding is of massive importance to businesses, and stealing or accidentally using a similar trademark or logo can cause fines or even lawsuits, depending on your country’s legislation. Some signs are actually restricted as well, like protected marks such as the New Zealand flag, or official emblems of state and governments. You can find a whole list and additional details on protected marks on this Trade Marks Act 2002, if you’re interested. It’s therefore of utmost importance that you’re using a tool like this to ensure uniqueness, as well as making sure your logo or brand stands out above the rest! 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this month’s roundup of New Zealand’s constantly changing law landscape! 

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