Wiping the slate clean

The seven year itch

The Clean Slate Act or clean slate scheme, more formally and correctly known as the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004, became law almost 15 years ago. The rationale behind the legislation was to enable people who had certain convictions to put their past behind them without the stigma of a permanent conviction. Having a criminal record can have far-reaching consequences for employment, immigration, voluntary work and various other matters.

What the legislation means

The Clean Slate Act limits the effect of convictions if certain criteria are satisfied. If it has been seven years since you were convicted, you will be considered to have no criminal record and can state this to anyone who asks.

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Over the fence

Minimum wage review 2019

The government reviews the minimum wage each year.

On 1 April 2019 the adult minimum wage will increase from $16.50/hour to $17.70/hour. The starting out and training minimum wage will increase from $13.20/hour to $14.16/hour. The government has also set indicative rates of $18.90/hour from 1 April 2020 and to $20.00/hour from 1 April 2021. These rates will be subject to each year’s annual review.

minimum

We recommend you review all wage and salary structures to ensure your employees are paid at least the minimum wage at all times for hours worked.

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Potpourri of employment law changes ahead

Monday, 6 May 2019 is D-day

Last year saw many changes in the employment law sphere, with the Labour-led government delivering on promises of reform in this area. Of particular significance are the changes incorporated into the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 that was passed late last year. These changes will affect both employers and employees. We summarise some of these below.

rest breaks

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Agri-tourism and food

The legal implications of diversifying your farming operation

Agri-tourism and food are growing sectors in New Zealand. We have farm tourism where tourists are shown working farms with activities such as sheep dog and shearing exhibitions. Artisan producers are growing their own products and then processing them into, say, cheese, and free-range pigs are becoming salami, bacon and ham.

Often farm and food tourism begins as a way of diversifying a farm’s income stream. Sometimes it starts off as a relatively small hobby or sideline activity but then grows into something much larger in scale.

agritourism

There are legal implications to consider when you diversify your farming operation in these ways, particularly with regard to health and safety in the workplace and food safety.

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Receivership of construction companies

Protecting your property and getting paid

In light of Ebert Construction’s recent receivership, not taking protective measures opens subcontractors up to recovery and enforcement issues. If you are a subcontractor, you should think about how to prevent your tools and equipment (including cranes and scaffolding) from being seized and sold by a receiver, and to ensure you have the best chance of getting paid.

Protecting your tools and equipment

The first step to take is very practical. If you can, always take your tools and equipment home with you each night. When a construction company goes into receivership, the receivers lock the gates to the relevant construction sites which prevents you from collecting your tools and equipment.

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Second thoughts

What happens when your employee wants to retract their resignation?

We all know that people can sometimes say things in the heat of the moment which, on reflection, they didn’t really mean. What happens when your employee quits suddenly, perhaps by storming out of your workplace as a result of a disagreement? As an employer, can you take this as a resignation? What happens if your employee has a change of heart and wants to return to work?

Most employment agreements will provide a notice period that any employee must give when they want to end their employment. This allows you some time to find a replacement and make arrangements for the handover of work.

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Questions you shouldn’t ask job applicants

An employment minefield

In the lead-up to the 2017 election, broadcaster Mark Richardson caused an uproar when he asked the then Leader of the Opposition, Jacinda Ardern, if she had plans to have children. The commonly-held view was that this question was outrageous. While a broadcaster has the liberty to ask a range of questions, an employer or potential employer cannot ask this.

Job interviews can be a challenge for both employers and applicants. There are varying opinions on the best way to interview applicants and which questions will help you ascertain if someone is the right fit for your workplace.

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How old do you have to be?

As lawyers, we’re often asked the legal age for a variety of things such as agreeing to medical treatment, making a will and so on. We thought it would be useful to pull together some of this information as a guide for the required ages in these situations.

The younger years

At the age of five, you can be enrolled in a state school, although, under a recent law change, a child can start school at the beginning of the term closest to their fifth birthday, if their school has a ‘cohort entry’ policy. Youngsters don’t actually have to start school until they’re six years old.

