New Zealand’s Magazine for Human Resources Professionals
How COVID-19 has transformed HR practices in NZ Omicron in the workplace Practical changes as a result of COVID-19 COVID and talent in 2022
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F I G 1. H U MANIT
Y AT W O RK
The Employee Experience Platform
MANAGING EDITOR Kathy Catton Ph: 021 0650 959 Email: email@example.com
From the editor I
t’s hard to believe two years have passed since New Zealand entered its first pandemic lockdown this autumn. And HR has been at the heart of this health crisis. COVID-19 forced almost every organisation to become deeply self-reflective. Initially driven by the need to keep the workforce safe, HR professionals are now sifting through longerterm organisational issues, such as fundamental ways of working, how to best collaborate and how to enable leaders to support the productivity and wellbeing of all employees. This issue of the magazine explores how COVID-19 has changed the workplace forever and how HR has been transformed in the process. ‘What changes will be more permanent?’ and ‘How can we guide our employees and leaders through these changes?’ are just some of the questions we are seeking to answer. Top of the list right now for many organisations is how to attract and retain talent. Rob Bishop, from Bishop Associates, provides a fantastic insight into what organisations can do to keep their calm in this arena, even amid this uncertainty and turmoil. Anne Wilson, from Anthony Harper Lawyers, provides a practical guide of what HR professionals can be addressing at this time of flux, and Lauren Parsons shares her tips for building resilience and preventing burnout.
Thank you to all our wonderful contributors. It’s fantastic to see the magazine going from strength to strength in providing relevant, timely and practical advice and articles to our HR community.
Kathy Catton Managing Editor Kathy.Catton@hrnz.org.nz
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FROM THE HRNZ CHIEF EXECUTIVE
Top of mind T
his issue of our Human Resources magazine reflects on how our response to the COVID-19 pandemic has changed New Zealand workplaces. It’s good to take a moment to reflect on that. The effects on workplaces have been many, and it’s easy to lose sight of some of them. It’s not just about working from home and flexible working; we have a whole new focus on employee wellness, digital collaboration has advanced exponentially, and we’ve had to come up with new approaches to finding and developing talent. If the COVID-19 pandemic has changed workplaces, it has also changed the role of HR professionals. Our members have had to learn many new things and develop new skills to keep up with the changes. This happens all the time, but lately we’ve seen a massive acceleration in our need to learn and adapt. In 2022, HRNZ will be undertaking a major review of the competency framework that underpins our professional framework and service offerings to members. It’s a critical project for the organisation; after all, our members rely on us to provide services that support them today and prepare them for the future. We’re not doing this just because of changes in the past two years. Our current framework was developed more than 15 years ago. The world has moved on.
We’re also keen to ensure our framework reflects the unique nature of our country, culture and people. It’s always good to look far and wide for inspiration, but we always have to remember New Zealand workplaces can be slightly different from global examples we might look at. HRNZ has been working on how to develop a more bicultural approach to HR practice in New Zealand, and incorporating this thinking into the review is important. As we go through the journey of reviewing our framework, we will be keeping in mind three main principles. The first is accepting that, as the HR profession moves forward, we will need to leave some things behind. There are potentially skills or processes we’ve had in the past that have served us well but may hold us back as we move into the future.
we need to show up in the future to add the best possible value in our workplaces. With these principles in mind, we’ll seek to involve as many members as possible in our review. We’re not sure what any resulting ‘competency framework’ might look like, but, actually, it’s how we arrive at it that will matter the most. “It is good to have an end to journey toward, but it is the journey that matters in the end.” – Ernest Hemingway
Nick McKissack Chief Executive HRNZ Nick.McKissack@hrnz.org.nz
Secondly, we’re keen to ensure we weave together the ideas that will best work for us in the future. This could be weaving together the tried and true from the past with things we need in the future. It could be bringing together the best of global thinking with what works for a New Zealand context. The final principle is to recognise that shaping the future of the profession is a collaborative effort. It’s about the whole HR community in New Zealand coming together and deciding how AUTUMN 2022
In this issue 10
Omicron in the workplace Managing editor Kathy Catton clarifies employer obligations and answers practical HR questions
Practical changes as a result of COVID-19 Anne Wilson, partner at Anthony Harper Lawyers, outlines what’s changed with how we work in HR
COVID-19 and talent in 2022 Rob Bishop, from Bishop Associates, offers insights into what will help with the ongoing war for talent
Building resilience in the workplace Lauren Parsons provides five ideas for building a resilient workplace culture
Shaping the profession 1
From the Editor Kathy Catton
Top of Mind Nick McKissack CEO HRNZ
News Roundup The latest news to keep you up to date
Sustainability Going green through the red light – Bridget Williams from Bead and Proceed unpacks how to weave sustainability through your business
Employment Law Update Managing Omicron – Jack Rainbow, from Dundas Street Employment Lawyers, examines the workplace challenges when facing Omicron HR Technology HR Tech and the new world of work – Stephen Moore, from Ceridian, asks what role HR technology plays in our pandemic world
Immigration Law Update Border reopening: The devil’s in the detail – Rachael Mason, from Lane Neave, looks at what HR can expect as the country’s reopening gets under way
Case Law Review Vaccine mandates: Can dismissal be justified? – David Burton, from Cullen Law, details recent cases to provide guidance in this unchartered territory
Research Update Evolving the HR practitioner role from the COVID-19 experience – Paula O’Kane summarises the research on how COVID-19 has led to a change for the HR role
Am I Managing? Natalie Barker, Southern Cross Health Insurance, shares her heart-warming insights into being a manager
People Powered Success 8
HRNZ Member profile Catherine Foljambe in the limelight
Diversity and inclusion How to become inclusive and diverse – Solary Ha, from George Weston Foods Baking, shares her learning along the path to greater inclusion and diversity
Professional Development Spotlight HR Foundations: Redesigning the workplace Denise Hartley-Wilkins explores topics covered in the HR Foundations course, specifically pandemicenforced HR changes
44 AUTUMN 2022
HR Trends Survey
onducted by HRNZ’s Academic Branch, the inaugural HR Trends Survey was conducted for the first time in quarter 4, 2021. This survey will be carried out annually to provide a longitudinal study of HR issues and trends in Aotearoa, New Zealand. With input from 178 respondents located across the country, representing businesses (60 per cent), the public sector (25 per cent) and not-for-profit organisations (15 per cent), this first survey has given an excellent insight into the matters front of mind for HR professionals in 2021.
Workforce recruitment and retention were among the highest issues for HRNZ members in 2021, with employee wellbeing, management development and workforce training also featuring highly. Related to this, respondents shared the growing emphasis on ‘resiliency and ability to adapt, operate in a changing environment’ and on managers having ‘soft skills – adapting to the workforce of today, dealing with issues and having the important conversations be they positive or negative’.
These insights provide a great starting point for conversations with senior leaders within the organisations we serve, as the profession continues to move away from its traditional role as compliance and process managers to people enablers and organisation developers. The full survey results can be downloaded here.
Consultation begins on income insurance scheme
he government, Business NZ and New Zealand Council of Trade Unions announced a proposal in February of a New Zealand income insurance scheme, to help support New Zealanders who are made redundant or have to stop working because of a health condition or disability. The proposed scheme will support workers with 80 per cent of their income for up to seven months if they lose their job through no fault of their own. Like ACC for accidents, the scheme would be funded by levies on wages and salaries, with both workers and employers contributing.
It is estimated the levy would be 1.39 per cent each for workers and employers. Administered by ACC, broad coverage would be available for different working arrangements and would include an option to extend support for up to 12 months for training and rehabilitation. A consultation process has started, because the government, BusinessNZ and New Zealand Council of Trade Unions are keen to hear from businesses, workers and the self-employed on these proposals. Submissions close on 26 April 2022.
For more information, or to make a submission, go to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website.
Border to reopen in stages
ith a gradual reopening of New Zealand’s border this year, businesses can see the light at the end of the tunnel, following clarity from the government on when New Zealand’s border will reopen and for whom. The border has reopened to vaccinated New Zealanders from Australia on 2 March 2022 and will reopen to vaccinated
New Zealanders from anywhere in the world from 13 March 2022. From October 2022, all visa categories will reopen, including visitor and student visas. MIQ will be removed for most travellers in a phased reconnection, being replaced by self-isolation and tests on arrival. MIQ will remain in place for the unvaccinated.
The five-step plan, announced by COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins and Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi, brings forward the reopening of key visa categories to address worker shortages. For more details on this five-step plan, please go to page 32 for Rachael Mason’s Immigration Law Update.
Māori recognised as telecoms sector
historic agreement, recognising Māori interests in telecommunications, was signed in February. This agreement, designed in partnership with the Māori Spectrum Working Group, is an opportunity to build Māori capability in this growing sector. Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson says this agreement
is a fantastic opportunity not just for Māori but the whole of Aotearoa, New Zealand. “This is a great stepping-stone for Māori and the Crown to reach an enduring agreement which recognises Māori interests in this kaupapa. I am delighted we are moving forward on this, and with an inclusive approach, to create greater
opportunity for all New Zealanders,” Willie Jackson said. To carry out the commitments in this agreement, a permanent Māori Spectrum entity will be established. Further information will be made available later this year.
Increase in minimum wage from 1 April
rom 1 April this year, the minimum wage will increase by $1.20, 6 per cent, bringing it to $21.20 per hour. Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood confirmed the increase in February, saying it would positively affect about 300,000 workers. “For someone working a 40-hour week on the minimum wage, this increase will see them earning
an extra $48 a week, and almost $2,500 more each year,” he said.
In September, the Living Wage increased to $22.75.
The starting-out and training minimum wage will also increase from $16 to $16.96 per hour. This comes after inflation hit its highest level in 30 years, and unemployment was at a record low of 2.3 per cent for the three months ending December 2021.
The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff said unions had hoped for more. While BusinessNZ Chief Executive Kirk Hope said businesses were under extreme pressure from rising costs, and they had little time to get ready for “a big increase to the minimum wage, at very short notice”.
HRNZ MEMBER PROFILE CATHERINE FOLJAMBE
HRNZ member profile Human Resources magazine caught up with Catherine Foljambe, New World HR Business Partner at Foodstuffs North Island. She shares insights here into her key achievements and offers practical advice for Members. At the time of writing, she was midway through helping New World stores review how to ensure they are providing a safe workplace during the pandemic.
largest store employing 285 people. I have some fantastic conversations with owners and store managers around team member development, succession planning and engagement and retention.
