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The legal process for dealing with employment problems

Going to the Employment Court: Appeals and other special cases

What issues can the Employment Court deal with?

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 187

The Employment Court’s role includes:

  • hearing challenges to decisions of the ERA
  • hearing reviews of how officials and others have exercised, or refused to exercise, their powers under the Employment Relations Act
  • deciding on applications for damages, injunctions or compliance orders in relation to an unlawful strike or lockout or related picketing
  • making a declaration as to whether or not a particular individual is an “employee”
  • hearing and deciding claims that a person has committed offences under the Employment Relations Act.

How does the Employment Court make decisions?

Employment Relations Act 2000, ss 188, 189

Before considering a case, the Employment Court must look at whether the two sides have tried to resolve the problem by mediation. The court must order the two sides to go to mediation unless this would serve no constructive purpose, wouldn’t be in the public interest, or would undermine the urgent or interim nature of the case (see: “Mediation”).

The court has the power to decide the case “as in equity and good conscience it thinks fit,” as long as its decision isn’t inconsistent with the law or the relevant employment agreement. This means it makes an overall assessment of what’s fair, taking into account all the circumstances of the cases. It can hear evidence and receive information that wouldn’t be allowed in other courts.

Do I need a lawyer to represent me in the Employment Court?

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 191, Schedule 3

You and your employer can each choose to represent yourselves or to be represented by someone else, such as a union representative, a bargaining agent, or a lawyer. The law allows for people without legal training to appear as representatives in the Employment Court; however, because of the special skills needed, most people get an employment lawyer to represent them.

Note: Legal Aid may be available for cases in the Employment Court, (see: “Family/civil Legal Aid”).

Can I challenge a decision of the Employment Court?

Employment Relations Act 2000, s 214

If either side believes the Employment Court’s decision is wrong in law, they can apply to the Court of Appeal for permission to appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal. They must apply within 28 days after the Employment Court’s decision.

Next Section | Labour inspectors

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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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