Mediation often best

ANDREJA PHILLIPS CASE WORKER AT COMMUNITY LAW MARLBOROUGH.
Last updated 05:00 27/02/2013

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Mediation is an important tool in dispute resolution, and when it comes to employment relationship problems. For certain employment matters, mediation will be the best and least expensive option.

Let's take a look at potential employment relationship issues and what the best course of action might be. Is your employer aware of their legal obligations? Are you getting all your legal minimum entitlements under the Employment Relations Act 2000 (ERA) and its amendments? Have you got a written employment agreement?

Since July 1, 2012, a written employment contract has been required by law. Employers could be fined of up to $10,000 if they do not comply with this statute. Your employer also has to pay you the minimum wage ($13.50 per hour), even if you are on contract rates. You are also legally entitled to holiday pay and specific rules apply regarding public holidays.

If you are experiencing problems with any of these minimum entitlements it is best to contact - and if necessary file a complaint with - the Department of Labour (now part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) on freephone 0800 209 020.

But if your employment issue is not regarding a legal minimum entitlement, then it is probably best to get in contact with Community Law Marlborough (unless you are a member of a union in which case your union representative would be your first port of call).

We will listen to your situation and discuss the issues and your options. The solution to resolving your workplace difficulties may lie in continuing and/or increasing communication with your employer, initiating negotiations and workplace meetings. Remember that it should be clear what the meeting is about and to take a support person with you, who you trust and who can keep calm!

The free and confidential Employment Relations Mediation Service (provided by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) can also be used at this relationship building stage - it's often much better to use this helpful service earlier rather than later.

In case of an unfair redundancy or dismissal for example or matters of discrimination you may have grounds to raise a personal grievance. The process for personal grievances is as follows: You have to raise the grievance in writing and explain the grounds for the grievance. This has to happen within 90 days of the actual grievance occurring.

You also need to state that you are seeking remedies and requesting mediation to work through the issues. If the employer does not agree to mediation then you will have to take the matter to the Employment Relations Authority, which can order the employer to mediation.

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Once both parties have agreed to mediation the Employment Mediation Service will provide you with a meeting date. This may take a few weeks. The mediation itself will take up to a few hours of your time. It is a free and confidential process, with highly experienced mediators. Both parties have the opportunity to present their opening statements - a summary of the problems and issues to be resolved - and both parties will have to listen and will be heard also.

After this initial phase the negotiation phase proper begins. If you end up settling the matter at the mediation then the mediator will draw up a legally binding and confidential settlement agreement.

You can always get in touch with us regarding your employment problems. We are funded to help all people with "unmet legal needs".

You find us at Community Law Marlborough, level 3, 1-17 Market St (Porse House) in Blenheim, phone 03 577 9919 or freephone 0800 266 529 or email: reception@commlawmarlb.org.nz

Andreja Phillips is a case worker at Community Law Marlborough.

- The Marlborough Express

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