If anyone is considering being a mentor, I would highly encourage you to join the HRNZ mentoring programme. You never know whose career you can help shape!
What inspires and motivates you in your career and why? What are the highlights of your career to date?
I started my HR career in Australia in a finance start-up that went from 19 to 130 people in 18 months. It was such a whirlwind experience and so exciting to be in an HR role that was growing at such speed. Soon after, I travelled to the United Kingdom and was fortunate enough to continue working in HR while on my OE. It’s now been seven years since I came home to New Zealand, and I’ve been lucky enough to have worked for some great companies, such as Goodman Fielder, and several businesses within Fletcher Building. I currently work for Foodstuffs North Island, where I partner with the New World store owner–operators across the North Island as their HR business partner. I consider this the best role I’ve had to date! We have 103 New World stores across the North Island, with the smallest store employing 35 people and the 8
We spend so much time in our jobs, it’s vital we enjoy what we do and that we’re in a good environment. I get excited about engagement and improving the employee experience. If we can change someone’s attitude about turning up to work in the morning from being ho-hum to being excited about what they’re going to do that day, it’s a win! Being able to positively influence someone’s attitude can benefit their team, their work and, ultimately, the business. Sometimes people think, “Oh, I just work in a supermarket”, but our industry has a range of career opportunities, such as progressing into store leadership roles and store ownership.
I work with owners who started on the shop floor early in their careers and were mentored and developed to the leadership positions they hold today. It’s rewarding to be part of those journeys as an HR business partner, and I love seeing our owners help
their team members develop new skills and see their confidence grow as a result.
What do you see as the challenges facing the industry right now?
Industry wide, responding to the challenges of COVID-19 would be one of the main issues everyone is facing, along with finding and retaining talent and diversity. If you ask any of our owner– operators what they need the most support with, their answer would be ‘recruitment’. There’s such a talent shortage for butchers and bakers and those wanting to start apprenticeships, in addition to all the other roles that exist in every supermarket. In our industry, it has become normal to have a higher attrition rate versus other sectors, and I believe businesses need to become more agile in retaining talent because it’s a lot easier looking after the team you have instead of recruiting for the same roles all the time.
How has HRNZ membership helped you fast-track your career? Being a member of HRNZ has helped me keep up to date within the industry. I enjoy reading the magazine to see what is on the radar for other HR professionals and companies. It’s particularly easy to get absorbed in what you’re trying to achieve within your business, but sometimes it’s useful to step back and realise that other people are
Amy Flett is one of the newest store managers. She started in a checkout role and is now seconded into a New World store manager role.
Catherine Foljambe coaches Amy Flett, one of New World's newest store managers.
trying to solve the same issues: that’s where keeping up to date with HRNZ branch events and having a network is so important.
There are so many talented people within the business, a rewarding part of my role in HR is supporting owners so they can identify and nurture talent.
I’m about to start my journey to be an accredited member of HRNZ and am looking forward to branch events that will be happening in 2022. I’m a huge believer in getting the right mentors and being surrounded by successful people. If anyone is considering being a mentor, I would highly encourage you to join the HRNZ mentoring programme. You never know whose career you can help shape!
Anything else you think our readers would find interesting?
Anyone who knows me knows I’m always talking about cycling! I’m currently training for a cycling holiday in April. We’ll be cycling up the West Coast of the South Island from Queenstown to Nelson. I can’t wait! I’m always happy to connect with other HR professionals www. linkedin.com/in/foljambe
INSIGHTS KATHY CATTON
Omicron in the workplace The workplace landscape and employer’s obligations as they relate to COVID-19, and specifically Omicron, are changing rapidly and are often confusing. Human Resources magazine managing editor, Kathy Catton, seeks to clarify current employer obligations and find answers to many practical questions. This article was correct at the time of writing. We appreciate the employment landscape is rapidly changing, and we encourage readers to always seek the latest advice from official government websites. It has been many months now, in fact, years, that HR professionals have had to deal with the coronavirus global pandemic. From health measures to mandates and working from home policies, HR has been at the forefront of these changes. Here, we take a closer look at what we can do with the onset of Omicron and provide simple answers to Members’ questions.
Do staff have to wear masks?
According to the Ministry of Health, critical workers should wear certified 10
well-fitting medical masks at all phases of the Omicron response. While businesses are not required to ensure people wear face coverings, they may take steps to encourage it. If people refuse to wear a face covering, organisations are not required to take any further action to make them. From 3 February, it became mandatory for all workers who are mandated to be vaccinated to wear a medical-grade mask when working in public-facing roles. Under the red traffic-light system, it is mandatory to wear a mask on domestic flights, public transport in taxis, inside retail businesses and public venues and health care services. Face masks can be temporarily removed to determine someone’s identity, to take medication or to eat or drink and to talk with someone who needs to see others’ mouths to communicate due to being deaf or hard of hearing. In such situations, businesses should still meet physical distancing requirements. It’s also vital to consider those for whom wearing a face mask is unsuitable. These people can get an exemption card but are not required to carry it or show it.
Where can we source certified medical masks? Medical supply stores such as St John New Zealand, USL Consumer and Amtech have a variety of surgical-grade respiratory masks, although be aware that some may have supply issues. Pharmacies also stock these masks, but they tend to sell out quickly because they’re only available in-store. Office suppliers or home improvement stores may also sell P2 masks.
How will I know if an employee tests positive?
Your employee should tell you directly. Alternatively, a public health official will contact you if the infected person says they have been at work during their infectious period. However, if an employee does not tell public health about being at work during their infectious period, or if they were not infectious while at work, public health will not contact the business.
What happens when an employee gets Omicron?
If an employee becomes a confirmed (or probable) COVID-19 case and has been at your workplace while infectious, standard processes will
be followed. The Ministry of Health website outlines the following steps. • Isolate spaces this person may have spent significant time in and conduct thorough cleaning • Help public health officials with the contact tracing process. If you have a health and safety manager within the company, they may be best placed to be the liaison person. • Follow all public health advice regarding communication with your employees and customers. • Remember to protect the privacy of your employee. Their name must not be shared.
What’s considered an infectious period?
The infectious period of a person who has COVID-19 is calculated as two days before symptoms started, or two days before their positive tests (if no symptoms) until 10 days after this date.
When can the COVID-19 positive employee return to work?
It depends on what phase of the Omicron response New Zealand is at. At Phase One, your employee cannot return to work until at least
14 days (including 72 hours symptom-free) after their symptoms started or the date they were tested. They need to be ‘released’ by public health officials before they can resume work and normal life. At Phase Two and Phase Three, they will need to isolate for 10 days (self-release after day 10, if asymptomatic for 72 hours).
What can I tell other employees?
You will need to tell workers and contractors of the general situation. In some instances, it is unavoidable that the person with COVID-19 will be identifiable through the contact tracing process, but this is a tricky issue and it could be a breach of privacy to disclose this information. An exception under the Privacy Act 2020 allows disclosure where it is to prevent or lessen a serious risk to public health, but like all things legal, it will depend on circumstances. In this situation, it is worth reminding staff that the privacy and confidentiality of the person who tested positive must be maintained.
What if lots of staff get sick?
Businesses do not necessarily have to close if a worker has tested positive
to COVID-19. The decision to close will depend on how much ongoing spread of the infection is happening in the workplace and whether the business can still operate safely and effectively if staff are required to isolate as cases or close contacts.
What support is available while employees are off sick?
Work and Income is still providing help to pay employees’ wages or salary if they can’t work because of COVID-19. See Jack Rainbow’s article, on page 22, for more information about what help is available.
What if close household contacts are employees?
Support the close household contacts to get tested straight away. As soon as they are identified as being close household contacts, they should go home and remain at home for as long as they are advised or required to by a doctor or public health official. An employer could only send an employee away where they have either been advised to self-isolate, or if the employer has strong reasons to make them go based on health and safety grounds. Casual and close contacts are not required to AUTUMN 2022
stay at home and should monitor for symptoms of COVID-19. If they develop symptoms, they should immediately isolate and get tested.
What happens with working from home during Omicron? According to the Ministry of Health, if people are isolating due to having COVID-19 or they are a close household contact, they should not leave the house for any reason other than urgent medical care. They should NOT go to work, although we can assume they may work from home if they feel well enough. If they are unable to work from home during this time, the employer can apply for leave support to help the individual(s).
What are other businesses doing?
Some office-based businesses are implementing an office rotation system, whereby half of the team works from home one week, while the other half works in the office.
The arrangement alternates on a weekly basis. This is hoped to keep businesses resilient as the Omicron variant circulates heavily in the community. HRNZ is also aware of office-based companies that are requiring all staff to work exclusively from home.
tested positive with COVID-19. It can be stressful, and people’s mental and physical health may be affected. The Mental Health Foundation has a range of resources. Some help you spot the signs of stress, and others help you identify what you need to help you and your teams stay well.
Many businesses are drawing up a continuity and contingency plan. They can be useful not just for managing COVID-19 but for other interruptions, like natural disasters or utility disruptions. Thinking about ways you can operate with fewer staff may be useful. Consider other businesses you deal with and how they might be affected by COVID-19 cases. Have a plan for communicating and access what resources you can find (see insert box).
What does a ‘test-to-return’ look like in reality?
How do we work with staff who have COVID-19?
It’s important to keep checking in via phone and email with staff who have
At Phase Two and Phase Three of an Omicron outbreak, a Critical Services Register will provide for return-to-work Rapid Antigen Testing for asymptomatic close contacts who help to maintain critical infrastructure and supply chains. The bar for critical workers to be registered is high, and critical workers are not the same as ‘essential workers’ under the Alert Level system. A tool is available to identify if your workers are critical (see insert box). Essentially, critical workers who are close contacts will be able to return to work early, provided they return
a negative Rapid Antigen Test every day that they are at work throughout their required isolation period, or as otherwise appropriate to their work setting. They will only be allowed to go to work and not anywhere else. An online portal is on the business. govt.nz website for employers to register employees who they consider to be critical workers within their organisation.
New Zealand is generally well prepared for an Omicron outbreak, with high vaccination levels, and boosters and childhood vaccinations now available. But businesses now need to have a clear plan for ways to continue to operate if workers get sick or have to self-isolate.
