Disaster Zone – Preparing Your Business For The Worst

February 7th, 2018 - Barbara Buckett

Living and working in Wellington the possibility of a natural disaster is something everyone needs to be aware of. While disasters cannot be averted, the impact on your business, from an employment standpoint is easily minimised. This week we look at what employers can do to be prepared.

When Disaster Strikes

As a starting point, all businesses need to have evacuation plans in place and communicate these to all employees. This will depend based on the type of event that occurs, for instance a different evacuation point will be needed for a flood or tsunami than a fire. Regular drills are an easy way to keep everyone updated but disaster preparation can be added on to other professional development or product knowledge trainings. In the wake of recent events employers should also consider response plans for terror attacks.

In the immediate aftermath, it will help to have pre-prepared communications to send to employees, insurers, and other affected parties. BuckettLaw can help draft these to protect your rights and interests.

Getting Back to Business

In the likely event that your offices or workplace are unable to be accessed in the immediate aftermath you will need a plan of action to continue business. Relocation is the best solution, whether that involves a temporary workplace, movement of staff to other sites, or allowing staff to work from home. Unless there are contractual arrangements in place affected employees will need to consent to relocation and negotiations regarding costs and access to equipment maybe required.

Ensuring the workplace is safe for occupation before allowing employees to re-enter is essential as employees can refuse to work under the Health and safety at Work Act 2015 if they believe doing so is hazardous. Employers will need to liaise with building owners and/or local/central government to arrange a building assessment. Acquainting yourself with the relevant policies and officers at your local authority now will facilitate this process.

To Pay or Not to Pay

The default position for employers is to pay staff when they are willing but unable to work. This can be a major financial hardship if your business is suspended or forced to shut down for a period. Don’t get caught in a situation where your contracts are silent and the only alternative is to negotiate with panicked employees at a time when the future of your business is unclear.

While government support (such as the Earthquake Support subsidy) may be available you should consider business interruption insurance to help cover wages in the event of a closedown period.

Making It Easy – How We Can Help

By including force majeure terms in employment agreements, you can ensure that employees business can continue with minimal interruption. These terms should cover several possibilities such as:

  1. Requiring employees to use annual leave in the interim between a disaster occurring and re-entry to the workplace

  2. Determining how employees can be redeployed/relocated when a workplace is closed/inaccessible

  3. Specifying when a redundancy will be triggered

  4. Outlining the rights and obligations of each party if the business has to be closed down

BuckettLaw, the employment law experts, can help draft these terms to suit your business. Get in touch today and get prepared.

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.

Enjoy a complimentary 15-minute phone call as a first-time offer.

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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