Fair Pay Agreements

The Fair Pay Agreements Bill has been passed into law and took effect on 1 December 2022. 

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Union access to workplaces

Credit: FindLaw New Zealand

Union representatives have the right to access an employer’s workplace so long as certain conditions are met.

Union access to workplaces

Under section 20 of the Employment Relations Act 2000, union representatives have a right to access workplaces to:

  • Discuss union business with its members
  • Recruit new union members
  • Provide union information to any employee on the premises
  • Bargain with the employer for a collective agreement
  • Deal with health and safety issues for its members
  • Check that the employer is complying with the collective agreement
  • Check that the employer is complying with employment law
  • Help an employee with the terms of their individual employment agreement, if the employee has asked them to
  • Ask the employer to comply with any relevant requirements if non-compliance has been detected.

In order to be entitled to access a workplace, the union representative must:

  • Have a reasonable belief that either a member of the union works there, or that someone in the workplace carries out the type of work that is covered by the union
  • Gain the employer's consent, or implied consent
  • Request access at a reasonable time of day
  • Access the workplace in a reasonable manner, considering normal business operations
  • Comply with health, safety and security procedures.

Union representatives must get the employer's consent before entering a workplace. However, this is subject to the fact that employers cannot unreasonably deny them access. If a union representative requests access to the workplace, the employer must communicate their decision as soon as reasonably practicable, and at least by the next working day. If the employer does not respond to the request within two working days, consent is deemed to be given.

Employers must not unreasonably withhold consent to access a workplace. If they do withhold consent, then they must give the reason for doing so to the union representative, in writing, as soon as is reasonably practicable, and at least by the next working day after the decision was made. A penalty may be imposed on an employer for unreasonably withholding consent or failing to give reasons in writing for withholding consent.

Employers cannot deny access unless they have an exemption certificate stating:

  • It might prejudice national security or defence
  • It might prejudice the investigation or detection of offences
  • Their religious beliefs effectively preclude membership of any organisation such as a union.

For the religious beliefs exemption to be valid, there must be no union members on-site, and less than 20 employees.

If an employer, without lawful excuse, refuses to allow a union representative to enter a workplace, or obstructs a union representative in entering a workplace, they may be liable to a penalty (imposed by the Employment Relations Authority).