Today’s Apprentice is Tomorrow’s Foreman

Why apprenticeships work so well

With New Zealand’s construction industry going ballistic, a lot of construction companies are looking to hire new staff. Do they stick with their subbies, bring in qualified builders or take on an apprentice? Stefan Cammell, owner of Cammell Projects in Queenstown believes it’s an employer’s responsibility to upskill the next generation and take on apprentices.

“Taking on an apprentice is an investment in the future of your business and the construction industry”

“Taking on an apprentice is an investment in the future of your business and the construction industry,” says Stefan, who’s been building for 20 years. “It’s a win-win. You’re helping train someone young and motivated and they’re picking up how your business operates, the ethics of your company and your systems. When they become qualified they’re a huge asset to your business.”

What makes a good apprentice?

Cammell Projects’ most recent recruit is 26-year-old Heather Scott-Smith, who joined the crew in May 2018 after responding to a Facebook ad.

“I messaged Stef and said ‘I’m a chick, can I apply for the job?’ and he said ‘of course!’, which was awesome because I’ve had some people treat me differently because I’m female,” says Heather, who’s welcomed the move from her hometown of Dunedin to bustling Queenstown.

“Heather is an example of a great apprentice,” says Stefan, who’s brought on six apprentices over the past nine years. “She’s diligent, listens, takes on board information and works hard. That’s what you need to look for when bringing someone on.”

Two years into a four-year apprenticeship with BCITO (New Zealand’s largest provider of construction trade apprenticeships), Heather loves learning something new every day in a supportive working environment. The hardest part of the job?

“The frustrated look on Stef’s face when I don’t understand what he’s talking about!” she jokes. “It’s great to work for someone who wants to do big jobs not little patch ups. We’re both going in the same direction and I want to work for Stef for many years to come.”

Apprenticeships well worth the time and effort

Stefan says he gets a real kick out of watching his apprentices grow and become skilled but admits it’s more than just teaching the nuts and bolts of carpentry.

“A lot of apprentices are straight out of school so you’re teaching them life skills as much as how to be a builder. You’re teaching them how to turn up to work on time, interact with adults, look after themselves… so it’s a guidance role as well.”

A member of New Zealand Certified Builders, Stefan urges business owners to take the teaching role seriously.

“Apprentice training needs to be treated with respect.”

“Apprentice training needs to be treated with respect. Signing off training units when the apprentice isn’t up to standard isn’t helpful to the apprentice or the industry – it undermines the whole scheme. There’s an onus on the builder to make sure their apprentice is getting the training they need and achieving sign off once competent.”

If you are thinking of employing an apprentice and would this to discuss the impact it may have on your business, call us on (06) 878 8824.

What is your Business doing to attract the next Generation?

Gen Z (born after 1995) are tech-savvy, entrepreneurial, out-of-the-box thinkers – people you want on your team.

Here are four ways to attract and retain New Zealand’s next generation of workers.

1. Tinker with your tech

Gen Z live and breathe technology – they don’t know life without it. You’ll need to enable your people to collaborate and communicate in the cloud and on any device as well as provide video calling using FaceTime or Zoom.

2. Keep it simple when you hire

These digital natives suss everything on their smartphones, including jobs. Keep your job ad short and sweet, make it easy and fast for people to apply and include a short video of your office or a staff testimonial. Invite people to record a one-minute video to introduce themselves and add to their application.

3. Hone in on health

Health and wellness is a top priority but you don’t need a massive budget. From free gym passes, fruit baskets or a healthy lunch shout – staff wellness programmes come in all shapes and sizes.

4. Encourage their entrepreneurial spirit

Gen Z are more likely to look for a piece of the business pie. They understand business ownership and will want to know how their role impacts all facets of your company. Take this seriously and you could be on to a winner.

Minimum Wage Increase – 1 April 2019

More than 200,000 New Zealanders and their families will benefit from the New Zealand minimum wage increase to $17.70 an hour on 1 April 2019. This is an increase of $1.20.