Additional information and helpful resources
Healthline: 0800 358 5453. This phone number is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and has interpreters available. Guidance for businesses: if an employee tests positive for COVID-19: www.health.govt. nz/system/files/documents/ pages/step-by-step-guidefor-managing-covid-19-inyour-business-workplace27jan2022.pdf Guide for businesses: testing and returning to work during Omicron response: www.business. govt.nz/assets/Uploads/ Documents/testing-andreturning-to-work-duringomicron-response-guide-forbusinesses.pdf Use of face masks with COVID-19: www.health.govt.nz/ our-work/diseases-andconditions/covid-19novel-coronavirus/covid19-health-advice-public/ covid-19-use-face-maskscommunity COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme: www.workandincome.govt. nz/covid-19/leave-supportscheme/index.html Critical worker assessment tool: www.business.govt.nz/ covid-19/rapid-antigentesting/#critical-workerassessment-tool Working with business continuity: www.thebci.org/knowledge/ introduction-to-businesscontinuity.html Minimising and managing workplace stress: www.mentalhealth. org.nz/home/our-work/ items/18/ AUTUMN 2022
SUSTAINABILITY BRIDGET WILLIAMS
Going green through the red light In this time of flux, it is opportune for businesses to focus on wellbeing and sustainability. Bridget Williams from Bead & Proceed unpacks how weaving sustainability through your business during the pandemic is essential for solving the challenges we face.
It’s all connected
They say hindsight is a beautiful thing, but the ugly truth is we knew a pandemic of this nature was coming for us. As stated by the United Nations Development Programme, “scientists have warned for years that unrestricted deforestation, the illegal wildlife trade, and diseases that cross from animals to humans would unleash an uncontrollable pandemic”, which is why investing in green economies is essential to restoring the balance between people and planet and helping communities recover. These issues echo the three impact areas of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): social, economic and environmental. In fact, the connection
between the SDGs and the COVID-19 pandemic response has been likened to a double helix because tackling the goals and the virus is so intertwined, and both require a cohesive approach. Since COVID-19 was introduced, the SDGs have faced dramatic setbacks towards the targets: • SDG 3 – Good Health and Wellbeing: the pandemic threatens health across the globe, and there are adverse knock-on effects due to vaccination breaks and further mental health issues due to impact on livelihoods • SDG 2 – Zero Hunger: the virus has affected the production, distribution and availability of food pushing further people into distress • SDG 1 – No Poverty: poverty has increased for the first time in decades, with Oxfam estimating the crisis could push half a billion people back into poverty • SDG 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth: the International Labour Organization reports that more than onein-six young people have lost their jobs, and, according
to Stats NZ, the New Zealand unemployment rate is at 5.3 per cent • SDG 4 – Quality Education: the pandemic re-emphasised the ‘digital divide’ and the right to internet access, and, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, about 1.25 billion students have been affected by lockdowns • SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions: due to various national referendums being postponed, there’s an increasing risk of unrest and an increasing need for governments to deliver digital services and social protection. These are just a few examples, but the truth is every SDG has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sustainability is the strategy for the ‘new normal’ With alert levels and traffic light changes, there’s a growing desire for familiarity and ‘getting back to normal’ but ‘normal’ got us here in the first place. Therefore, getting ‘back to normal’ is simply not feasible nor sustainable. The crisis has also illustrated how deeply
We’re seeing businesses retain flexible working policies, going paperless and limiting national travel because virtual is more accessible and cost-effective. Many are introducing mental health allowances for staff due to an appreciation of stressful and strange times. In my mind, I see there is no better time than now to use these efforts to achieve the SDGs: • the COVID-19 crisis has given the world a glimpse of where we will be if the SDGs are not achieved, thus giving us further motivation to reach the 2030 deadline • the crisis has proven we can move fast and hone our efforts to make an impact • awareness is growing of how interconnected these issues are • this is also the first time in 100 years the world has worked towards a common goal: proof that we can put energy and resources into collective action.
connected people, planet and prosperity are and the growing need to align businesses with sustainable values, making the SDGs and environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals a must throughout business.
ESG developments. The integrated effects that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused parallel the integrated solutions needed to build back a greener and more inclusive future to not only rid us of the pandemic but prevent another from occurring.
As explained in my previous articles, all 193 UN Member States, including New Zealand, have adopted the SDGs, making it the largest globally recognised framework for sustainability. Because the COVID-19 pandemic is a global crisis and requires action from all nations, it makes sense to use the SDGs to trump COVID-19. SDGs are also one of the leading ESG frameworks and, with the 169 targets, the goals are an effective tool to help measure and report on
The time is now
While listing the negative effects of COVID-19 seems counterintuitive to making a positive impact, there is no better time to create change. As Albert Einstein said, “in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity”. Multiple organisations are using the COVID-19 pandemic as the catalyst to kick-start or strengthen sustainable practices. Why? Because the pandemic has forced us to take stock of our values and re-examine what we care about.
I appreciate for some businesses and organisations the reality is survival, and through the traffic-light system it is easy to just see red. However, going green doesn’t have to begin with massive changes because even the smallest actions are a step in the right direction.
Bridget Williams is the founder of the social enterprise, Bead & Proceed, which exists to educate people about the 17 UN SDGs and inspire action towards them. Her passion for sustainability and using creativity as a tool for innovation has made her a recognised SDGs expert, helping organisations with sustainable strategy and SDG reporting. Bridget is a selected World Economic Forum Global Shaper and member of the Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network, which has led her to become a creditable global change maker. Her efforts have been recognised and endorsed by the Rt Hon Helen Clark and the JCI Osaka Outstanding Young Person’s Programme.
CULTURE AND CHANGE ANNE WILSON
Practical changes as a result of COVID-19 Anne Wilson, partner at Anthony Harper Lawyers, outlines how COVID-19 has changed the way we work and shares what changes, she believes, are here to stay.
t is clear that COVID-19 has changed the way we work and these changes are likely to endure. The pandemic has accelerated a shift in working practices by forcing a large sector of employers to allow employees to work from home and more flexibly than they have ever worked before. In doing so, employers have had to place a high degree of trust in their employees, which in turn has often resulted in higher productivity and, for some, the ability to continue operating their businesses throughout the pandemic. As we move into a different phase of the pandemic, employers now have to consider to what extent they will require employees to return to the office and how they maintain the intangibles lost from a workforce physically separated from one another, such as workplace culture and communication. 16
In among this, as well as coping with a high degree of change, employers have had to grapple with vaccine mandates and, for non-mandated workplaces, introducing vaccine requirements, and will now need to consider the need for booster doses and testing regimes. So, from the perspective of the law, how can we mitigate the effect of these changes on HR practices to best position organisations for the future?
Working from home
By far the most impactful change from the pandemic has been the need for employees to work from home for extended periods. The ‘working from home’ revolution was anticipated to occur much earlier than 2020. In July 2008, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working Arrangements) Amendment Act came into force, giving employees a statutory right to request a variation of their working arrangements, including hours, days or work location. Under the legislation, employers have to respond to such a request within one month of receiving it but can refuse the request on a variety of grounds. The purpose of the amendments was to encourage employers to consider
flexible working arrangements, but, because employers could easily refuse a request, it didn’t result in any significant change in working practices. Many employers were stuck in the long-held ‘bums on seats’ culture and had no real need or incentive to divert from that. Flexible working and working from home arrangements remained the exception rather than the rule, other than for early adopters, such as the tech industries.
Burnout is much more likely when work is so accessible from home and employees are constantly tethered to their smart devices, resulting in blurred boundaries between work and home. The pandemic rapidly changed that. Employers were suddenly forced to adopt working from home and flexible arrangements across their entire workforces, including accommodating employees who had families at home during periods of lockdown. In addition, the pandemic coincided with improvements in technology that made working from
home easier, such as fibre internet and video conferencing. The need for employees to work from home during lockdowns and the tight labour market have put employees firmly in the driver’s seat of how, when and where they want to work. Work–life balance and wellbeing have become the focus, and the live-to-work mentality no longer dominates. The speed and broadness of the changes prevented most employers from documenting the new working arrangements in writing. Uncertainty around how the pandemic would continue to affect us has also prevented employers from having a clear picture of what they will require from employees in future. In this new phase of the pandemic, employers are left considering: • to what extent they will require employees to return to the office • to what extent they will allow employees to choose for themselves how, when and where they work. This makes now a perfect time for HR practitioners to focus on the organisation’s ground rules and policies for the future. A change to an employee’s hours, days or location
of work, whether on a permanent or temporary basis, is a variation of their terms and conditions of employment. The Employment Relations Act 2000 requires that any variation to an individual employment agreement be recorded in writing. Employees should be advised of their right to seek independent advice before signing such a variation. In a world that is changing so quickly, these rudimentary steps are often overlooked or may seem inappropriate. To manage this, employers can include broad provisions in their employment agreements and have policies that guide decisions regarding working from home and flexibility. To future proof an organisation, the individual employment agreement and applicable policies should retain the employer’s ability to change these arrangements when needed.
Communication and culture Another crucial change has been the impact of working from home arrangements on how an organisation communicates with its people and the follow-on effect on its culture. Those impromptu conversations around the coffee machine, which build relationships in the workplace resulting in
collaboration and innovation, can be lost. Less experienced employees may no longer have as much of an opportunity to learn from osmosis and leaders have less ability to lead by example or seize informal opportunities for performance coaching. HR practitioners will need to consider: • scheduling more time for casual interactions with staff, which may include online catch ups or more social or outdoor activities that are unlikely to be disrupted by the pandemic • putting in place regular mentoring arrangements • establishing innovative ways to create opportunities for casual interaction between leaders and staff members. In doing so, they should also consider what additional steps the organisation should implement to continue to comply with its legislative duty of good faith. This duty requires the parties to an employment relationship to be active and constructive in establishing and maintaining a productive employment relationship in which the parties are, among other things, responsive and communicative. AUTUMN 2022
aren’t mandated, practitioners should consider whether each role in their workplace must be performed by a vaccinated worker. This involves:
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• conducting a health and safety risk analysis of each role and consulting with staff regarding the assessment • drafting and consulting with staff regarding a vaccination policy • implementing the policy. Where employees are required to be vaccinated, recent amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 require employers to give employees written notice of the date by which they must be vaccinated and paid time off to do so.
The ‘working from home’ revolution was anticipated to occur much earlier than 2020, but, because employers could easily refuse a request, it didn’t result in any significant change in working practices [before 2020].
