Employment Relations Consultants Ltd
 Frequently Asked Questions

 How can ERC help me?

  How much will this cost?

  I don't live in Auckland, will I have to pay more?

 What constitutes a dispute?

 How do I go about this?

 What can I do to help?

 How long will this take?

 Can I do this myself?

 What are the procedures?

 How and when do I get paid?

 What happens if a settlement sum is not paid?

 

 

How can ERC help me?

See Our Services and/or contact us.

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How much will this cost?

Our initial consultation is free of charge. 

After that we will take on your case on the basis that, if we are not successful on your behalf in obtaining for you either a financial settlement or, in some cases, reinstatement, you pay us nothing.

In all cases where we reach a satisfactory conclusion on your behalf, we take a percentage of the settlement figure.  The percentages vary depending on how far through the legal system we go with your case. 

The actual figures we prefer to discuss one on one as they can be misleading if not properly explained.  However our experience shows us that in most instances our fee is comparable to that which a lawyer would charge. The difference with us is that we don’t charge up front and we certainly don’t charge win or lose.

We don’t charge for disbursements such as postage or photocopying but we do charge a small fee for communication with government departments on your behalf (e.g. WINZ)  Once again this is only payable if we win for you.

All details of our fee structure will be explained to you by one of our representatives and they are detailed in our client agreement.

 Occasionally we encounter an employer who will not co-operate with us. (go to procedures)  This is quite rare but in these cases we may have to register a complaint with the Employment Relations Authority.  There is a lodgement fee of $70 which is payable directly to The Employment Relations Authority.  This fee is not payable to us and as such falls outside the “No Win- No Fee” agreement.  We encourage our clients not to concern themselves with this possibility when they first set out as the need to go to The Authority is the exception rather than the rule. In other words “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it”.

 The only other possible cost is for misuse of the 0800 number.  To understand this you should go to here

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I don’t live in Auckland, will I have to pay more?

 Employment Relations Consultants works throughout New Zealand.  It is often necessary to travel for mediation or ERA investigation meetings.  The increased cost of travel means that we are no longer able to include this in our contingency fee.  Therefore the following charges will apply:  Travel within 25 kilometres of Auckland City Central will be undertaken free of charge.  Outside of that distance but within a reasonable driving distance of Auckland (e.g. Whangarei, Hamilton, Tauranga) a flat fee of $100 petrol allowance will be payable to your representative in advance of the required travel.   With cases outside the above mentioned cities, if it proves necessary to go to mediation or an ERA hearing, it will be over to the client to provide return air tickets for one of our representatives to attend.  Experience has shown us that this rarely costs more than $300.  Our arrangement is that if we fail to win a settlement, the cost of the airfares will be borne by the client (you).  If we win, however, we will deduct half the cost of the airfares from our fee.

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What constitutes a dispute?

Most employment disputes surround what is known as a personal grievance.

 A personal grievance is defined in law as “……any grievance that an employee may have against the employee’s employer of former employer because of a claim –

(a)       That the employee has been unjustifiably dismissed; or

(b)       That the employee’s employment, or 1 or more conditions of the employee’s employment (including any condition that survives termination of the employment) is or are or was (during employment that has since been terminated) affected to the employee’s disadvantage by some unjustifiable action by the employer; or

(c)       that the employee has been discriminated against in the employee's employment; or

(d)       that the employee has been sexually harassed in the employee's employment; or

(e)       that the employee has been racially harassed in the employee's employment; or

(f)         that the employee has been subject to duress in the employee's employment in relation to membership or non-membership of a union or employees organisation”

See also Types of Disputes

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How do I go about this?

At Employment Relations Consultants we try to take the weight of responsibility for the handling of this problem off your shoulders.

 To do this we have made “getting the ball rolling” as simple as possible.

 In order to establish the legal position of your case our experienced representatives will take you through a “no pressure” interview to try and assess whether or not you have a case which requires our assistance.   To arrange this, all that is required is one simple, toll free phone call

       In Auckland – Phone 09 238 3025

Rest of NZ – Phone 0800 WEHELP (0800 934 357)

 We have experienced consultants throughout New Zealand and they are very busy.  In order to ensure that the work they perform is used in the most economic way we use a “filtering” system to ensure that each case is handled by the right consultant.

Cases are registered by type and location.  They are then allocated either by area, or, depending on the type of case, they may be allocated to a specialist consultant who only handles cases of a certain type.

 When you ring in on 0800 WE HELP our operator will assist you to register.  This will involve the operator asking you a range of questions which will be transferred to a case sheet for your allocated consultant. 

Please note that there is no commitment on either party at this point. 

While we appreciate that many of our potential clients are nervous at this stage you can rest assured that no one will action anything or contact anyone until both parties have agreed there is a case to answer and all documentation has been signed for our authority to act.

