The overriding obligation on both employers and employees is to treat each other in good faith and this requires them to be active and constructive in maintaining a good relationship.  It includes being responsive and communicative in their employment dealings.  Also covered by the duty is the employee’s union.

Employers must not try to get an employee to not be involved in collective bargaining or to not be covered by a collective agreement.  A common example of when communication and consultation in good faith is required is if the employer is considering making employees redundant.

The good faith duty requires the employer to provide information about the proposal (unless it is commercially sensitive e.g. the terms of the sale and purchase agreement.

The Employment Relations Authority and Employment Court can impose penalties for breaches of good faith.

Employees have a duty to carry out their work and employers have a duty to pay the agreed remuneration and benefits.  A problem can arise if work cannot be carried out.  In the recent example of earthquakes putting businesses out of operation an employee would still be entitled to be paid if they were willing and able to work.  This is so even if there is no work because of the destruction.  However, if the employee is unable to work because they cannot get to work due to the destruction or is unwilling to work because they stay home to look after their family, property or neighbours then they are not entitled to be paid.  The same would be true if there is a power cut, volcanic eruption, snow storm etc.

Employers are obligated to provide work (and not just pay the wages) so that employees can keep up the skills and reputation but if the business can be run without them the employer can go down the redundancy pathway.  Employers must provide a safe workplace and employees must not do anything which injures themselves or others in the workplace.

Employees must obey reasonable and lawful instructions of their employer and take reasonable care when carrying out their work.  Breaches can result in a justified dismissal (after a fair process is followed).

Alan Knowsley
Employment Lawyer