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Disputes about your employment agreement


What is a “dispute”?

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 5, 129

The word “dispute” has a narrow, technical meaning in employment law – it means a dispute about how an employment agreement should apply or operate or how it should be interpreted.

The dispute must be a genuine one that has arisen from an actual, and not hypothetical, situation. For example, your dispute might be about the meaning of a shift allowance clause in your collective employment agreement.

If the dispute involves a collective agreement, the person pursuing the dispute must bring it to the attention of all the unions and employers who are covered by the agreement.

What can I do if there’s a dispute?

If you and your employer have a dispute about an employment agreement and are unable to resolve it between yourselves, a free mediation service is available from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). Contact the MBIE Mediation Service through an online request or phone 0800 20 90 20.

If mediation doesn’t resolve the dispute, you can take a case to the Employment Relations Authority. See “The legal process for dealing with employment problems” in this chapter.

Remedies for a dispute

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 133–140, 162

If you take a dispute about your employment agreement to the Employment Relations Authority, it can:

  • order your employer to pay you money under the terms of the employment agreement
  • make a compliance order requiring your employer to perform some duty under the agreement or to comply with some statutory requirement
  • order your employer to pay a penalty for breaching the employment agreement – for an individual the maximum penalty is $10,000 and for a company or other corporate body it’s $20,000. The money is paid into the Crown’s Bank Account, unless the Authority orders it to be paid to you.
  • order your employer to pay you damages (an amount of money) for a breach of the agreement.

For information about going to the Authority, see “The legal process for dealing with employment problems” in this chapter.

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Resolving employment problems

Where to go for more support

Community Law

www.communitylaw. org.nz

Your local Community Law Centre can provide free initial legal advice if you’re facing problems at work.

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment


The Employment Relations website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment has a range of information on personal grievances, mediation, the Employment Relations Authority and the Employment Court. This includes a pamphlet contained information on all those topics, called “Solving Problems at Work”.

Free phone 0800 20 90 20, for general enquiries about resolving employment problems.

Early Resolution Service


The Early Resolution Service is a service offered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment. It is a free phone-based service to help employees and employers resolve workplace issues before it becomes too serious or needs a more formal process.

For more information on the Early Resolution Service, you can fill out the form on www.employment.govt.nz or call 0800 20 90 20.

Labour inspectors

Labour inspectors monitor and enforce minimum employment conditions. To refer a problem to a labour inspector, you contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment on: Free phone 0800 20 90 20

Employment Relations Authority


If you’re unable to settle at mediation, the next step is to file your claim in the Employment Relations Authority. For more information, visit the Authority’s website.

New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, Te Kauae Kaimahi


Phone: (04) 385 1334
Email: info@nzctu.org.nz

Union members should contact their union for support in resolving problems at work.

Immigration New Zealand


Free phone: 0508 558 855
Phone: (09) 914 4100 (Auckland)
Phone: (04) 910 9915 (Wellington)

The Immigration New Zealand website has extensive information about the various types of visas and other immigration issues. There is also specific information on human trafficking and the help that’s available for people trapped in these situations.

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