Workplace Culture Crackdown

The recent #metoo movement has drawn worldwide attention to workplace harassment. The New Zealand government has responded by collecting data about workplace harassment through confidential complaint lines and signalling clear expectations of New Zealand workplace culture.

Harassment may never be totally stamped out. However, your business can take steps to minimise harm and create a safer environment for your staff. These include:
• Implementing effective policies that set out your organisation's expectations regarding harassment and setting up procedures for dealing with complaints
• Ensuring that complaints are thoroughly investigated and treated seriously, and
• Creating an ongoing relationship of trust and confidence that helps to ensure your employees feel comfortable approaching their managers (or alternative representatives) about harassment.

If any business does not adjust and address harassment issues, it risks the possibility of adverse publicity and legal action in the form of personal grievances and/or human rights complaints.

There is now a great deal of information to help any organisation. Employment New Zealand's website is a good place to start.

The Commerce Commission has reinforced its position on extended warranties and consumer protection as shown by the recent charges brought against PB Technologies Ltd (PB Tech). PB Tech pleaded guilty to 14 charges brought by the Commission for shortcomings in its extended warranty agreements.

The Consumer Guarantees Act 1993 already provides consumers with protection when goods do not comply with any of the specified warranties. However, to encourage consumers to purchase, retailers sometimes offer extended warranties as add-ons.

When offering extended warranties, retailers must provide clear information explaining the benefits of the extended warranty – in addition to benefits already provided by the legislation. It is a legal requirement for retailers to provide customers with a summary of these benefits. They must also give customers a copy of the extended warranty and inform them of their cancellation rights should they choose to purchase an extended warranty.

PB Tech was also warned about their use of 'bait advertising' when they supposedly sent a newsletter advertising discounted Apple watches to about 100,000 people when they only had 14 watches available at that price. The Fair Trading Act 1986 prohibits misleading representations about goods or services, including their availability.

PB Tech were to be sentenced in September.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) adopted by the European Union (EU) came into effect on 25 May 2018 and applies globally. GDPR establishes a consistent set of requirements to protect EU citizens from privacy and data breaches. Any New Zealand entity that collects, uses or discloses personal information of EU citizens must comply with GDPR. Not complying could result in a fine of up to the greater of 4% of your organisation's global annual turnover or €20 million.

New Zealand situation: the Privacy Act 1993 controls how New Zealand-based agencies collect, use, store and disclose 'personal information'. The legislation implements a principles-based system administered and enforced by the Privacy Commissioner; there's more information on that here. A New Zealand-based entity could therefore be subject to both our own Privacy Act and GDPR. While there is significant overlap between GDPR and our own legislation, GDPR has a higher standard of compliance and more specific requirements.

As such, continuing with your Privacy Act compliance regime in relation to EU information is not likely to satisfy the GDPR requirements.

If you process EU information, we recommend you undertake a privacy review/impact assessment to ensure that your operations, policies and processes are compliant with the GDPR. There is more information and tools available here at the Privacy Commission.

Even if GDPR does not apply to you, this is a good opportunity to review your current operations, policies and processes.

Protecting your property and getting paid

In light of Ebert Construction's recent receivership, not taking protective measures opens subcontractors up to recovery and enforcement issues. If you are a subcontractor, you should think about how to prevent your tools and equipment (including cranes and scaffolding) from being seized and sold by a receiver, and to ensure you have the best chance of getting paid.  Read more…

Second Thoughts...

What happens when your employee wants to retract their resignation?  Read more…

An Employment Minefield

In the lead-up to the 2017 election, broadcaster Mark Richardson caused an uproar when he asked the then Leader of the Opposition, Jacinda Ardern, if she had plans to have children. The commonly-held view was that this question was outrageous. While a broadcaster has the liberty to ask a range of questions, an employer or potential employer cannot ask this.

Job interviews can be a challenge for both employers and applicants. There are varying opinions on the best way to interview applicants and which questions will help you ascertain if someone is the right fit for your workplace.

There are a number of questions, however, that simply cannot be asked as they could be considered to be discriminatory. Read more…

Downie Stewart Lawyers Dunedin 8th Level, 265 Princes St, Dunedin, 9016 03-477 2263
PO Box 1345, Dunedin 9054 |  Fax: 03 477 4021  |  E: info@downiestewart.co.nz