Primary Principals' (NZEI) Collective Agreement
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Appendix 3: Employment Relationship Problems
Primary Principals' (NZEI) Collective Agreement
Effective: 3 July 2023 to 2 July 2025
What is an Employment Relationship Problem?
It is a problem between employee and employer. For example, it might be a personal grievance or a dispute about a provision in an employment agreement.
Resolving an Employment Relationship Problem
The employee and employer should first make a reasonable effort to discuss the problem and settle it by mutual agreement. (If it’s a personal grievance, it must first be raised with the employer within 90 days (12 months in the case of a personal grievance in respect of sexual harassment) - Personal Grievances are explained further below).
An employee (or employer) has the right to be represented at any stage.
When a problem arises, union members should contact their local NZEI Te Riu Roa field officer for advice and representation.
Employers should contact NZSTA or other adviser/representative of choice.
A personal grievance is a particular type of employment relationship problem that normally must be raised with the employer within 90 days of the grievance arising (12 months in the case of a personal grievance in respect of sexual harassment).
An employee may have a personal grievance where:
- they have been dismissed without good reason, or the dismissal was not carried out properly; or
- their employment or a condition of their employment has been affected to their disadvantage by an unjustified action of their employer; or
- they have been discriminated against in terms of the prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Human Rights Act 1993
- they have experienced sexual or racial harassment in their employment;
- they have been treated adversely in the employee’s employment on the ground that the employee is, or is suspected or assumed or believed to be, a person affected by family violence; or
- they have been subject to duress in the employee’s employment in relation to membership or non-membership of a union or employees organisation; or
their employer has failed to comply with a requirement of Part 6A; or
- they have been disadvantaged by the employee’s employment agreement not being in accordance with section 67C, 67D, 67G, or 67H of the Employment Relations Act 200o; or
their employer has contravened section 67F or 67G(3); or
- their employer has, in relation to the employee,—
- engaged in adverse conduct for a prohibited health and safety reason; or
- contravened section 92 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (which prohibits coercion or inducement); or
- their employer has retaliated, or threatened to retaliate, against the employee in breach of section 21 of the Protected Disclosures (Protection of Whistleblowers) Act 2022 (because the employee intends to make or has made a protected disclosure).
Note: The full meaning of the terms "personal grievance", "discrimination", "sexual harassment", "racial harassment", and "duress", shall be the meaning given by sections 103 to 110 inclusive of the Employment Relations Act 2000(external link). That Act (and other legislation) can be viewed at www.legislation.govt.nz.
As with other employment relationship problems, the parties should always try to resolve a personal grievance through discussion.
Either party can refer a personal grievance to the Employment Relations Service of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for mediation assistance, or to the Employment Relations Authority (Authority).
If the problem relates to a type of discrimination that can be the subject of a complaint to the Human Rights Commission under the Human Rights Act 1993, the person can either take a personal grievance, or complain to the Human Rights Commission, but not both. If in doubt, advice should be sought before deciding.
To help resolve employment relationship problems, the MBIE provides:
- The Mediation Service is a free and independent service available through the MBIE.
- This service helps to both resolve employment relationship problems and promote the smooth conduct of employment relationships.
- Mediation is a mutual problem solving process, aimed at reaching an agreement, assisted by an independent mediator.
- If the parties can’t reach a settlement they can ask the mediator to make a final and binding (written) decision.
- A settlement reached through mediation and signed by the mediator at the request of the parties is final, binding and enforceable. Neither party can then take the matter any further. Either party can be made to comply with the agreed settlement by court order.
- If the problem is unresolved through mediation either party may apply to have the matter dealt with by the Authority.
The Employment Relations Authority
- This Authority is an investigative body that operates in an informal way. It looks into the facts and makes a decision on the merits of the case and not on legal technicalities.
- Either an employer or an employee can refer an unresolved employment relationship problem to the Authority by filing the appropriate forms.
- The Authority may call evidence, hold investigative meetings, or interview anyone involved. It can direct the parties to try mediation. If mediation is unsuitable or has not resolved the problem, the Authority will make a decision that is binding on all parties. Any party can contest the Authority’s decision through the Employment Court.
Note 1: All employment relationship problems, including personal grievances and any disputes about the interpretation or application of this Agreement, must be resolved under Parts 9 and 10 of the Employment Relations Act 2000(external link).
Note 2: In relation to a dispute about the interpretation, application, or operation of this Agreement the employer shall act, if the Secretary acting under delegation from the State Services Commissioner so requires, together with or in consultation with the Secretary.