Health, safety and wellbeing the pandemic. They should consider Working from home arrangements can make it more difficult for employers to notice when employees are struggling with workplace stress or with their wellbeing, because interactions are planned, and employers have less ‘visibility’ regarding how an employee is working. At the same time, burnout is much more likely when work is so accessible from home and employees are constantly tethered to their smart devices, resulting in blurred boundaries between work and home. HR practitioners will need to ensure that health and safety policies and practices are updated to take into account the change in workplace practices that have occurred due to
the new hazards that arise from those changes to ensure the organisation meets its obligations under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. Additional steps to consider might include: • regularly targeted wellbeing initiatives that can be accessed from home • setting expectations of boundaries on working hours • allowing employees to ‘unplug’ regularly.
Vaccination mandates and boosters
As if grappling with the above changes wasn’t enough, HR practitioners have had to implement vaccine mandates. In workplaces that
If an employee is not vaccinated, an employer must ensure that they consult with the employee about alternatives that would not lead to termination and ensure these have been exhausted before giving the employee four weeks’ paid notice of termination (during which time they may choose to be vaccinated and return to work provided this doesn’t unreasonably disrupt the employer’s business). There has yet to be any significant case law on these obligations, which is leaving employers uncertain about whether their decisions to terminate will be justified. However, employers should be guided by the fundamental principles in employment law to determine the correct outcome, including the principles of natural justice and the test for justification
A pandemic is the perfect time to:
• focus on the organisation’s ground rules and policies • confirm in writing any changes to an employee’s hours, days or location of work, whether on a permanent or temporary basis • review individual employment agreements and applicable policies, to ensure employers have the ability to change working arrangements when needed • schedule more time for casual interactions with staff • put in place regular mentoring arrangements • consider innovative ways to create opportunities for casual interaction between leaders and staff • ensure health and safety policies and practices are updated to accommodate the change in workplace practices that have occurred due to the COVID-19 pandemic • regularly target wellbeing initiatives that can be accessed from home • set expectations of boundaries on working hours • allow employees to ‘unplug’ regularly • review health and safety risk assessments and policies to determine the position on vaccine boosters and testing regimes. that requires any decision to terminate to be one that a fair and reasonable employer could have made in all the circumstances. Finally, HR practitioners will need to review their organisation’s health and safety risk assessments and policies to determine their position on vaccine boosters and testing regimes. They will need to consult staff before implementing any new requirements. Boosters are not required for a person to hold a vaccine pass, so
employers will also need to consider how they will collect evidence of booster vaccinations while complying with obligations under the Privacy Act 2020. The changes to the way we work due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications of those changes are broad. However, HR practitioners can, and should, consider several practical steps to address those changes and prepare their organisations for the future.
Anne Wilson is a Partner at Anthony Harper Lawyers leading its Christchurch employment practice. Thanks to her experience working in-house for Vodafone, she brings clients a unique perspective. She advises employers on various employment matters, including personal grievances, disciplinary investigations, restructuring, performance management, medical incapacity and the Holidays Act 2003. Most recently, Anne has advised employers regarding issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccine requirements and testing regimes. Anne provides solutions that consider the multi-dimensional aspects of the employment relationship and enjoys helping clients implement leading-edge employment initiatives. AUTUMN 2022
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EMPLOYMENT LAW JACK RAINBOW
Managing Omicron While we have been navigating COVID-19 effectively for the past two years, we are about to enter uncharted territory as the new variant Omicron takes hold. Jack Rainbow, Solicitor at Dundas Street Lawyers, examines the serious workforce challenges and business continuity issues we face as this variant arrives. This article was correct at the time of writing. We appreciate the employment landscape is rapidly changing, and we encourage readers to always seek the latest advice from official government websites.
What is the state of play in New Zealand? Daily case numbers for COVID-19 are the highest we have seen since the pandemic began, and are still rising.
As part of its plan to manage the outbreak, the government currently requires anyone who returns a positive COVID-19 test or is considered a ‘close household contact’ to enter self-isolation. The isolation period for positive cases who are fully vaccinated for at least 10 days.
What does this mean for businesses? Given the predicted spread of Omicron, these isolation 22
requirements may result in large amounts of absenteeism: potentially in the tens of thousands. Workers may be required to remain away from the workplace for lengthy periods. The resulting staffing shortfall could hit businesses hard, particularly if several employees are identified as close household contacts at the same time. Against the backdrop of a tight labour market and record low unemployment, workforce shortages may affect employers across all sectors.
What is happening overseas?
New Zealand is in a uniquely fortunate position because it has mostly controlled the virus for the better part of two years, which has meant we can observe and learn from what is happening in other countries that have not been so lucky. The outbreak of the Omicron variant in the United Kingdom has reportedly put significant strain on businesses, particularly public services, such as the National Health Service, and education workforce. Closer to home, Australian businesses have been grappling with mass absenteeism as the virus spreads through the country. Woolworths Group, Australia’s largest supermarket operator, has reported that 10 per cent of its instore staff have been absent from work due to COVID-19, while in its
distribution centres, the number has climbed to 20 per cent.
What is the obligation regarding wages? The answer to this is not straightforward, and several scenarios could play out.
The general legal principle relating to payment obligations is that where an employee is ‘ready, willing and able’ to work, they are entitled to be paid. This principle was tested during the 2020 and 2021 Alert-level lockdowns, where some employers did not pay employees on the basis that the employees were not ready, willing and able to work because they were confined to their homes during lockdown. When this approach was challenged, the Employment Relations Authority found that there was a continued obligation to pay employees wages during this time, on the basis they were available to work, but it was the employer who was unable to provide them with work.
What does that mean for isolating employees?
Whether self-isolating employees will continue to be paid depends firstly on whether they can continue to work while in self-isolation. Where an employee is able to work from home they should be treated no differently than if they were present at work.
In this regard: • they should receive their ordinary wages for the time worked • if an employee is technically able to work from home but is too sick to do so, they should be placed on sick leave • if an employee can work from home but has childcare or other responsibilities that mean they cannot work, other leave options should be discussed and agreed with them. The situation is slightly more complicated when an employee is unable to work from home while they are in isolation. If an employee is unable to work due to self-isolation requirements, the workplace remains open and able to provide work. A strong argument, therefore, is that the employer is not required to pay an employee during this period because the employee is not ‘ready, willing and able’ to work. I must note that this position is untested, and the possibility exists that the courts could take a similar approach to the lockdown wage cases and find a requirement to pay wages. Specific legal advice should be sought on a case-by-case basis.
What support is available for businesses that have staff shortages?
The government has introduced two schemes to help employers with the cost of staff absences as a result of COVID-19. COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme This COVID-19 Leave Support Scheme is available for employers who have employees who must self-
isolate because of potential exposure to, or contraction of, COVID-19. The scheme pays either $600 a week for full-time workers (20 hours or more) or $359 for part-time workers (fewer than 20 hours). To be eligible, an employee must: • have been advised to self-isolate by a doctor or the National Investigation and Tracing Centre, because they have COVID-19 or are considered a close contact to a person with COVID-19 • be required to self-isolate for at least four consecutive days • be unable to work from home because of the self-isolation requirement. Importantly, an employer is only eligible when the employee has been told to self-isolate because they are a close household contact or have COVID-19. It does not apply to an employee who has COVID-19-like symptoms who decides to stay home while they get a test. Employers should be sure to understand the obligations that they sign up to when they apply for the scheme, which includes using best endeavours to pay at least 80 per cent of an employee’s ordinary wages and salary, and to not unlawfully compel an employee to use their leave entitlements during the period the subsidy is received. Short-Term Absence Payment The Short-Term Absence Payment is another scheme available to employers and applies when an employee is required to stay home while they wait for the result of a COVID-19 test and is unable to work from home. The scheme makes a
one-off payment of $359 for each eligible employee, regardless of whether they are full or part time. An employer must apply within eight weeks of the relevant COVID-19 test being taken, and can only apply once in any 30-day period per employee, unless a doctor or other medical professional advises the employee to get another test. The scheme notes that an employer should use the subsidy to pay the employee’s contractual or statutory entitlements while they are waiting for a test result (whether sick leave or annual leave). However, if an employee has no entitlements, an employer should use the subsidy to pay the employee’s ordinary wages while they wait for the test result.
Time to plan
The support from the government may go some way to reducing the financial blow for employees and employers who find themselves in difficult positions as COVID-19 takes hold in the community. However, it will not prevent staffing shortages and business interruptions from occurring. Employers should begin preparing contingency plans for COVID-19 absences in the workplace and how they will be managed pragmatically.
Jack Rainbow Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Te Arawa (Tapuika), is a solicitor at Dundas Street Employment Lawyers. He has been providing advice to major public and private sector employers on the implementation of the vaccine mandate order. Jack also volunteers at Community Law and previously worked at a law firm specialising in Māori legal issues, particularly Waitangi Tribunal claims.
RECRUITMENT ROB BISHOP
COVID-19 and talent in 2022 The COVID-19 pandemic has brought drastic changes to every working sector’s framework and structure. Rob Bishop, Director at Bishop Associates Recruitment, explores changes to the recruitment industry, in general, and offers insights into what will help businesses in the ongoing war for talent.
ntil recently, New Zealand has avoided the worst of the negative impacts triggered globally by the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest move in New Zealand to a trafficlight system, because of COVID-19 appearing in the community, means HR teams need to think carefully about workforce planning and keeping their people safe while maintaining and protecting business continuity. The current ‘red’ status for New Zealand has also triggered changes to how we get things done. Many businesses are now opting to split their teams into groups and alternate the days or weeks they are onsite at work. This can help reduce the risk of business interruption should members of the team contract COVID-19 or need to isolate as close household
contacts and potentially take time off to recover. A split of working remotely when possible, dividing staff teams into different work groups that alternate when they are in the office and ensuring limited and protected contact with clients and customers, stakeholders and other team members are all useful options to consider.
Domestic search for talent
From a talent perspective, the past 24 months have driven changes in the way recruiters approach the search, selection and appointment process. Most talent professionals are conducting all interviews via Zoom. They also complete more rigorous telephone screening of candidates. Talent specialists often have used remote working, when completing recruitment and search work, to fill roles in remote regions. The changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic mean these remote strategies are being used locally as well as regionally. MIQ and border control have been front of mind for many HR and talent teams. A big talent challenge, particularly at executive level, has been the almost complete closure of New Zealand’s borders to people not already holding New Zealand citizenship or residency. It has been more complex and challenging to bring top talent from overseas
into Aotearoa. The New Zealand Immigration Service has been understandably reluctant to allow people to come and go as freely as they did before the pandemic. Competition for MIQ space and the lottery system have all added to these pressures.