The starting-out minimum wage and training minimum wage rates will increase from $13.20 to $14.16 per hour (remaining at 80% of the adult minimum wage).

The Government has also set indicative rates of $18.90 from 1 April 2020 and to $20 from 1 April 2021. These rates will be subject to each year’s annual review.

To find out more about the minimum wage increase, head to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website or call us anytime on (06) 878 8824.

It’s Time to Gear up for Payday Filing

Hundreds of Kiwi business owners are enjoying the benefits of payday filing – are you? If not, you’ll need to be by 1 April when payday filing becomes compulsory. Now’s the time to work out how you’re going to integrate it into your payroll processes and save time on your tax obligations.

Payday filing means you need to:

  • File employment information every payday instead of an Employer monthly schedule (IR348).
  • Provide new and departing employees’ address information, as well as their date of birth – if they have provided it to you.
  • File electronically (from payday compatible software or through myIR) if your annual PAYE/ESCT is $50,000 or more.

Remember, the due date for payment remains the same at the 20th of the month (or 5th and 20th of the month for twice-monthly filers).

How do I payday file?

There are three ways to file electronically – direct from payroll software, file upload from myIR or onscreen via myIR.

How do I shift over to payday filing?

  1. Review your payroll processes and plan and schedule when to shift.
  2. Ask your software provider when they’ll have payday filing compatible software (Xero and MYOB already do).
  3. If you’re using myIR to file, let the IRD know you’re switching to payday filing in myIR.

If you need clarification on payday filing, call us on (06) 878 8824.

Hiring? Look for Traits not Talent.

Soft skills are the personal qualities that make people easy to work with and they are key for business success.

Here are six important soft skills and the best open-ended interview questions you can ask to help find out whether a candidate is right for your business:

Communication

Give me an example of when you had to deal with a difficult team member. What did you do to communicate properly?

Adaptability

Tell me about a time when you were asked to do something for the first time. How did you react? What did you learn?

Culture fit

What three things are most important to you in a job?

Collaboration

Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone who was difficult to get along with. How did you handle interactions with them?

Time management

Describe a time you fell behind schedule. What went wrong and what would you do differently next time?

 

If you would like to discuss your plans for hiring or expanding your team with a trusted advisor, call us on (06) 878 8824.

The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill

Have you heard about the new Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill?

Here’s what it means for you.

FACT: New Zealand police respond to 270 domestic violence incidents every day and it’s estimated that’s only the tip of the iceberg – with 80% of incidents going unreported.

FACT: Did you know domestic violence already costs New Zealand workplaces at least $368 million a year due to higher turnover and lost productivity? Addressing the problem directly will be better for business and victims of domestic abuse.

Imagine trying to work while juggling court, counselling, and your family’s needs following a domestic violence incident. This is the situation for thousands of Kiwis, but it’s set to improve with the new Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Bill coming into effect on 1 April. The law enables people affected by family violence to apply for specific leave and flexible working arrangements to help them keep their jobs during a challenging time.

What does this mean for you?

Local companies such as Countdown, The Warehouse and ANZ already offer domestic violence leave – and it’s time for the rest of the country to follow suit. As an employer, you need to be aware of what leave and flexible working arrangements victims of domestic abuse are entitled to, what you have to do, and how to support your staff.

10 days’ domestic violence leave

Employees will be able to apply for up to 10 days’ domestic violence leave per year to deal with the effects of domestic violence, such as court appearances, doctor visits and looking after children.

  • Employees need six months’ continuous employment to be entitled to this leave and entitlement does not accrue from year to year.
  • Staff don’t need to provide proof they have been affected by domestic violence, but employers can ask for proof before agreeing to the request.
  • If an employee fails, without reasonable excuse, to provide proof, their employer isn’t required to pay for any domestic violence leave.