 Once we have enough details we can then allocate a consultant to your case.  In most instances because of the nature of the work our consultants perform (mediations, interviewing, investigation and research) it is not always possible to arrange an interview at the time of your first call.  So usually we will arrange for a consultant to ring you at an appropriate time and conduct an interview with you over the telephone.  In some city centres we can organise face to face interviews although this is often unnecessary and difficult to arrange because of time and distance.

 Once it has been established that a case exists, the consultant will explain the procedure and the fee structure.  If you then wish to proceed, the consultant will arrange for documentation to be sent out to you.  The documentation includes an Authority to Act and a Client Agreement confirming all reasonable details of our arrangement including procedures, time frames, fee structures and your responsibilities to us as a client.

You will have to sign and return this before any action can be taken with your case.

 Once the documentation is returned by you we will proceed as previously detailed to you by the consultant.

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What can I do to help?

The main thing we ask of you is that you be absolutely honest with us.  Believe it or not we are just like you and we have our own faults and our own problems so we understand.  We also understand that there are two sides to every story so we know that when we make contact with your employer we will hear a story substantially different to yours.  Usually this is a matter of perspective. Different people see things differently. 

Sometimes though, the story differs because one side or the other is not being absolutely honest.  Our ability to win is greatly enhanced by possession of all the facts and this includes instances where maybe you were a little in the wrong as well.  You should tell us these things as it is a very rare case where one side is totally faultless.  If we find out about these things after initial contact with your employer it puts us on the back foot and we then have to respond.  Apart from anything else, not being in full possession of the facts will usually cause a case to take longer to settle as we then have to argue back and forth about who did what and to whom.

 The other area you can help is keeping our overheads down.   The only way we can afford to handle cases on a contingency basis (No Win – No Fee) is by ensuring that we limit our expenses and our time. 

 

0800 WE HELP

 Your consultant will explain that the 0800 number is intended for initial contact only. Once initial contact has been made clients are expected to make contact through the direct dial number which will be supplied by your allocated representative. Unauthorised calls to the 0800 number will be charged to the client at a rate of $1 + GST per minute.  This will be added to the final account where appropriate.

Each time you speak to your representative he or she will explain when you can expect to hear from them next.  Remember that your representative can only tell you something if there is something to tell. Phoning your representative every day will not speed the procedure at all. 

 Dealing with your representative

 You can also help by dealing with your representative in a calm and polite manner.  Remember that your representative is handling anything up to 50 to 100 of these cases at any one time.  While we certainly recognise that these types of issues can be frustrating and annoying it should also be remembered that we are trying to help you.  In a lot of cases we are working for you because your employer has treated you badly. How do you think we will feel if we are abused for the failings of your employer?  Stay calm and listen carefully to what your representative is telling you.

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How long will this take?

It should be clearly understood that, because of the variety of ways in which employment problems can be handled there is no guarantee of a time frame for the resolution of a dispute.  Some situations, with the co-operation of both sides, can be settled in a matter of days.  Others, which may require legal action including an Employment Relations Authority investigation (hearing), can take months.  We will endeavour to keep you informed of the progress of your case and, at the close of each communication, we will let you know approximately when (at the latest) you can expect to hear from us again. 

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Can I do this myself?

The short answer to this question is  - Yes you can handle your own case if you wish.  However, there is an old saying in law that goes something like this – “A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.”

It is almost impossible for an individual to remain suitably emotionally detached to be able to impartially assess the situation he or she find themselves in.

 Our experience has shown us that far fewer employment matters are settled to the absolute satisfaction of both parties when either side is not represented.  Although New Zealand Statute surrounding employment law has been relatively well prepared in comparison with other countries, nonetheless the law can be quite complicated and can take some skill in understanding.

 For example just some of the statute related to employment law includes:

      ·        Accident Rehabilitation and Compensation Insurance Act 1992

·        Accident Insurance (Transitional Provisions) Act 2000

·        Disabled Persons Employment Promotion Act 1960

·        Employment Relations Act 2000

·        Employment Relations (Validation of Union Registration and Other Matters) Amendment 2001

·        Equal Pay Act 1972

·        Fair Trading Act 1986

·        Health and Safety in Employment Act 1992

·        Holidays Act 2003

·        Human Rights Act 1993

·        Industry Training Act 1992

·        Minimum Wage Act 1983

·        Parental Leave and Employment Protection Act 1987

·        Privacy Act 1993

·        Protected Disclosures Act 2000

·        State Sector Act 1988

·        Volunteers Employment Protection Act 1973

·        Wages Protection Act 1983

 The other factor in this is, of course, time.  These matters can take a lot of time to work through the system. Then there is the research and reading required.  All this cuts into your ability to restructure your life after an employment problem.  The simple answer is to appoint someone to represent you while you concentrate on matters in your immediate surroundings.

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What are the procedures?