Members of the HR sector will need to think creatively and with purpose about how to attract, retain and develop talent while also wrapping their arms around, protecting and investing in their existing people to reduce the risk of them being tempted away. As a result, the search for talent has been largely limited to our domestic market and to New Zealand passport and residency holders returning from overseas. Recruitment teams have been working closely with candidates and clients to overcome this challenge when a senior appointment is clearly best filled with an overseas applicant. With the help of immigration lawyers, it has been possible to support several cases of bringing in overseas candidates for executive appointments, including CEOs and managing
directors. Under the right leadership, businesses can continue to grow, build their teams and deliver positive outcomes for the New Zealand economy, which ultimately creates more jobs for local talent.
Use the tech
Effective use of talent and HR technology is also an essential lever in smoothing processes, supporting business continuity, effective communication and efficiency during
these challenging times. Various job applicant tracking systems are available to do this. These applicant tracking systems are an essential tool in ensuring seamless and efficient search and selection. It is advisable to find a system that integrates seamlessly with LinkedIn, Seek and various other apps and software, such as Outlook, Xero and Mailchimp. Recruiters tend to ‘live’ on the LinkedIn recruitment application as well.
With hundreds of millions of members, LinkedIn is a critical tool in business networking and recruitment. Talent professionals must have outstanding networks and access to top talent, to meet future business staffing needs. Using tools that complement the way we work to optimise the effectiveness of HR and talent solutions is essential. We advise HR professionals to find those systems offering open-source software that allows for seamless links
to other essential apps and HR or finance systems.
To stay or go?
It is hard to predict what the coming year will bring in HR and workforce trends. There is no doubt that the spread of COVID-19 in the community will create massive disruption and potentially a considerable stress on health care and businesses. Hesitant business confidence, rising inflation, challenges to the share markets and international trade, paired with lower-than-expected predictions for economic growth in 2022/23, all add to the stress on the economy.
Rather than being reactive to the challenges triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the best HR teams are actively thinking about tools for building culture, supporting psychological safety, increasing retention and minimising risks associated with the ‘Great Resignation’. The current competition for talent is also putting upward pressure on salary expectations, with skilled job hunters actively looking to negotiate better employment packages. Reports that millions of people are considering leaving their jobs is a clear call to arms for HR professionals to ensure employees choose to stay, develop and thrive. Initiating employee retention strategies, focusing on culture, effective upskilling and learning and development plans are essential for encouraging employees to make the choice to stay.
Under the right leadership, businesses can continue to grow, build their teams and deliver positive outcomes for the New Zealand economy, which ultimately creates more jobs for local talent.
While business confidence has slipped and costs are increasing, the ANZ recently reported that most industry sectors are planning for growth. This means the job market will continue to be a rollercoaster in 2022. Members of the HR sector, more than ever, will need to think creatively and with purpose about how to attract, retain and develop talent while also wrapping their arms around, protecting and investing in their existing people to reduce the risk of them being tempted away.
Rob Bishop is the Director of Bishop Associates Recruitment. Rob has been offering talent and HR solutions in New Zealand since 1998. In 2021, the company won the 5-Star Excellence Award from HRD New Zealand. This award highlights the industry’s most trusted top-performing firms that are raising the standards of talent acquisition, candidate relationship management and employer brand marketing. You can contact Rob via www.bishopassociates.co.nz.
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HR TECHNOLOGY STEPHEN MOORE
HR tech and the new world of work Since the rise of COVID-19, we’ve seen companies adapt to a hybrid workforce, face an increasingly competitive talent market, and prioritise holistic employee wellness. We’ve also seen traditional corporate hierarchies shift, placing employees firmly in the driver’s seat. Stephen Moore, from Ceridian, asks what role HR technology plays in this change of direction.
iven these headwinds, it’s no surprise that organisations are taking a broader view of what it means to be an employer of choice. To attract and retain top talent in a dynamic labour market, organisations must go beyond paying their employees competitively; they must actively address the growing needs of a diverse workforce. The stakes are high, given that 66 per cent of New Zealand employees are considered a flight risk, according to Ceridian’s latest Pulse of Talent research. This may feel daunting, but advancements in HR technology are helping organisations chart a clear path forward, especially 28
when it comes to enhancing the employee experience.
Sixty-six per cent of New Zealand employees are considered a flight risk, according to Ceridian’s Pulse of Talent research.
Improve hiring and staffing decisions
In today’s hyper-competitive job market, organisations need to embrace a data-backed approach for their people and talent management strategies. Ceridian’s 2021–22 Executive Survey found that 58 per cent of New Zealand’s business leaders will increase the size of their team in the next 12 months, with more than half (54 per cent) planning to employ gig workers. With these changes set to fundamentally alter the fabric of the New Zealand workforce, organisations that leverage AI technology will stay a step ahead through access to more informed, efficient and timely information, leading to improved decision making. With 51 per cent planning to use AI tools for recruitment and talent management, and another
39 per cent already using it, New Zealand organisations are already building a more intelligent future of work. Using smart tools to improve hiring decisions ensures businesses can reduce hiring mismatches, track existing employees’ skills and preferences, match existing employees to new roles they’ll enjoy, and ensure pay structures are at competitive market levels via benchmarking tools. The integration of this technology not only helps an organisation’s bottom line but also links directly back to employee experience, which is more important now than ever before.
The latest Pulse of Talent survey by Ceridian found that 84 per cent of New Zealand employees are experiencing burnout.
Build tailored and connected employee experiences
The pandemic accelerated what has been taking shape for some time: the need to provide tailored,
connected and on-demand employee experiences. Mobile technology is a critical aspect of reimagining working experiences to meet employee expectations.
With 51 per cent planning to use AI tools for recruitment and talent management, and another 39 per cent already using it, New Zealand organisations are already building a more intelligent future of work. Establishing connectedness across a decentralised workforce is an even greater challenge as employees embrace today’s increasingly fluid, borderless world. Employers need to make company information and policies more accessible to the entire workforce. With mobile HCM solutions, employees can access company information and resources they need, when they need them, right from their smartphones. This always-on, digital-first flexibility mirrors employees’ personal lives, and helps them better manage and take ownership of their work life.
On the other side, managers can respond to employee requests and connect with their teams across multiple channels.
Evolve workplace wellness offerings
As workers continue to feel the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, employee wellness must be considered. The latest Pulse of Talent research by Ceridian found that 84 per cent of New Zealand employees are experiencing burnout.
supporting employee mental health and wellness. The integration of technology in business is integral to keeping up with the changes we’ve experienced over the past two years. While many businesses want to implement change, it can only be effective when a holistic approach is taken, enabled by technology that allows organisations to integrate forwardthinking approaches that are in line with the new world of work.
Now is the time for employee-centric organisations to re-evaluate and optimise their approach to mental health and wellbeing. Not only is it the responsible thing to do, but a healthy and engaged workforce leads to lower turnover, lower absenteeism, and higher productivity. The first step in this journey starts with listening to your employees through activities such as pulse surveys and manager meetings. This type of feedback is necessary to ensure the support provided is aligned with employee expectations and needs. When considering Ceridian’s recent Pulse of Talent data, mental health days (46 per cent), flexible schedules (39 per cent) and employee assistance programmes (37 per cent) are the most favoured pathways for
Stephen Moore is responsible for overall leadership of the Asia Pacific and Japan region at Ceridian. His focus is to deliver world-class innovations and experiences to customers, helping them optimise performance using Ceridian’s intelligent HCM and deep business insights.
DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION SOLARY HA
How to become inclusive and diverse People and Performance Business Partner Solary Ha, and her team from George Weston Foods Baking, had the objective of making the workplace more inclusive. Here she shares what’s been learnt along the way.
iversity and inclusion are two parts of a whole: diversity without inclusion is unsustainable; inclusion without diversity is meaningless. So first, some baselines. When we surveyed staff of George Weston Foods Baking in New Zealand, we found that 22.4 per cent identify as Māori or Pacific Islander, and 58 per cent identify as culturally and linguistically diverse. Diversity isn’t the issue: we’re already very diverse. Now we need to be as inclusive as we are diverse. We always make sure everyone feels welcome, but it’s harder to make everyone feel confident, so our challenge is to find ways to make it easier for everyone to be able to participate in important and meaningful conversations. To do that, we need to be guided by our people, to move the company along the path to greater inclusion and diversity. While we still have a way to go, because it is an ever-evolving journey, we can summarise what we’ve learnt to date: 30
• acknowledge workplace and cultural realities • be guided by your people • align initiatives with culture and values • make it personal and meaningful • make inclusion continuous and every day.
We focused on recognising people with specific needs and making them always feel welcome, always listened to, so they can be their best at work and feel they also have a voice at the table.
Acknowledge the realities
Effective action starts from a realistic assessment of your position. Our first step was to acknowledge the reality of our workforce and the many cultures within it, then find ways of making those individual cultures and experiences relevant within our workplace culture. Our objective was to make our workplace more inclusive, to make everyone feel that they belonged. To achieve this, we focused on recognising people with specific needs and making them always feel welcome, always listened to, so they can be their best at work and feel they also have a voice at the table.
Be guided by your people
We think it’s essential our inclusion and diversity plan is informed by a range of voices and perspectives and that we are guided by our people. No one understands what inclusion means better than someone who has been excluded and has then been welcomed as a participant. We started with small, separate initiatives across our whole organisation driven by People & Performance. An eight-person inclusion and diversity task force was formed, with representatives from across the company, supported by, but independent of, People & Performance. To ensure broad participation, the task force asked people across the business to be inclusion champions, and, to date, 25 people have accepted this role in New Zealand. The task force is chaired by Mark Bosomworth, our New Zealand General Manager, who streamlines initiatives and champions their importance. As part of its inclusion and diversity strategy, the task force identified four pillars to guide its thinking: • • • •
shifting mindsets tools and resources policy, process and environment target specific needs.
The task force now takes responsibility for identifying and driving inclusion and diversity
initiatives. This important step encourages people to act as if they own the business and align with business needs. One of our goals is to empower all our employees to act as business owners, to speak up and share their ideas.
