COVID-19: Employers Beware Of Your Obligations

April 6th, 2020 - Barbara Buckett

6th April 2020 –EMPLOYERS: time to stop and rethink?

While the lock down is in place to eradicate the spread of COVID-19, it does not eradicate employers’ legal obligations to act in good faith, be fair and reasonable in the circumstances.

The Government subsidy is just a band aid; it does not override or substitute for legal obligations.

BuckettLaw has seen many employers get it wrong.

Although it is not business as usual employers’ and employees’ employment obligations remain. As an employer, misunderstanding these obligations now could cause greater expense later. Make sure you don’t make the wrong move in these crazy times.

Redundancy ought to be a last resort, after all alternative options have been considered and exhausted.

Both employees and employers have an obligation to act in good faith and build productive employment relationships. Employees need to be flexible in their responses.

As an employer, you do not want to invite accusations that you are compelling employees to agree to less favourable terms by threatening redundancy.  Be cautious. Your actions now may affect business reputation and branding. The current Minister of Health has learnt an expensive lesson. Don’t react now to learn later.

Flexibility could avoid redundancies.  Whilst employers make sacrifice It is important that employees also have an open mind and be flexible.

The law seeks to promote engaging and active employment relationships. It is no different during this unique time. Engage with employees. Be transparent. And be willing to negotiate.  

Employers ignoring advice this may be called to account. The legal consequence for getting it wrong may be worse than the current pain.

What are my obligations as an employer? 

– To be active, communicative and constructive.
– To be honest and transparent.
– To act in good faith. All information adverse to an employee, such as what the business is thinking about continuing the business, employees ought to know about.
– Be constructive and communicative.

These obligations need to be upheld in all aspects of the employment relationship. They are key for the operation of workplaces during lock down and communicating with employees how working from home should be taking place.

Stop, think. Consult. Seek advice. 

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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