PLEASE NOTE: This article was published on the date listed below and may now contain information that has since been updated or changed. We have retained this article as it may still contain helpful comments. However, we advise you to make an appointment to see us for the most up to date information on this topic.

June 2002

Employment Law - Tidbits Of Useful Information

Employer Overpayments

If an employer overpays an employee, can the overpaid amount be deducted from subsequent wages?

Under the Wages Protection Act 1983, it is unlawful to make deductions from wages except in the following circumstances:

  • With the employee’s consent; or
  • At the employee’s request; or
  • Under s(6) of the Act where "it was not reasonably practicable for that employer to avoid making that overpayment" and the specified notice is given.

The overpayment must have been made because the employee was absent from work without the employer’s authority, on strike, locked out, or suspended. Notice must be given to the employee and the overpayment must be recovered not later than two months after notice has been given.

In all other circumstances, if the employee has been overpaid it is unlawful to recover that overpayment without the employee’s consent. The overpayment cannot be offset against another entitlement.

Minimum Wages

What is the minimum wage?

On 18 March 2002, the minimum wage rates were increased. The changes are:

  • The adult (all persons aged 18 years and over) minimum rate has increased from $7.70 to $8.00 per hour;
  • The youth minimum wage rate (all persons aged 16 and 17 years) has increased from $5.40 to $6.40 per hour.

Written Employment Agreements

Do employees employed since the Employment Relations Act came into force (October 2000) have to have a written employment agreement?

It is required that all employees have a written employment agreement. Just recently the Employment Relations Authority imposed a penalty of $500.00 on an employer for failing to provide a written employment agreement.

The Act sets out the minimum matters which must be covered in the agreement. For an individual agreement these are:

  • The name of the employer and the employee;
  • A brief description of the work to be carried out;
  • An indication of where the work will be carried out;
  • An indication of the hours the employee will work;
  • The wages or salary the employee will receive;
  • A plain language explanation of the dispute resolution services available if there is an employment relationship problem and a reference to the 90 day period for submitting a personal grievance.

Employee Involvement In Health & Safety

Will employees be able to have more of a say in health and safety matters at my workplace once the Health and Safety in Employment Bill comes into force?

The Bill will come into force on 2 September 2002. One of the main aims of the Bill is to promote employee participation in workplace safety.

A system for involving employees:

  • Will be required if there are fewer than 30 employees in your workplace and one or more employees requires it;
  • Will be compulsory if there are 30 or more employees in your workplace.

What that system will be is up for negotiation. The employer may establish a health and safety committee or health and safety representatives may be elected.