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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 Employment Relations Authority
  • 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” in this chapter.

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 the chapter “Legal Aid and other legal help”.

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

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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