More flexibility at work

To support staff affected by family violence, you are required to provide flexible working conditions, such as changes to:

  • The location of their workplace
  • Their duties at work
  • The extent of contact details the employee must provide to their employer
  • Any other term of employment that needs variation to enable the employee to deal with the effects of domestic violence.

Stay open-minded and make a plan

Now’s the time to think about how you’ll approach requests for domestic violence leave. It’s a good idea to put together a practical plan to ensure you respect and protect your staff members’ privacy throughout the process. Keep in mind you could get requests for leave for a range of reasons including physical, sexual and psychological abuse, harassment, threats, intimidation and financial abuse.

If you need help putting together a plan, please call us on (06) 878 8824.

Parental Leave Puts An Onus On Employers

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern probably won’t take 18 weeks paid parental leave when she has her baby this autumn, but New Zealand law says she’s entitled to it.

Staff who’ve worked for you or any other employer for an average of at least 10 hours a week for any 26 weeks of the year preceding the birth or assumption of care of a child can take paid parental leave so long as they are the primary carer of the child and take leave to care for the child.

Extended leave without pay

Whether that staff member can take extended leave without pay will depend on whether they have been employed with you for an average of 10 hours a week for the previous six months. If so, they can take six months’ leave (in total, i.e. including primary carer leave). If they’ve met these criteria for a full year, their total leave is one year.

If employees give the right notice for the right parental-leave reason, you have to keep their jobs open until they return to work. If they’re taking more than four weeks’ parental leave, you have to keep their jobs open, unless those jobs are defined as key positions or there’s redundancy.

Period of preference

If any of those jobs are key positions, or there’s redundancy, affected staff go into a 26 week “period of preference” at the end of parental leave. That means that if any time during those 26 weeks you have a job that’s similar to what they were doing, you have to offer it to them first.

A job may be a key position because it needs special skills and there aren’t enough people with those skills. Or it would take too long to train or find a temp to do the job. Affected staff can disagree that their jobs are key positions.

Communication

There are rules around communication regarding employee applications for parental leave and employer responses, and whether or not the employee is going to return to work. We can help you ensure that you’re doing the right thing. Call us today.

Filling employment gaps over summer

With the holidays coming up, you may have started to think about whether to employ some extra people over the holidays. If you do, think carefully about the kind of help you need and broadly what kind of employment contract is best suited to the situation. It’s important to make sure you comply with current employment law and have it right from the start.

Casuals

Casual employees might be right for your business, for instance if you are covering unexpected absences. But remember that, no matter what you call the employment, if you treat casual staff as if they are permanent — for instance, give them regular hours or work over a sustained period — their employment may be regarded as permanent, with all that that entails.

Points to note:

 Casual work is intermittent or irregular, and casual employees don’t have to accept every offer of work you make so it may not fit the situation you have in mind

 Just like other employees, people who work casually for you need an employment agreement

 You can offer casual employees annual holiday pay on a ‘paid as you earn’ basis. You need to discuss this with the people you propose to employ as casuals. If they agree, this must be stated in their employment agreements, and payment must be recorded separately in wage records at a rate of at least 8%.

Fixed-term employees

It might suit your needs better to employ someone on a fixed-term agreement, particularly if working hours are going to be regular and predictable. But the law is very strict about the form of such agreements, and if that is not complied with, you may find yourself with a permanent employee, i.e. someone whose agreement is of indefinite duration.

Because a fixed-term agreement is intended to be for a limited time, the agreement must state the means of ending the employment relationship.

For instance, this might be a specific date or event (like the last day of the Boxing Day Sales or the final performance of the Christmas pantomime). Or it might be when a specific project is completed, for instance roofing the new hay barn or installing a new cooling system.

As an employer you must have genuine reasons for the employment period to be fixed-term and you must advise your prospective employee of when and how the employment term will end and the reasons for it ending in that way. Make sure the employment agreement backs this up clearly.

