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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 ERA (see: “The legal process for dealing with employment problems”).

Remedies for a dispute

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 133–140, 162

If you take a dispute about your employment agreement to the ERA, 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 ERA 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 ERA, see: “The legal process for dealing with employment problems”.

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Resolving employment problems

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment

The Employment website of the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment publishes a range of information on employment relations and minimum rights at work.

Website: www.employment.govt.nz
Phone: 0800 20 90 20
Information about resolving problems at work: www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems
Early Resolution Service (free phone-based service to resolve issues before they become serious): www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/early-resolution
Free Mediation Services: www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/mediation

Te Kauae Kaimah/New Zealand Council of Trade Unions

Te Kauae Kaimah is the umbrella body for affiliated unions covering every job and industry in New Zealand. It can provide information about which union may cover the type of work you do.

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

Labour inspectorate

Labour inspectors monitor and enforce minimum employment conditions. To refer a problem to a labour inspector, you contact the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.

Website: www.mbie.govt.nz/position-descriptions/employment-services/labour-inspector-employment-services and www.employment.govt.nz/resolving-problems/steps-to-resolve/labour-inspectorate
Phone: 0800 20 90 20

Employment Relations Authority (ERA)

If you’re unable to settle at mediation (see under “Mediation of Business, Innovation & Employment” above), the next step is to file your claim in the ERA.

Website: www.era.govt.nz
For contact details in your local area: www.era.govt.nz/footer/contact-us

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