Buckettlaw celebrates Māori Language Week – Kia Kaha Te Reo Māori

September 13th, 2023 - Barbara Buckett

E ngā mātāwaka, e ngā uri o ngā hau e whā, tēnei te mihi nui ki a koutou katoa. I tae mai anō Te Wiki o te Reo Māori, te wā ia tau ka whakanuia te reo Māori me ōna tikanga. Whakarongo ki ngā manu tioriori, ngā manu kākā, ngā manu korihi kia mau i ngā kupu tūpuna. Whakaora i te kupu iho mō ngā reanga a muri atu.

Buckettlaw celebrates Māori Language week – making the language stronger

For Māori Language Week, we look at employment law issues related to the Māori language and Māori culture. The Māori language and Māori culture are important for strengthening the mana of Māori workers, for creating workplaces where they can thrive, for communicating with customers, and for acquiring new knowledge and skills. However, what are the laws that protect the Māori language and Māori culture in workplaces? What are the best practices for employers and employees to follow?

One of the main laws that applies to the Māori language and Māori culture is the Employment Relations Act 2000. According to this law, an employment relationship is based on a mutual duty of good faith, which requires the parties to be active and communicative and not to mislead or deceive each other. In her speech in 2019, the Chief Judge of the Employment Court, Inglis, indicated that Parliament's vision for the concept of good faith has "yet to be fully realised". She said that employment law "must keep pace with society's contemporary needs, standards and values as they evolve". She also acknowledged that "there is now a growing recognition that tikanga Māori (and other aspects of the Māori world view) have a legitimate place in the law of New Zealand".

Therefore, consideration of and engagement with cultural values are essential to the duty of good faith. When a dispute arises in the workplace, the test of justification is whether "the employer's actions, and how the employer acted, were what a fair and reasonable employer could have done in all the circumstances at the time the dismissal or action occurred". According to the decisions of the Employment Court, there will be times when consideration of tikanga Māori and te ao Māori will be relevant to the assessment of the fairness and reasonableness of an employer's actions.

There are also many issues under the Treaty of Waitangi that require the Crown to protect Māori workers in workplaces. The Crown must ensure that workplaces are safe and nurturing places for Māori workers. This includes them being culturally safe and free of discrimination.

There is still a lot of work to be done by the Crown and businesses to implement these issues. However, its work under Te Ara Mahi Māori - Recommendations for the Māori Employment Action Plan is commendable. One of its objectives is to research skills and development pathways for Māori workers. Another is to work with BusinessNZ and the Council of Trade Unions to find ways to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to comply with employment and health and safety obligations. Another is to remove barriers that Māori workers face to access information about their rights and responsibilities as employees.

This kind of work will enhance the mana of Māori workers, create workplaces where they can flourish, and achieve their aspirations and dreams.

Note: BuckettLaw takes no responsibility for the consequences of any actions taken on the basis of our articles. Any views expressed or comments made in an article are the writers option only. The content in our articles does not constitute legal advice. If you need legal or expert advice you should obtain specific advice about your case or matter from a professional. For legal advice based on your individual situation please contact us to speak with one of our expert lawyers.

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Barbara Buckett

Barbara Buckett is a highly experienced senior employment lawyer with over 35 years of practice in New Zealand. She provides expert advice on all areas of employment law and has a proven track record of delivering excellent results for clients. Barbara has extensive experience in resolving workplace issues and is an experienced litigator. In her free time, she enjoys reading, traveling, working out, and fine wine and dining with friends.

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