Can I legally do that? Your employment law queries answered

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The team at Employers Assistance answer four of the most common HR legal queries.
Can I direct an employee to take annual leave?
Yes. However you should firstly discuss the matter with the employee, give reasons and try to agree on a plan to use the leave. If you cannot agree on dates, you can direct the employee to take annual leave, however the following applies:
  • You must provide at least 14 days’ notice;
  • You cannot direct an employee to take annual leave prior to their first anniversary unless in an annual shutdown;
  • You cannot direct an employee to take annual leave which has accrued since their last anniversary except in an annual shutdown.
Please note that employers can have an annual shutdown where all employees, no matter how long they have worked, can be required to take holidays.
Am I able to direct a full-time employee to work part-time due to changing operational requirements?
This depends on the employee’s Employment Agreement or any applicable Collective Agreement.
Generally speaking, changes to the terms of employment (employment agreement) can only occur if:
  • Both parties agree;
  • You must have a genuine reason for changing hours;
  • You should write a letter to the employee suggesting the possible changes in hours and follow a prescribed and detailed written consultation process in relation to looking to alternatives;.
  • If the result of the consultation is that the parties cannot agree on reduced hours, a new part time position will then need to be created and this will need to be given to the employee;
  • If the employee does not accept the new position, the full time position will need to be made redundant.
Am I obliged to raise employees' wages in line with the CPI at the beginning of each financial year?
No, unless their employment agreement or the applicable collective agreement specifies that the wages are to be raised with CPI.
Can I refuse an employee’s request to cash in a week’s leave?
Yes. If you do receive a request, you must treat such requests in good faith, although where a job is physically or mentally demanding the employer has an added obligation to consider the Health and Safety implications of the employee not taking their full holiday entitlement.
  • You should respond in a timely manner and you don’t have to give a reason for refusing;
  • The request and the response need to be in writing;
  • Employees cannot cash in their holidays until their first anniversary;
  • Holiday pay accrued since the employee’s last anniversary cannot be cashed in;
  • You can have a policy of not cashing in the 4th week of holidays, (either in the employment agreement or in the policy document) which means that the employee is not entitled to request cashing in their 4th week;
  • The employer cannot initiate the request – it can only come from the employee.
Employers Assistance provides comprehensive employment Law advice and online cloud-based resources to New Zealand businesses. To learn more visit their website

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