Align initiatives with culture and values It helps if you can make use of your business’s natural advantages in approaching inclusivity. We’re bakers, and bread has a special place in people’s hearts everywhere. It’s a staple food in their homes. The first time I walked through the bakery, the smell of freshly baked bread reminded me of home and comfort. Bread puns punctuate our conversations: “goodness baked in” and “let it rise”, “don’t overbake it”.
We bake fresh bread and pies every day, creating products that bring moments of goodness to so many people. What we produce ties directly into our core purpose: to create Everyday Moments of Goodness. These moments – EMOGs we call them – are not just moments of kindness, they’re actions that reflect our values: Trusting, Safe, Collaborative and Courageous, and they link directly to inclusivity. For example, a woman coming for her second interview couldn’t find anyone to care for her daughter, so we invited her to bring her daughter along. It
cost nothing, but it was wholly aligned with our core values. It made them both feel welcome and a place where they belonged.
Make it personal and meaningful
Inclusion is personal. It’s not about categories, and we always try to remember this. Our bicultural confidence project team, supported by the task force, organised a company webinar during Māori Language Week with a guest speaker helping our people to foster a stronger bicultural understanding. The project team members who drove this initiative agreed to share their powerful stories at this webinar. This was well out of their comfort zone, and they met the challenge by talking about their “why” – about why they have pushed this initiative and what Māori Language Week represented to them. People recognised this as a courageous act: an EMOG. Stepping outside your comfort zone and accepting your vulnerability, is vital. Each executive member posted a video in te reo sharing our values, and two executive members even performed a duet in te reo. These are small but meaningful gestures, because they show that everyone is willing to be vulnerable, learn and grow together.
Small, continuous and every day
We share our EMOG moments at meetings, at our monthly mixes and awards presentations. We always open with the question: “Does anyone have a value or inclusion share?”. Our approach to inclusion is on the same scale. We believe that a series of small, meaningful initiatives, driven by our people, is more effective than a single large-scale programme or solution because thinking about inclusion then becomes an everyday occurrence. Actually, there is a single solution: your people know what’s needed. Let them guide you!
Solay Ha, People & Performance Business Partner at George Weston Foods Baking, has worked in senior human resources roles in fast-moving consumer goods, viticulture, maritime, freight and engineering industries. She has worked for local and global organisations, supporting operational and commercial portfolios across Asia, Europe and the Pacific. She is currently a key member of George Weston Foods Baking Australia and the New Zealand Inclusion and Diversity Task Force. In her role in Human Resources, Solary is passionate about implementing the task force‘s vision to ensure #everyoneisvalued #everyonebelongs and #everyhasequalopportunity, recognising the important role HR has on a company’s culture and inclusion and diversity journey.
IMMIGRATION LAW UPDATE RACHAEL MASON
Border reopening: The devil is in the detail The recent government announcement of the five-step border reopening plan was well received by employers and HR managers. Rachael Mason, from Lane Neave, outlines what we should expect over the next 12 months as the reopening gets under way. This article was correct at the time of writing. We appreciate the employment landscape is rapidly changing, and we encourage readers to always seek the latest advice from official government websites.
he five-step plan describes changes in the border settings and the phasing out of the MIQ system. The table here shows the main border setting changes that will be of note to employers and HR professionals. Things will start to open up for employers looking to bring in migrant workers from Step 2 onwards, first with the expansion of the ‘other critical worker’ border exception. The new border exception will remove the need to prove that the worker has unique skills and experience that are not readily obtainable in New Zealand, for 32
Who can enter
Step 1 27 February
Travel from Australia: • New Zealand citizens and residents • applicants who already hold an existing valid entry visa (Critical Purpose visas). Worldwide travel: • expanded ‘other critical worker’ border exception • reopening of working holiday visa schemes. Worldwide travel: • existing temporary visa holders • 5,000 international students • class exceptions for seasonal workers • other priority travellers. Travel from Australia: • visitors and tourists and potentially some workers. Worldwide travel: • visa waiver country visitors and tourists • holders of new Accredited Employer Work Visas earning above median wage. Worldwide travel: • visitors and tourists • resume pre-pandemic processing (excluding suspended categories).
Step 2 13 March Step 3 12 April
Step 4 July 2022
Step 5 October 2022
roles of longer than six months, provided the worker will earn more than 1.5 times the median wage ($84,240 per year or $40.50 per hour). We expect a significant number of applications will be made under this category. The return of working holiday makers (to be phased in gradually) and 5,000 international students (many of
whom will seek part-time work) will benefit employers across a variety of sectors, but particularly the retail, tourism and hospitality sectors and in tourism hot spots such as Queenstown and Waiheke Island. Step 4 and Step 5 will see the gradual return of international tourists and business visitors, first from visa waiver countries in July and then
from the rest of the world in October. Finally, at Step 5, pre-pandemic visa processing is signalled to resume. Employers and HR managers need to have two major things in their minds when considering how the border reopening can support their workforce.
Immigration New Zealand capacity
Immigration New Zealand (INZ) has a lot on its plate this year. New policies will need to be formulated (most notably the policy for the expansion of ‘other critical worker’ at Step 2, for which, at the time of writing, we don’t yet have any detail) and there is the new Accredited Employer Work Visa scheme (AEWV). The AEWV represents a major transformation to the visa system. These changes require INZ to formulate new policies, implement appropriate IT infrastructure and train its people on the new policies and systems. This is a significant internal workload. Our expectation is there will be a deluge of new applications from Step 2 onwards because hundreds of employers have candidates ‘waiting in the wings’ offshore for the opportunity to be able to submit their applications. Additionally, thousands of employers will apply for accreditation from May onwards. If
previous experience is anything to go by, confusion and misunderstanding of new policies will also mean the system gets clogged with applications that do not qualify but nevertheless add to processing delays. The border announcements are a strong signal to employers to now refocus on offshore recruitment to fill gaps in their workforce. We expect unprecedented demands on INZ’s processing capacity throughout 2022 across all categories. At present, INZ has given no indication of doing anything to increase its processing ability. All of this points to the likelihood of significant processing delays.
Perhaps of even more importance, the clear and consistent government references to an immigration ‘re-set’ before and throughout the pandemic indicate that employers should not expect a return to pre-pandemic settings. The government’s view is that many employers are too heavily reliant on migrant labour to fill lowskilled and low-paid jobs that can be done by New Zealanders and this must change. Employers who have traditionally had a high proportion of their workforce made up of migrant workers or who have used migrant workers to fill low-paid and lowskilled roles may be in for a shock.
In the words of Hon Stuart Nash in May 2021, “When our borders fully open again, we can’t afford to simply turn on the tap to the previous immigration settings”. The strong signals are that the immigration system will be re-set to ensure a steady reduction in the number of migrants coming to fill these roles. Employers should be aware of this strategic government objective when considering their workforce requirements. As with any significant government announcement, the devil is in the detail. In this case, managing expectations – of both migrants and the business – will be crucial. For more detailed information on the government’s five-step plan for the border opening, please see Lane Neave’s PDF here. Rachael Mason is qualified in New Zealand, England and Wales, and has practised exclusively in the area of immigration law for several years. Rachael is a facilitator for HRNZ PD courses, virtual courses and webinars. Go to hrnz.org.nz/pd to see upcoming courses. She works with both multi-national corporate clients and smaller local employers across a range of industry sectors in managing their global and local migrant workforces and developing and maintaining compliance and legal right to work policies. Rachael is focused on providing highquality technical immigration advice that is both pragmatic and commercial.
WELLBEING LAUREN PARSONS
Building resilience in the workplace If one thing’s for sure, it’s that the COVID-19 pandemic has given us opportunities to test and grow our resilience, individually and organisationally. Challenging times stretch us out of our comfort zone. Lauren Parsons, wellbeing specialist, shares her insights into learning and growing from these times.
esilience is defined as your capacity to recover or bounce back from difficulties. Picture yourself five years from now, reflecting back on this period. What lessons will you have learnt? What gifts will you be thankful for? What processes will you have changed? You can take steps right now to ensure your workplace is more resilient for whatever lies ahead. The sooner you can reflect on and implement those learnings, the stronger you and your organisation will be. These five strategies will help you build a resilient workplace culture.
Commit to wellbeing
In 2017, the World Health Organization cited leadership commitment and engagement as the most important factor to achieve healthy workplaces. Yet an Australian report showed that only five-in-ten employees believed their most senior leader valued mental health and a British study showed that 40 per cent of employees felt their line manager wasn’t genuinely concerned for their wellbeing. To foster a positive work environment that supports people to be at their best, senior leaders need to be on board and prepared to lead by example. Too often, staff wellbeing is seen as a lower priority than financial goals, which is ironic because the research shows such a strong return on investment. A 2017 Deloitte study showed a return on investment of between $4 and $9 for every dollar spent on workplace wellbeing, with the average return on investment being $4.20. Safe Work Australia showed that businesses that improve their mental health environment rating from poor to good can save $1,887 per employee, per year, from lost productivity. For a team of 55 staff, that’s over $100,000 a year; for a
firm of 550, that’s over $1 million a year. Creating a positive, resilient, wellbeing-focused workplace culture attracts and retains great people, reducing the massive costs of staff turnover. It allows people to perform at their best, increasing productivity and reducing absenteeism and presenteeism. For any sort of wellbeing initiative to gain traction, leaders need to show staff they believe in it and clearly signal that it deserves their time and attention. Senior leaders set the tone for the wider leadership group who ultimately have the most significant influence on the resilience of individuals and teams day to day.
2. Build leadership capability
Leaders need to be equipped with the skills and tools to influence their own and others’ wellbeing. All leadership starts with self-leadership, and the example managers set is vitally important. It creates a whole set of ‘unwritten rules’ that form part of your workplace culture. Is it acceptable to get away from your desk at break times? Is flexible working encouraged? Is it safe to speak up in meetings or put forward new ideas?
