Employers: test your employment law knowledge

Date: 26th September 2019

As a New Zealand Employer, your responsibilities to your staff are significant and varied. Even as a seasoned employer, it can be challenging to keep up with and remember the duties owed to those you employ. To help you stay on top of everything, we pulled up the Employment Law regarding a few key topics for the coming busy season: piece rates, casual employment, drugs and alcohol, hours of work, and public holidays.

stressed employer

So whether you need a quick refresher or you think you have it dialled, scroll through the following sections to test your employment law knowledge as the summer staff start moving into town.

Picking up on piece rates

While salary and wages are the two most common types of pay for employees, and commission is still well-known, there is a fourth pay type: piece rates. 

A piece rate is a type of commission where an employee is paid for the number of pieces they worked on. A classic example in the South Island of New Zealand is fruit picking, where an employee may be paid by the number of punnets of fruit picked. 

A key and often overlooked aspect of this pay type is that employees paid per piece must still receive at least the relevant minimum wage for each hour worked.

More about types of pay

Don’t be casual about casual employment

While hiring employees as “casual” workers instead of permanent part/full-time might seem like an easier option, your responsibilities can make it more challenging in some ways. “Casual employee” isn’t actually a term defined in employment legislation, however the situation exists when an employee has no guaranteed hours of work, no regular pattern of work, and no ongoing expectation of employment.

The challenge with casual employment is when the nature of employment subtly morphs into something much less casual, and therefore the employee now legally deserves the title of permanent part-time. This situation may occur if a casual employee begins to fill in for the same regular shifts for an extended period of time. It’s important to recognise this shift in the employ of that staff member and understand their associated, new legal rights. 

More about types of employee

Three things to know about drugs, alcohol and work

1. Drug testing could infringe an employee’s right to privacy

If the rights of an employee are infringed by drug testing, it may make the process less reasonable. Sample collection procedures, the method of analysis, and the handling of test results can overstep the employee’s right to privacy under the Privacy Act 1993.

2. You should seek legal advice if thinking about drug testing employees 

As drug testing could potentially infringe employees’ rights, seeking legal advice is the smart option prior to arranging testing. A legal team can assist you in working to protect employee privacy while ensuring safety of the work environment.

3. Specific testing may be more reasonable than random testing

Due to the nature of random drug testing for employees and the suspicion-less basis of this test, it could be considered unreasonable. Testing a specific employee for a specific reason can therefore be more reasonable.

More about drugs, alcohol and work

Working on work hours

There is no magic formula as to what is ‘work’. Work may include any activity where there are constraints on the freedom of an employee, responsibilities placed on an employee, and/or there is a benefit to the employer. 

The magic definition of work, if there were one, would be any activity that is “an integral part of the principle activity”. This means that technically, employee should be paid for their time in all of the following:

  • after hours team meetings
  • opening and closing businesses
  • cleaning and tidying up
  • on-the-job training
  • product familiarisation.

More about hours of work

Public Holidays

Did you know that all employees – casual, full-time, fixed-term or part-time – are entitled to public holiday benefits? Or that there is no minimum amount of time an employee has to be employed in order to be eligible for public holiday benefits?

An employee can claim a maximum of 11 public holidays a year, four over Christmas and New Year, and may not claim a Mondayised, or Tuesdayised, public holiday twice (actual date and Mondayised date).

More about public holidays

Let us help

While employment law may be a challenge to get a grip on, at Findlay Sidekick, we are skilled at helping businesses make things easier. Figuring out your obligations and finding ways to manage your payroll efficiently are two things we’d love to lend a hand with. Contact us here.

More about employment law

Employers take note: payday filing now compulsory

3 law changes that may affect your business in 2019

Minimum wage to increase 75c per hour

New tax rules for contractors



Posted in: employment, Latest News, staff