New Zealand Law Society - AJ Lodge – Employment Law Committee

AJ Lodge – Employment Law Committee

Christchurch based Ashley-Jayne (AJ) Lodge is enthusiastic about her work as part of the Law Society’s Employment Law Committee. 

A partner at Anderson Lloyd, AJ, who last year became the committee’s convenor, says she finds the work “really interesting and enjoyable.” 

AJ says she particularly values hearing the different experiences and approaches of those on the committee, who come from various backgrounds and sectors across the profession.  

In the five years that AJ has been involved in the committee, the team has made 23 submissions on 11 Bills and nine other documents. "We can have a real impact on real law, which is incredibly rewarding" says AJ.  

The committee engages with numerous stakeholders ranging from MBIE mediation services, the Employment Relations Authority, the Employment Court and the Minister for Workplace Relations and Safety. 

“There’s always a lot happening in employment law,” she says. "We engage with these bodies to provide input into the jurisdiction as a whole on behalf of the lawyers we represent. Our aim is to provide input that can help shape our employment laws, and the jurisdiction as a whole, so that it can best achieve its purpose.” 

Impact of Covid 

The committee’s work has included CLE seminars on employment law and providing guidance on how to manage throughout the Covid pandemic – a piece of work that AJ describes as “particularly interesting."  

Coincidentally AJ was at home with a newborn in March 2020, so "it was a challenging time on all fronts!" 

“It was a learning curve because it was a completely novel situation, with so much change, happening so quickly,” she says. “The committee worked on some big legislative change as well as advising on issues such as court protocols that were important at the time to keep the jurisdiction running.” 

AJ anticipates 2024 will see the committee providing submissions on the changes signalled by the government, including the new legislation that will (likely) fall out of the Holidays Act review, which she says is no longer fit for purpose. She welcomes the change, saying "How we work has changed drastically, and some of the older laws that govern the employment relationship no longer work; it’s a bit like fitting a square peg into a round hole sometimes". 

Challenging and fun 

AJ says the work is intellectually challenging as well as fun. 

“Employment lawyers are problem solvers,” she says. “Dealing with these issues on a daily basis, the committee often identify unintended consequences that the drafters might not have thought about, and we can play a small role in influencing the mechanics of a piece of legislation to avoid those issues.” 

AJ says it is rewarding seeing the impact the committee's submissions can have on influencing a piece of legislation. 

“It’s a cool way to get involved in shaping legislation that we work with all the time,” she says. “It’s problem solving at a macro level. You can see that submissions have an impact and that changes made reflect what we’ve suggested.” 

AJ says the workload involved should not be a deterrent for anyone interested in applying to be on a law reform committee. "Submissions do require time and effort, but the work is always spread around a small group, and we have excellent support from the NZLS Law Reform and Advocacy Advisors who look after us and keep us on track."  

Other opportunities within NZLS 

AJ has previously spent several years on the local Canterbury-Westland NZLS Employment Law Committee and encourages younger practitioners to get involved.  

She currently also sits on a Standards Committee. “Regulating professional standards and behaviour is really important work. The profession still has some work to do in a number of areas, and being involved in the Standards Committee is a small way to ensure the profession continues to improve,” she says. 

AJ says being involved in these committees is a way to give back to the profession in a small way that utilises her skills and experience. While she admits it is busy, particularly with a busy practice and two young children, she wouldn’t have it any other way. 

“You can take your skills into the committee and contribute something unique and valuable,” she says.