It’s critical that leaders understand how their behaviour affects others around them. Managers need to lead by example in terms of their own wellbeing, for example, switching off from emails in the evenings and on weekends, encouraging standing or walking meetings and having a resilient, optimistic outlook and expressing this in the way they speak and act. Managers need to positively influence their team’s wellbeing through the way they lead, for example, taking time to greet and acknowledge people every day, having zero
tolerance for poor behaviour, bullying or exclusion, fostering positive team dynamics and being skilled at catching people doing things right and providing immediate, specific praise. Understanding how to spot the signs of mental distress and being able to respond confidently is also an area that often requires special training and development. A major British study revealed that 48 per cent of workers had experienced a mental health problem in their current job. But only half of those who had experienced poor mental health at
work had spoken to their employer about it, suggesting that 25 per cent of workers are struggling in silence. “The behaviours of line managers will, to a large degree, determine the extent to which employees will go the extra mile in their jobs, are resilient under pressure and remain loyal to their organisation.”
3. Create a high-trust environment
An extensive two-year study at Google showed that the number one factor of high-performing teams is having high psychological safety. In other words, a high-trust environment. Paul Santagata, Head of Industry at Google, says, “In Google’s fast-paced, highly demanding environment, our success hinges on the ability to take risks and be vulnerable in front of peers.” When a workplace feels challenging but not threatening, teams thrive. In environments where people feel unsafe and uncertain, they waste precious time and mental energy worrying and trying to defend their ‘position in the tribe’ rather than just getting on and focusing on doing great work. Creating a safe environment where people feel connected and have a strong sense of belonging, AUTUMN 2022
boosts resilience. Patrick Lencioni, author of Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (2011, USA: Wiles), cites that the biggest dysfunction is a lack of trust. Without trust, it’s impossible to have robust conversations where people openly share their differing views and come up with better solutions. Leaders need to prioritise building trust and connection. This requires vulnerability and a willingness to say things like, “I don’t have all the answers”, “What do you think?” and “Can you help me with this?” rather than pretending to have all the answers. A study by the Canadian military defined the four pillars of trust as competence, integrity, benevolence and predictability. Leaders can take actions to increase the perception of these four distinct things to build trust, both of themselves, and within their teams.
4. Foster open two-way communication
During periods of uncertainty and change, communication goes a long 36
way to allaying fear and confusion, both of which undermine individual and team resilience. Leaders should communicate more than what they feel is required during periods of rapid change. Even if there is no new news, regular updates and ‘ask us anything’ sessions provide reassurance and get concerns out in the air before they snowball. Two-way communication is vital because staff need to feel that their opinions are heard and valued. Constantly encouraging open, honest feedback loops at all levels of an organisation ensure you avoid the insidious creep of dissatisfaction created by feeling ignored or overlooked. Staff need to hear from leaders, and leaders also need to hear from staff. Not only does regular feedback drive innovation and constant improvement, it validates people’s sense of purpose and belonging. Three of the six human needs are significance, growth and contribution. Encouraging people to voice their ideas helps meet each of these needs.
Creating a culture of appreciation where staff regularly praise and thank one another, creating ‘prisms of praise’, as Shawn Achor describes in his book Big Potential (2018, USA: Penguin Random House) is vital for motivating staff and building strong team dynamics. When people are thanked for their work, it not only lifts their resilience but also their performance, because people do more of what they’re praised for. Leaders can foster a culture of appreciation, for example, thanking three people every day or giving a hand-written note of appreciation to a different person each week. They can also cultivate this culture among staff, for example, by having ‘highfive moments’ in team meetings where colleagues are invited to publicly thank one another.
5. Regularly monitor wellbeing
It isn’t easy to lead well without up-to-date data. Leaders need to monitor the wellbeing of staff, both formally and informally, to stay ahead of challenges.
Regular, concise check-in surveys can be helpful if they are done well. Most importantly, the information needs to be acted on (and clearly seen to be acted on by staff) to avoid demoralisation. Leaders should be highly trained in effective one on ones to proactively keep track of how their direct reports are going. These can be done extremely well or extremely poorly, so developing leadership capability at coaching is critical. Some organisations develop a culture of deferring or skipping scheduled one on ones due to time pressures. Leaders need to become skilled at short, effective meetings using key focusing questions and prioritising these. Ten minutes, once a fortnight, is better than two hours, every six months. It’s also worthwhile training a team of people at all levels throughout the organisation to be what I call ‘wellbeing champions’. These are workplace superheroes who have the skills to spot signs of mental distress and come alongside colleagues to listen non-judgementally and refer
people to appropriate support. It’s essential to provide training and support to do this effectively, and the tools to look after their own wellbeing. Once your network of wellbeing champions is set up, they form a great informal way to keep track of your wider team’s resilience and wellbeing.
Find out more
Take a moment to pause, reflect, and choose which of these five strategies you might start with to boost your team’s resilience and ability to go the distance.
For more support and ideas, register for HRNZ’s upcoming Virtual Course, Leading So People Thrive: How to Drive Workplace Wellbeing, held over two mornings, either 24 and 31 May 2022 or 20 and 27 Oct 2022
Lauren Parsons is an award-winning wellbeing specialist who helps leaders boost staff wellbeing and productivity. With over 20 years of experience in the health and wellbeing profession, she is a sought-after speaker, coach and consultant. TEDx speaker, author of Real Food Less Fuss, founder of the Snack on Exercise movement and host of the Thrive TV show, Lauren helps busy people rediscover how to feel vibrant, confident and energised. Based in the Manawatu, she travels regularly and specialises in helping organisations create a high-energy, peak-performance team culture, where people thrive. Get your complimentary copy of Lauren’s e-book 5 Keys to a Positive, Energised, High-Performance Culture at www.LaurenParsonsWellbeing.
EMPLOYMENT LAW – CASE LAW REVIEW DAVID BURTON
Vaccine mandates: Can dismissal be justified? Vaccine mandates are becoming more widespread in the public and private sectors, and HR professionals are at the coal face helping with this. David Burton, from Mahony Horner Lawyers, details recent cases to provide guidance on this unchartered territory.
Get it right
GF v New Zealand Customs Service is a case illustrating the employer getting the process right. GF commenced employment with Customs in October 2020 at a maritime port facility in a border protection officer role. In late 2020, the government determined that border and managed isolation workers, including those employed by Customs, would be given priority for receiving a COVID-19 vaccination. Customs then took comprehensive efforts to communicate with staff on the efficacy of the vaccination and that it was an important tool to keep staff and New Zealand’s borders safe. In February 2021, a change in alert levels occurred following an outbreak of COVID-19 cases in Auckland. 38
On 26 March 2021, the government publicly announced a policy of moving toward insisting border workers be vaccinated if they wished to remain in ‘front-line’ roles. Following an unvaccinated quarantine facility security guard contracting COVID-19, the government announced that ‘frontline border workers’, including those working at ports, must be vaccinated or start being moved into ‘low risk’ roles by Monday 12 April if they refused to get vaccinated.
These cases illustrate that, while termination of employment may be justified on the basis of vaccine mandates, it is always important that a fair process is followed.
Customs then had to quickly communicate with all staff (including GF), noting while most Tier 1 border workers had been vaccinated, ‘conversations’ would commence with those who remained unvaccinated. It was said that the purpose of such ‘conversations’ was to “... review the health and safety risk assessment for the specific work of the individual employee” and to
“… help us to determine whether the employee can safely continue to do their work, if unvaccinated”. Customs indicated that, where the employee continued to decline vaccination, it would conduct a redeployment search internally and, as necessary, across the wider sector. By then, GF had appointed a representative, and the Employment Relations Authority found that GF “studiously avoided” that process. Customs invited GF to a meeting by letter dated 21 April. It noted that GF’s vaccination status was unverifiable and then indicated that New Zealand border agencies and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment had on health and safety grounds determined an approach that Customs supported, being that, from 1 May 2021, all work assessed as having a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 should be done by workers who are vaccinated. The letter said other work options had been considered but were not solutions, including a change in role to accommodate health and safety concerns and suitable redeployment options (none being currently available). The reason for the proposed meeting was then detailed, including the possible termination of GF’s employment.
GF sought mediation to discuss the matter, which was declined by Customs.
A The Authority observed that good faith ‘runs both ways’ as a mutual obligation.
The meeting was held with GF, the representative and four co-workers who were in the same situation. The meeting split into two parts: the first led mainly by the Manager HR Service Delivery, who expounded in detail on why Customs had reached the conclusion that GF’s role (and nearly 260 others in the same role) required the incumbent to be vaccinated and invited feedback. After an adjournment of 30 minutes, in the second part of the meeting, Customs communicated its decision to dismiss GF and their co-workers. In considering GF’s unjustified dismissal claim, the Employment Relations Authority concluded that Customs had carefully sought to explore the reasons why GF (and others) declined to be vaccinated. The Authority found that GF’s dismissal was justified. The Authority observed that good faith “runs both ways” as a mutual obligation, and GF failed to engage with their
employer to properly apprise them of any practical, as opposed to evident philosophical, objections to accessing the vaccine.
Fair process, every time
The Customs case can briefly be contrasted to the application for interim relief in the Employment Court case of WXN v Auckland International Airport. In that case, Judge Corkill concluded that the applicant clearly wished to be given further time to discuss with their employer and consider the various issues that were of concern to them. Given that it was an application for interim relief, the Court concluded it was arguable that the steps taken by the Airport were not those of a fair and reasonable employer. Given that a date had been allocated for a hearing in the Employment Relations Authority, the Court ordered WXN be reinstated to their former position on an interim basis until the case was heard. However, this was limited to being on paid leave for two months, and thereafter on unpaid leave until further order of the Authority. These cases illustrate that, while termination of employment may be justified on the basis of vaccine mandates, it is always important that a fair process is followed.
David Burton is the Director of Cullen – The Employment Law Firm. David has over 30 years of employment law experience in New Zealand and overseas. His expertise is recognised by his peers. For six years, he was appointed to the Employment Law Committee of the New Zealand Law Society. Before that, he served on the Workplace Relations and Employment Law Sub-committee of the Law Institute of Victoria, Australia.
PD SPOTLIGHT DENISE HARTLEY-WILKINS
HR Foundations: Redesigning the workplace It has been two years since New Zealand entered pandemic management. HR worked at the heart of these changes. Denise Hartley-Wilkins explores topics addressed in the HR Foundations course and the role HR has in these pandemicenforced changes.
t the time of the first lockdown, I remember many saying, “It’ll all be over by the year-end; we can go back to normal working”. It became clear that would never be the case. When I think of that logic, I am reminded of Peter Drucker, who said, “the greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence itself, but to act with yesterday’s logic". We needed different ways of thinking and responding; disruptive, adaptive, collaborative. Challenge and opportunity came together, a burning platform catalyst for change. The future workplace came hurtling towards us, like it or not. I read that, globally, we achieved a level of workplace change in 12 months that would typically have taken five years.
