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Communtity Law Manual | Employment: Resolving problems | Going to the Employment Court: Appeals and other special cases

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.

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