As time moves on from 14 November, the wider issues related to
the damage begin to emerge.
One such issue is the effect of disruption to work due to damage
to buildings, loss of suppliers, broken or impassable roads. There
is a particular effect on trucking, transport and tourism companies
which rely on our roads and infrastructure to carry out their
businesses, but there will be others who find the jobs that they
are providing are disrupted.
Where work is disrupted because of these issues, operators may
need guidance on how to continue employing those who rely on them
Shift cancellation: employers may need to
cancel shifts due to the earthquake. If an employee's shift has
to be cancelled, an employee needs to be given reasonable notice.
The reasonable notice should be in the employment agreement. If it
isn't, then make a note that your employment agreements need to
be amended as this will be illegal by April 2017.
If the employee is given reasonable notice (say 8 hours) that
the shift is cancelled, the employment agreement should say how
much the employee will be paid for the cancelled shift.
Unless the employee is a casual employee, you cannot cancel a
shift and not pay the employee anything.
If you cancel the shift with less than the reasonable notice,
you must pay the employee what they would have earned for that
shift. For instance, a driver normally drives an 8 hour shift
starting at 6am. The employment agreement says that if the shift
has to be cancelled, the employee is entitled to 12 hours'
notice. The employee is only given 6 hours' notice. The
employee should be paid for the 8 hour shift.
If the employment agreement says nothing about how much the
employee has to be paid if the shift is cancelled, the employee has
to be paid what they would have earned if they had worked anyway.
If this is the case, make a note to have your employment agreements
looked at and updated when you can.
Disruption for natural disaster: there may be a
clause in the employment agreement allowing the employer to suspend
operation of the employment agreement, if the employee's
position is surplus to requirements due to a natural disaster,
until the circumstances change. At most, this will only be a
short-term fix and should be relied on with caution. It might help
to alleviate short-term overstaffing if the employer's business
has been disrupted by the earthquakes. The government's subsidy
for business may work in well with this clause.
Taking leave: if work is reduced, some
employees may wish to use annual leave. It is acceptable to offer
this to employees, but they should not be required to use annual
leave in these circumstances. In certain circumstances, however,
employers can give notice to employees to take some leave. If
employees have no annual leave, they may agree to take leave
without pay. Again, this cannot be insisted upon by the employer,
but it can be agreed.
Flexible working: it is possible that some
employees may need to work flexibly over the coming months,
including dealing with changes in their personal circumstances. If
any employee requests a flexible working arrangement, the employer
has a legal duty to consider that request in good faith. It can
only be refused for a select number of reasons set out in the
Employment Relations Act 2000, which includes if the request cannot
be accommodated because of the operational needs of the
In our work, we support these industries and guide employers and
employees through the varied situations which can arise, including
in exceptional circumstances such as these. If you have any
questions, or need guidance, we would be happy to hear from
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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