FIRST STEP

 After your initial telephone interview and once we have established that there is a case to go forward, we will discuss the approach we will adopt in your particular situation.  We will also discuss your expectations in the matter which may include seeking reinstatement of your position.  Once this has been completed we will make contact with your employer by the means decided.  In most instances this will involve the drafting and preparation of a letter registering your personal grievance and inviting the employer to either discuss the matter directly with us (through your allocated representative) or to attend mediation.  The employer then has fourteen days to respond to such a communication.  If the employer is willing to discuss the matter directly with us we will endeavour to negotiate a solution, otherwise we will invite him/her to attend mediation.  Mediation is voluntary and most employers will agree to attend. There will always be a few who won’t and this requires further action.

(refer FURTHER ACTION below)

 

MEDIATION

 If the employer prefers to go to mediation rather than to attempt to settle direct, we will prepare all submissions required for this which include a request for mediation assistance and the supply of all details, communications and documents relating to the matter.  The mediation is usually held in the area in which the employment took place.  The main city centres (Auckland, Wellington etc.) have a central location but other areas, especially the distant locations, use local venues.  The time it takes to obtain a date for mediation will often be determined by the area you live in.  We can discuss this.  Please note that mediations in other than central locations can incur a cost of travel.  This will be discussed with you as a separate issue and may require an additional agreement.   No travel costs will be imposed without your express agreement which will be indicated through the signing of form DRS027.

 Once a date has been set, we will attend mediation with you and handle all aspects of the presentation of your case including a summary in law.  Most cases (around 95%) are settled at mediation but obviously there are some exceptions.

 If your case is settled at mediation, the mediator will draw up a “full and final’ settlement agreement and this will be signed off on the day. A mediated settlement will usually provide for payment to be made within 7 - 14 days. Payment is made directly to you.
(refer PAYMENTS below)

 If your case is not settled at mediation, we will perform a “risk assessment” of your situation and decide if it is appropriate to take further action. (refer FURTHER ACTION below)

 

FURTHER ACTION

 If your employer refuses to attend mediation in the first instance then we will make application to The Employment Relations Authority.  This requires the submission of a Statement of Problem and requires the collation of case details, communications and all documentation relating to your case.  There is also a $70 fee required to lodge this and you may be required to provide this.  Please note that this lodgement fee is payable to The Employment Relations Authority and not to Employment Relations Consultants.  On that basis this cost falls outside our agreement in terms of “No Win – No Fee”.

There is a legal requirement that, before the Employment Relations Authority will hear any matter, there must have been an attempt by the parties to have settled their differences by way of mediation.  While there are some very rare exceptions, the Authority will order mediation in the first instance (refer MEDIATION above)

 Please note: If an order to mediation is issued by the Employment Relations Authority following an application and that mediation fails there is no requirement for a second application in order to move on to an Authority investigation.

 If your case has not been settled at mediation then we will make application to The Employment Relations Authority.  This requires the submission of a Statement of Problem and requires the collation of case details, communications and all documentation relating to your case.  There is also a $70 fee required to lodge this and you may be required to provide this.  Please note that this lodgement fee is payable to The Employment Relations Authority and not to Employment Relations Consultants.  On that basis this cost falls outside our agreement in terms of “No Win – No Fee”.

The Employment Relations Authority will hold a telephone conference with the representatives of both sides and a timeline will be decided.  This will include a date for the investigation (hearing) as well as dates for the final submission of documentation.  Documents include your “brief of evidence”, “briefs of evidence” of all witnesses and legal submissions.  Some cases may require the subpoenaing of witnesses as well.  As with mediation we will represent you on the day and will take care of the presentation of your case.  The Authority Member who handles the case will make a decision on your case. This is called a determination and may take from two weeks to two months to deliver. There are rights of appeal.

 

PAYMENTS

Although most agreements provide for payment to be made within 7 or 14 days of the registration date of the settlement, there are exceptions to this, particularly if the employer is financially unable to pay in one lump sum.  In these cases it can be arranged for the employer to “pay off” the amount.  Payment is made directly to you.

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How and when do I get paid?

Most agreements provide for payment to be made within 7 or 14 days of the registration date of the settlement, there are exceptions to this, particularly if the employer is financially unable to pay in one lump sum.  In these cases it can be arranged for the employer to “pay off” the amount.  Payment is made directly to you.

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What happens if a settlement sum is not paid?

We see the enforcement of collection as part of our function.  We set our fees proportionate to the money that comes in.  If a mediated settlement is not paid we will enforce the agreement.  Like many other legal matters this can be a complicated and time consuming exercise.  Additional costs may be incurred although in most instances these costs are recoverable.  The method of recovery tends to increase in severity as each progressive step is reached.  If negotiations with the employer are not successful we begin with an order for payment which comes from the Employment Relations Authority, and, in the most extreme of cases, end with an asset seizure order which is executed by local authorities.

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