Five things to do by the end of the year

Monday, November 30, 2020

End of year checklist for employers

With the end of the year approaching, businesses are looking at wrapping up before the Christmas break. We have put together a checklist of things for employers to keep in mind.

1. Payment during closedown periods

The recent employment court decision of Labour Inspector v Metropolitan Glass has clarified how employees that have worked for less than a year are to be paid during the annual closedown period (despite not being entitled to annual leave yet).

What this means for employers

Employers that have employees who have worked for them for less than a year at the beginning of their annual closedown period must:

  1. Pay those employees 8% of gross earnings as at the beginning of the closedown period; and
  2. Reset the employee’s anniversary date to the beginning of the closedown period.

Employers can also agree for employees to take leave in advance, however this should be offered in addition to the 8% payment, rather than as an alternative.

2. Employees with expiring visas

For employers with employees on an Essential Skills Work Visa, this is a good time of year to check in on expiry dates and ensure that your employee is on top of their required paperwork.

Whilst it is the employee’s responsibility to drive the renewal process, as an employer you are still required to readvertise the position and complete the Employer Supplementary Form. This can be relatively time consuming and often takes 4-6 weeks. As such, it is good to get ahead on this process.

3. Privacy Act changes

The new Privacy Act 2020 comes into force on 1 December with new data storage and reporting obligations for employers. Employers will now be required to notify the Privacy Commissioner if a privacy breach (by an employee) has caused, or is likely to cause, serious harm. In circumstances where an organisation has failed to report a privacy breach, the Privacy Commissioner is able to award a fine of up to $10,000.

We recommend that businesses take this opportunity to review their privacy policies and ensure staff know who to approach in relation to any privacy related concerns they have.

4. Holiday party policies

As we near the end of the year, we tend to see an increase in serious misconduct allegations relating to sexual harassment or inappropriate behaviour.

Whilst it is important to allow your employees to unwind at the end of the year, it may be an opportunity to provide a timely reminder to staff of expectations. It is important to ensure that any such celebrations are being done in a safe environment for all. Some suggestions to ensure this are:

  1. Provide sufficient food (not just nibbles) if serving alcohol;
  2. Limit alcohol to wine and beer rather than spirits;
  3. Book a venue with a bartender to watch alcohol consumption or have a designated manager in charge of overseeing things; and
  4. Provide transportation for employees to get home safely.

5. Employing independent investigators

Employers are increasingly choosing to hire external investigators to carry out workplace investigations. A recent case in the Private Security Personnel Licensing Authority (PSPLA) decision highlighted the requirement for workplace investigators to hold a private investigators licence in accordance with the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Act 2010.An employee raised a matter with the PSPLA when she found out that her employer’s choice of workplace investigator did not hold a private investigator’s licence. The PSPLA held that investigators conducting workplace investigations without the requisite private investigators licence would be found to be in breach of the Act. This decision has a major impact on businesses that operate solely to conduct workplace investigations.

Employers that instruct external investigators to conduct workplace investigations should be careful to ensure that non-lawyers that are hired for the job hold a private investigators licence. Employment lawyers that are hired to conduct workplace investigations are regulated by the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act 2006 and New Zealand Law Society.

For more information, or for specialist advice on any employment issues, please contact a member of our employment team.


Disclaimer: the content of this article is general in nature and not intended as a substitute for specific professional advice on any matter and should not be relied upon for that purpose.

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