Be aware of the rules around entitlement to holiday pay. Like casual employees, employees on a fixed-term agreement of less than one year can agree that they will receive 8% added to their gross weekly earnings (paid-as- you-earn) instead of taking annual holidays or getting paid out all of the 8% at the end of their term. Again, you must state this clearly in the employment agreement, it can’t be less than 8% of the hourly rate, and it must be shown as a separate item in the employee’s pay slip and in wage and time records.

If you would like more information about how to cover these situations in your employment agreements or your wage and time records, please let us know.

Seasonal Workers

Many businesses are looking for seasonal workers. The hospitality industry want people for their high season. The summerfruit and wine sectors are moving into high gear.

If you are keen to employ seasonal workers over the summer and can’t find New Zealand citizens or residents to do the job, it could be an option to employ overseas workers. If you are considering this, make sure you take these simple steps:

 When advertising, state that applicants must be entitled to work here

 When applicants contact you, ask for evidence they are entitled to work here

 Keep this evidence on file

 Check their visa and passport details on Immigration NZ’s online tool VisaView

And remember – like other workers, seasonal workers have rights as employees and are able to seek protection from workplace bullying or exploitation. Make sure you observe their entitlements to holiday pay and breaks, that you pay them at least minimum wage and have written employment agreements with them.

Enforcing employment standards

It is taking time for the impact of this year’s employment law changes to sink in. Parental leave and the demise of zero hours contracts received a lot of press. Enforcing employment standards has had some coverage but always sounds a bit abstract in comparison. Yet this is an area that seems to bite employers.

The basic idea is to make sure employers pay at least minimum wage and give employees their proper holiday entitlements. Simple, right? However, it’s exposed a dramatic number of cases where employers aren’t doing this. The consequences can be grim.

Penalties for serious breaches

Where an employer has committed serious breaches of employment standards, the Employment Court can now order some very heavyweight penalties as well as compensation for affected employees.

‘Pecuniary’ penalties may be up to $50,000 for individuals or, for a company, whichever is the greater of an amount up to $100,000 or three times whatever gain the company made from the breach. Compensation to affected employees is tied to the amount the employee lost or was likely to lose because of the breach.

The employer may also face being banned from being an employer, an ‘officer of an employer’, or even involved in employing people. An ‘officer of an employer’ can be a director of a company, a partner in a partnership, or anyone in an influential senior role in a business. A banning order can be in place for up to ten years: a bit limiting, if you’re in business.

The law explicitly prohibits insuring against penalties for breaching employment standards. It doesn’t say anything about insuring for the legal costs or compensating affected employees but it would be better not to be in the situation where you have to do this kind of breakdown.

These more draconian sanctions are in addition to those already in the armoury of Labour Inspectors.

Liability for a breach

It’s in senior management’s interests to make sure the business’ practices are in line with employment standards because the liability doesn’t stop at the business entity. Where an employer is ordered to pay money to compensate an employee and can’t or won’t pay, the above-mentioned ‘officers of an employer’ may be liable if they are involved. A person is ‘involved in a breach’ whether they have actively brought it about or been a party to it in any way — directly or indirectly.

In June this year, in a case preceding the latest changes, an employer was ordered to pay $161,343.67 in wage arrears, and interest at the rate of 5% per year, for breaches of minimum entitlement requirements involving 121 different employees. The employer was also ordered to pay $65,000 in penalties for failing to provide written employment agreements; failing to keep holiday records; and failing to pay holiday pay, public holiday pay and minimum wages. The sole director and major shareholder of the employer company was found liable with the company for the wage arrears.

Vulnerable employees

The Labour Inspectorate is upfront about targeting employers who exploit vulnerable employees — for instance, those new to New Zealand, without long term visas or people to advise them.

In August, the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) ordered a Wellington grocery store to pay $53,000 in penalties and arrears for employment law breaches. The employer had failed to pay the employee minimum wage, holiday pay or additional pay for working on public holidays; had not paid the employee for all hours worked; and had charged the employee more than $10,000 in premiums by way of a payment of $5,000 upfront, $3,240 in regular small cash payments, and $2,167 funding company expenses on the employee’s personal credit card.