At just 10, you can be charged with murder or manslaughter and, at 12 years old, you can be charged with a number of other serious criminal offences.

Teen times

When you’re 14 years old, you can be left at home alone. You can also babysit a child, as long as you’re capable of providing reasonable supervision and care. You can now also be prosecuted for any criminal offence.

When you turn 15, you can wave goodbye to school, but you will need approval from the Ministry of Education.

On reaching your 16th birthday, you can sit a driving test and get your learner driver licence. Generally, you can leave home without your parents’ agreement (unless there are serious concerns about your welfare). You can agree to, or refuse, medical treatment.

At 16, you can get married or enter into a civil union for which you will need your parents’ consent – even though you don’t have to live in the same house as them. Once you marry, however, your parents will no longer be your guardians.

You can leave school of your own volition at 16, and you’re also eligible to work full-time. You can legally consent to have sex, apply for an adult passport, fly a plane solo, apply for a firearms licence and you’re eligible for various state benefits. Your parents cannot change your name, unless you agree to it.

There’s more . . .

When you’re 17 years old, you can join the armed forces if you have your parents’ consent. You can apply to join the New Zealand Police, but you can’t start training at Police College until you’re 18.

In the criminal court system, after you turn 17 you will be treated as an adult and must appear in the District Court or High Court; you no longer appear in the Youth Court.

Your 18th birthday signals the end of your parents (or legal guardians) having any legal responsibility for you. You can make a will; although in some circumstances younger people can do this. You can get married or enter into a civil union without your parents’ consent. You can go off to the bank to apply for your own account, credit card and a loan. (You may have a bank account when you’re under 18 years old, but it must be in the joint name of a parent or guardian.) You can be called upon to do jury service. You may place bets at the TAB or racecourse, buy Instant Kiwi tickets, vote in national and local body elections and you may stand as a political candidate. You can legally buy alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco or fireworks and can change your name, all without needing anyone’s agreement.

That’s not everything

At the age of 19, if you’re adopted, you can place a veto that will last a decade on information about you so that your birth parents cannot contact you; this veto can later be removed or renewed.

After you turn 20, your birth parents can ask Oranga Tamariki (Ministry for Children) for information about you. If you don’t want them to do that you must apply for a veto; you need to write to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages saying that you don’t want information to be released that could identify you. In the letter, you must say if you’d like counselling about your choice.

By the time you’re 20 years old, you have the vast majority of adult rights and responsibilities. If you’re adopted, you can apply to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages to obtain a copy of your birth certificate to find out the names of your birth parents. You can apply to adopt a child who is related to you. You can gamble or work in a casino, and you may drive with a small amount of alcohol in your system.

When you are 25, you can apply to adopt a child who is not related to you, as long as that child is at least 20 years younger than you.

There are, however, a number of things you can do with no minimum age. You can buy contraceptives, own land, purchase a lotto ticket, obtain a passport, have a tattoo and join a trade union.

We hope this helps with some age-related queries, and that the answers haven’t come as too much of a shock – particularly to parents! Please contact us if you have any questions we haven’t answered here.

Business Briefs

Is your business infringing existing intellectual property rights? Do your homework.

A trade mark can be a valuable asset which can help your business to develop a reputation in the market and distinguish your goods and/or services from others. It’s risky, however, to not consider existing third party intellectual property rights before you start to trade.

There would be nothing worse than finding the perfect location, deciding on a business name and launching into trading, only to receive a letter six months later to say that your business is infringing existing third party intellectual property rights, and that you must stop using it immediately. In most situations the only way forward is to re-brand and potentially lose your existing goodwill and customer recognition.

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Compensation for emotional harm in the workplace – trending upwards

Compensation awards for employees who have suffered emotional harm in the workplace have traditionally been low, which has been favourable for employers facing claims by employees.

emotional harm

Recently, however, compensation amounts have increased and are achieving greater consistency for employees. Employers now, more than ever, need to treat their employees properly to ensure they do not face significant compensation awards for personal grievance claims.

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