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Wages: Don’t get caught sleeping in

Often there is an unwritten or unspoken expectation that employees attend regular meetings, even on rostered days off, or ‘open and close’ outside of their rostered hours. It might be easier just to rely on the harder-working team members who demonstrate a bit of initiative (they may even put their hand up to do it) or we expect people to turn up to meetings in their own time because we love what we do so they should too, right?  The reality is that in time this significantly disadvantages the employee and may even drag their hourly rate below the National Minimum Wage.

The employment legislation amendments implemented om 1 April 2016 and 2017 were designed to protect vulnerable employees in certain industries, but the identified scale of potential exploitation of workers across the New Zealand workforce is an intended consequence, and it’s only the beginning.

A lot of emphasis is being placed on some big, recognisable brands who have a legal and ethical responsibility to rectify the wages situation and lead by example to the required standard. In Australia, federal law is requiring 3000 ‘large’ companies prove that they are taking measures to stamp out ‘’modern day slavery’’ in their businesses – or face crippling fines or even prosecution. 

Some of the amounts here are already staggering: imagine an average of $15 a week per employee over the course of a year (that’s approximately $800) and multiply that by the number of employees in a company, let’s say 2500 in this case. That’s an upfront bill of $2 million for one year alone. Now times that by the seven years employers are now required to backpay employees what they are owed and suddenly you have a significant overtime bill.

Another concern that has surfaced following comments from a major New Zealand retailer is the misguided belief that it is the employee’s responsibility to manage their time sheet. This is incorrect – it is absolutely the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all time in attendance records are accurate, agreed with the employee and are signed off by both parties.

If you think your sector, franchise or small-to-medium business is safe from the labour inspectors, think again. Commentary from the inspectorate in the wake of these stories has indicated they intend to ‘widen the search’ by deploying more inspectors on the ground- across all sectors and all types of businesses.

Responsible employers will have already put in place mechanisms to address this or will have already reached out to begin the review process to know what they are dealing with head on, as well as to recognise their people’s efforts and pay them what they are entitled to.

Paul Carr is an HR Consultant with in2HR New Zealand – HR and training specialists in employment best practice for franchises and SMEs: www.in2hr.co.nz.

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