Employment Law in New Zealand

May 23, 2010

Unlike the UK system, New Zealand does not have an Employment Tribunal and Employment Appeals Tribunal.  Instead, in New Zealand they have what is called the ‘Employment Court of New Zealand’.

What about costs?

In the UK it has been free for anyone to bring a claim to the Employment Tribunal, by completing an ET1 form.  However that is all about to change in 2013 with government fee proposals.  In April 2012 the qualifying period for employees before they can take a claim against their employer is two years, more details <here>.

People can submit the form themself, or they can ask a consultant, or Solicitor, or other person to submit the form for them on their behalf.  There is of course the small risk that the Court could award costs against a claimant if they feel that their case was misconstrued and so on, and it can be up to £10,000.  However it is rather rare for the Judge to award costs against a claimant.  This is probably due to checks before claims are accepted, the Tribunal has to power to reject claims, and will in some occasions call a ‘Pre-hearing’ review to discuss the merits of the case and the likely probabilities of the success of the claim.

In New Zealand, there are fees associated with submitting a claim to the Employment Court.  The fees for submitting a claim vary from $200 NZD to $300 NZD depending on the type of claim, and more details are found in the Employment Court Regulations 2000.

A list of employment legislation can also be found on the website of the Employment Court as follows:

Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Acts 1894 – 1954

Created a compulsory and arbitration system for resolving industrial disputes. Part of this involved the creation of the Court of Arbitration. These elements continued through a number of successive acts until repeal in 1973.


Industrial Relations Act 1973 Divided the roles of the Court of Arbitration between two newly created institutions – the Industrial Commission and the Industrial Court. The new Act introduced the distinction between disputes of interest and disputes of right.


Industrial Relations Amendment Act 1977Abolished the Industrial Commission and Industrial Court establishing the Arbitration Court instead. The aim was to encourage greater interaction between the public and private sectors.


Industrial Relations Amendment Act 1984Replaced compulsory arbitration with voluntary arbitration in the private sector. This change was intended to encourage employers and unions to settle their own disputes without the need for a third party intervention.


Industrial Relations: A framework for review. Green Paper, 1985.During the early 1980s a number of issues impacted upon the ongoing success of the industrial relations system. Of particular concern were the lengthy delays and workload of the Arbitration Court, the broad jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, and the diminishing role of the Arbitration Court in the wage fixing process. As a consequence government reviewed the industrial relations system and issued a green paper.Although restricted to the private sector the green paper signified the intentions of the Fourth Labour Government to change the industrial relations system. Public submissions on the paper highlighted a perception that the Arbitration Court was too legalistic in its approach and delays were common. New legislation followed.


Labour Relations Act 1987A Labour Court was introduced to resolve disputes of right while the Arbitration Court focused on disputes of interest. Union monopolies were removed and unions could opt out of awards.


State Owned Enterprises Act 1986Created State Owned Enterprises (SOEs). These public trading organisations – Air New Zealand, the Post Office, New Zealand Railways Department – were to operate as market driven entities.


State Sector Act 1988Put employment practices in the public sector on a comparable level to the private sector. Chief executives were appointed to manage and be accountable for the outputs of the remaining government agencies.


Employment Contracts Act 1991Established the Employment Court and brought all types of employment contracts under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court. Previous legislation covered only those employees on collective contracts represented by registered unions excluding employees on individually negotiated contracts.


Employment Relations Act 2000Has the objective of building productive employment relationships through good faith behaviour in all aspects of the employment relationship.


RegulationsCurrent Acts are supported by Regulations detailing process and procedure for the operation of the Employment Court. Employment Court Regulations 1991

Employment Court Regulations 2000

Employment Court Amendment Regulations 2004

(source:  http://www.justice.govt.nz/employment/legislation/default.asp at 20:16, Sunday 23 August 2009).

The Employment Court of New Zealand has an extremely useful website that lists judgments from all the cases, that can be downloaded  in pdf format.  You can download here the process showing how claims come to the Employment Court.  The registries for the Employment Court of New Zealand are both located in the North Island, in Auckland and Wellington.  To get a quick overview of employment law, you should visit the website for the Department of Labour that contains a series of factsheets on worker’s employment rights.

© 2011 Alice Letts.  All Rights Reserved.

Published by Alice Letts

Online training for parents and children. Online piano and music tutoring. Online tutoring for English as a Second Language (ESOL) with an emphasis on pronunciation. Online meditation coaching for parents and how to incorporate meditation into daily family life.

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