Two years on, what’s changed for organisations, their people and HR professionals? In the HR Foundations programme, participants report that managers increasingly see the value of HR. Our role as people professionals has become ever more central, demonstrating the value of what we do in our organisations.
We are starting to see the emergence of agile job descriptions, replacing the traditional boxed role approach.
Where the landscape lies
The HRNZ HR Trends Survey (2021) identified recruitment and retention as one of the main issues affecting organisations. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to labour market changes. In New Zealand, closed borders have affected our ability to bring in offshore talent, resulting in a tight labour pool. Factor in the ‘Great Resignation’ or ‘Great Rethink’, as some call it, with a suggested 50 per cent of people thinking of changing jobs, and we are seeing
employers responding in different ways in a candidate-squeezed market. Pay hikes, retention bonuses and poaching are familiar stories. The trouble is monetary incentives might be an attractor or a shortterm holding pattern, but they won’t hold people in the long term. What retains people is a redefined sense of purpose, inclusiveness, relational ties, greater flexibility and autonomy, human-centred leadership and a high trust culture. It seems some New Zealand organisations have cottoned on to this. In the 2021 HRNZ survey, respondents acknowledged the importance of developing a compelling employee value proposition or ‘employee experience’ proposition (an emerging language shift). As HR professionals, we need to guard against up-selling and ensure the narrative reflects the reality. Is the organisation living up to the ‘dream and promise’ it sold? “Recruit on reputation, retain with reality” is a phrase I have heard.
If you can’t buy, then build
Where businesses cannot compete through pay, or are unwilling to, we are seeing increased investment in building their internal capability.
The benefits are a more flexible workforce, agile working, and career development, which in itself is an attraction tool. We are starting to see the emergence of agile job descriptions, replacing the traditional boxed role approach.
Hybrid working is here to stay
HR professionals are reporting candidates are calling the shots not only around pay and benefits but also remote working expectations. McKinsey’s 2021 global survey found that around 75 per cent of employees would like to work from home two or more days a week. In the HRNZ June 2020 survey, 82 per cent of respondents reported their organisations planned to continue with remote working to some extent. They also reported the successes: productivity and engagement were not tied to where people worked from; companies could conduct most of their business effectively remotely; and leadership and management having a more open approach to remote working. The uptick to normalising remote and hybrid working has been an increase in the number of remote
roles, which has helped address the talent crunch and promote diversity in the workplace. Hiring managers can expand their search outside of their geographic location to a wider talent pool.
As HR professionals, we need to guard against up-selling and ensure the narrative reflects the reality.
Emerging two-tier workforce risk
Right now, in a hybrid workforce, what does this mean for remote employees? Compared with employees who choose to go to the office, do remote employees get the same access to the boss? This can affect the allocation of resources, access to personal development and promotion opportunities. Do remote employees have the same level of inclusion as in-person team members? Are their voices still in the mix? A question for HR professionals is might certain diversity groups be more affected than others? The pandemic has shown us new ways to be agile and flexible in how
we work. The expectation remains on us to continue to step up, to help deal with the many emerging challenges and to also look ahead, to operate strategically. These are just a few of the issues we discuss in the three-day HR Foundations programme, which is designed for HR practitioners who may be early on in their career or who want to extend their knowledge of leading-edge HR practice. We cover all the major HR functions from resourcing to performance management, change management, employment relations to remuneration and reward. Whether you want to join us in person or virtually, we look forward to welcoming you into the HR Foundations room. Denise Hartley-Wilkins, CFHRNZ, is the National President of HRNZ. In her day job, she is the Director of Shine People Consulting based in Nelson and works across New Zealand. She delivers training on all things people management, is an ICF accredited coach and Global Team Coach Institute Certified Team Coach Practitioner. She specialises in developing leaders who people want to follow, teams that hum nicely and workplaces that shine! Denise teaches the HRNZ HR Foundations and HR101 professional development programmes.
RESEARCH UPDATE PAULA O'KANE
Evolving the HR practitioner role from the COVID-19 experience The COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt the New Zealand workplace, with the environment not yet reaching its new normal. Paula O’Kane summarises international published research and contextualises this to the New Zealand environment to identify the challenges faced and ingenious solutions created, how these might create longerterm positive organisational change and how HR can support this.
he strategic role of HRM has been both amplified and challenged by the pandemic. HR knowledge and expertise has come to the forefront in many areas, including managing remote working, reacting to changes in the health and safety environment brought on by government initiatives, such as vaccine mandates, and introducing virtual recruitment and selection. This gives the HR profession a stronger voice in the boardroom, potentially increasing the often berated legitimacy of the profession. On the other hand, some strategic decisions are being postponed while pandemic decisions 42
take precedence, preventing medium to long-term planning for HR.
Wellbeing initiatives were already emerging but working from home, and the need to increase workforce resilience, makes this a continued area of influence that HR can take the lead on.
Increasing versus reducing stress
Equally, as wellbeing and health and safety experts, HR practitioners have had their personal energy zapped
through increased functional HR practices, such as checking people's vaccine status, and creating and implementing new policies, such as working from home and maskwearing. Research, though, shows that providing accurate, appropriate and timely pandemic information has been linked to reduced employee stress and increased motivation, confidence and retention, thereby embedding the importance of core HR activities to business success. Given the strong job market in New Zealand, with low unemployment rates and high
levels of active job seekers, employee retention is and will continue to be high on the agenda for HR. During the pandemic, compensation levels have become more important to employees, therefore, reviewing pay structures and increasing variable pay can help attract and retain employees at this time.
At the forefront of change
Adapting to changing working conditions across roles and industries has been challenging on a day-today basis, but the pandemic has likely accelerated the opportunity for positive ongoing changes to the way we work. By consulting with employees and considering different ways of working, the HR profession has been at the forefront of impactful change, which can both benefit the wellbeing of employees and the performance of organisations. One example is the shift to working from home, which has increased flexibility in how and where we work. For some organisations this has been highly successful, for others more difficult and has led to inequities within and across workplaces. The nationwide ‘experiment’ of working from home presents at least three main opportunities to improve organisational functioning:
re-evaluating individual and organisational productivity measures (given New Zealand has one of the lowest productivity rates in the OECD), focusing on wellbeing and creating higher levels of flexibility.
Productivity, flexibility and wellbeing
First, although self-reported evidence from New Zealand suggests productivity was higher working from home during lockdowns, objective performance is more difficult to gauge. This provides the HR profession with the opportunity to shift organisations to outputbased measures of performance (such as cases resolved, documents produced) rather than an input-based measure (such as hours at work). This can be challenging in some sectors, but output-based measures tend to attract higher-performing employees and, if implemented well, can be seen as fairer. Additionally, they can allow more flexible work arrangements. Second is the opportunity to embed more flexibility through increased use of job redesign. We know some people prefer to work from home, others need the social aspect of coming to the office, and societal factors, such as generational differences and caring
responsibilities, have increased the need for flexibility. Considering how roles are designed, increasing job crafting and building on individual skills can ultimately provide a job description more tailored to the individual. This requires strong performance management, leadership and communication but can ultimately increase attraction and retention of skilled staff. Third, health and safety has evolved in unexpected ways revealing the strategic importance of HR’s professional knowledge. Wellbeing initiatives were already emerging but working from home, and the need to increase workforce resilience, makes this is a continued area of influence that HR can take the lead on. Consultation and communication with employees sit at the heart of effective messaging about health and safety, both of which are essential HR skills. Paula O'Kane (PhD) is a senior lecturer in human resource management at the University of Otago, Dunedin. Her recent research has explored social media in selection, remote working and performance management. She is part of the Work Futures Otago group, exploring the Future of Work in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
AM I MANAGING? NATALIE BARKER
Brave, tough and vulnerable Our regular columnist Natalie Barker, Head of Transformation at Southern Cross Health Insurance, shares how she prioritises the wellbeing of herself, her team and the business.
ne of my team split up with her partner over the summer break. Understandably, she was feeling a bit fragile when she came back to work. Someone else is supporting a family member through mental health challenges; she values the flexibility to be there when she’s needed. Another person is enjoying the last few weeks with his kids at home before they start university at the other end of the country. Someone else has just finished a lengthy kitchen renovation; her new fridge is a thing of beauty. Yet another has just put his house on the market. I can go days without talking about work in team meetings and one to ones. I’m slightly nervous to admit that, but sometimes what’s top of mind for my team isn’t their job but the other things going on in their lives. How they’re feeling, what they’re thinking and what they’re needing right now can be more important to recognise than the work we have in front of us. In this new world of COVID, remote working and general uncertainty, more and more I’m prioritising checking in on their wellbeing over their work in progress. 44
I’m lucky to have a talented, motivated team of people who don’t really need me too involved in their work; they do their jobs well without me being directly involved day to day. I’m also fortunate to belong to an organisation that strives to empower and enable people to operate with autonomy, but, even so, COVID has affected what leadership looks like for me and my team. At Southern Cross Health Insurance, the theme of our most recent employee business update was ‘our wellbeing’. We talked about mental wellbeing, career development and building strong social connections. We talked about how we’re performing against our strategic targets, and we also talked about pressures in our operating model, collaboration, and the value of making time for learning and development. To me, that agenda was a metaphor for leadership today: equal parts focused on our own personal wellbeing, the wellbeing of our teams and the wellbeing of our business. In my opinion, the role of leadership got harder over the past couple of years. It’s no longer enough to create a strong team culture and help your people to do a great job.
With the same number of hours per week, leaders nowadays are coach, counsellor, adviser and friend. They need to be brave and tough and vulnerable, all at the same time. They plan ahead but act in the now because the future can’t be predicted. They care for their customers and the success of their business; they make time for themselves and their whānau, and still give their all to their people. They do as much as they can personally and know when it’s appropriate to help their people access professional support. I’m not going to apologise for not talking enough about work at work. I’m going to keep giving time to what’s most important for my team. I’m going to prioritise personal connection and wellbeing, knowing without that, they can’t be expected to look after their own teams or the wellbeing of our business.
Natalie Barker is Head of Transformation at Southern Cross Health Insurance. She has been leading people for 15 years and believes that leveraging people’s strengths and passions is the best way to drive engagement and get stuff done.