The penalty for breaches of the legislation was $25,000, in addition to $28,781.23 to be paid to the employee for minimum wage arrears, reimbursement of premiums and holiday pay arrears. ‘This ruling sends a clear message to employers that failure to comply with minimum employment labour standards will not be tolerated,’ said Loua Ward, Labour Inspectorate Regional Manager.

All employers need to know what the employment standards are and have good systems in place to meet them. It’s not enough to simply say ‘It doesn’t affect us. We’re not defrauding our employees.’ There are enough employers out there getting it wrong on holiday pay and minimum wage entitlements to make another look at your systems worth your while. Ask us if you’d like more detail.

‘Employees must be paid for all hours they work, and employers are required by law to keep proper time and wage records for all staff’

Loua Ward, Regional Manager
Labour Inspectorate

Safeguard your business

Being able to trust your team and advisors is gold standard. Keep it that way and don’t make it easy for someone to abuse your trust. Think about these tips to safeguard your business and keep those trusted relationships strong.

Housekeeping

Good systems make it easy to understand and hard to hide things. If you have a system, make sure it’s documented. They don’t have to be complicated. For instance, when you refund a customer, make sure it’s signed off by a manager or yourself and recorded somewhere central. Checklists can make a system easier for staff to understand and work with too.

Have systems in place to routinely look at where your money’s going or that require you to sign off on key transactions.

Monitoring

Do you have regular reporting? Things to look for are unusual customer refunds or credits, a spike in new suppliers or payments to existing ones. Do your sales look right? Is there a dip in cash sales?

Know what benchmarks other businesses in your industry are hitting. Compare your profit to overhead ratios with theirs and question inconsistencies.

Buddy systems

Red flag any of your systems where only one signatory is required or only one person oversights income and expenses. Make it part of the monthly routine to run the bank statements by more than one pair of eyes. Consider whether training up ‘buddies’ to share key financial responsibilities might make it harder to siphon off funds unseen.

Buddy systems can strengthen your succession plans as well as taking the pressure off when a signatory takes holidays. Ironically, it seems that people engaging in suspect activity tend not to take holidays for fear of being found out as they know someone else is performing their duties.

Background checks

Reference checks are a truism of recruitment but it’s important to take them seriously. If you’re interviewing for a role with access to sensitive financial data or business assets, consider whether background checks are advisable, e.g. criminal record checks or confirmation of qualifications. Make sure background checks fall within legal requirements or you can fall foul of the Privacy Commissioner and/or the Employment Relations Authority. There are specialists who can provide this service.

Audit

While audit is a significant additional business expense and we don’t suggest it lightly, periodic independent financial reviews or spot checks might be worth considering, if only to let it be widely known that this is one of your resources.

We can help you with risk assessment for your business and help you strengthen your systems if needed.

Mileage Rates 2016

Inland Revenue announced in May that the Commissioner had reduced the mileage rate from 74c to 72c/km for the 2016 tax year (1 April 2015 to 31 March 2016 for standard balance dates).

If you rely on the standard mileage rate when reimbursing your team for travel, make sure your payroll system is updated to reflect the reduced rate.

Heads up on Health and Safety

The Health and Safety Reform Bill has now been passed by parliament taking effect from 4 April 2016. The legislation itself is part of a major reform of health and safety practice in New Zealand.

The new Act imposes a primary duty on employers, with a wide range of duties to ensure health and safety in the workplace. The definition of a ‘workplace’ includes any place where a worker goes, or is likely to be, while at work. The definition of a ‘worker’ is a person – for example, an employee, contractor, person on a work trial or volunteer – who carries out work in any capacity for ‘a person conducting a business or undertaking’ (PCBU). The concept of the PCBU is central to the new reforms, placing responsibility on anyone who owns or controls a workplace and therefore on all links in the contracting chain from principal to all levels of contractor and sub-contractor. Persons who are not necessarily visible at the workplace such as those who design, manufacture, import or supply plant, substances or structures can be PCBUs with responsibilities under the legislation for the health and safety of workers and others who use them in the workplace. Company directors and those in governance roles will have an explicit due diligence duty to ensure that workplace health and safety is managed proactively.

Workers and other people in workplaces will also have obligations to ensure care is taken for the health and safety of themselves and others.

The changes will help everyone involved in the business to be clear on what they need to do to maintain sound health and safety practices in the workplace and ensure workers have the knowledge and ability to keep themselves and their colleagues safe. The regulator and the courts will have a wider range of enforcement tools, including increased penalties for breaches of duties.

The new law will be called the Health and Safety at Work Act. The Act itself will be published on the New Zealand Legislation website soon.

A series of regulations are being developed to support the new Act. These include:

  • General risk and workplace management
  • Major Hazard Facilities
  • Asbestos
  • Engagement, worker participation and representation (available shortly for public consultation)

Go to MBIE for more information

Employment Standards Update

The Employment Standards Legislation Bill has been introduced to parliament, proposing changes to strengthen enforcement of employment standards. This will introduce tougher sanctions for breaches and greater accountability for people and entities associated with the employer — such as directors, senior managers, legal advisors — if they are knowingly involved when an employer breaks the law.

The changes target unfair practices such as unreasonable deductions from employees’ wages; or where an employer does not commit to hours of work, but expects employees to be available when required; or where an employer cancels shifts without providing reasonable notice or compensation to the employee.

Penalties

Serious breaches, such as exploitation, will carry maximum penalties of $50,000 for an individual and the greater of $100,000 or three times the financial gain for a company. Individuals who commit serious or persistent breaches of employment standards may be banned as employers.

The penalties for minor to moderate breaches will remain $10,000 for an individual and $20,000 for a company. Employers who have breached minimum standards may be publically named.

Employment records

Record-keeping for wages, time, holidays and leave again come under scrutiny. Requirements will be made consistent across all employment legislation.

The core requirement is that, when an employee or labour inspector requests it, an employer must be able to produce an easily accessible record of the number of hours worked each day in a pay period, and the pay for those hours.

Breaches will attract infringement notices, with a maximum penalty of $1,000 per breach capped to $20,000 if there are multiple breaches.

Labour inspectors’ powers

Labour inspectors will have greater ability to share information with other regulators such as Immigration New Zealand, the Companies Office and Inland Revenue to better identify and investigate alleged breaches. They will also be able to request records or documents from employers (such as financial records or bank statements) that they consider will help them work out whether a breach has occurred.

There is no set timetable for the proposed legislation yet. We’ll keep you up to date with progress.

Avoid discrimination pitfalls on criminal convictions

When hiring new employees, you want to ensure you have someone you can trust, especially if there is money coming in and out of the business or the new employee may have access to important or confidential information. So is it okay to enquire about the applicant’s history and more importantly, any criminal convictions? As an employer, you are allowed to ask these questions, but there are some guidelines to follow to avoid any potential pitfalls or discrimination allegations.

If you are concerned that the applicant may have a criminal conviction, you are allowed to enquire about it if you believe it may have an impact on the role. Ask the applicant directly in the interview process or ensure you get their consent to do so before obtaining the information from a third party.

Be sure to tell the applicant the reason for collecting the information and who will be holding it. It’s important for them to know and understand why this is happening and who will know about it. Let them know who the information will be disclosed to, to avoid any unwanted surprises. Also, the applicant has the right to ask for access to this information at any time, so communicate this.

Always respect the privacy of each and every applicant and don’t request information that is too personal or irrelevant to the job at hand. It’s important to be as open and communicative as possible with the applicant throughout this process. That way, it’s likely you will avoid any conflict or discrepancies along the way.