New Zealand Law Society - Employment Law in New Zealand

Employment Law in New Zealand

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Reviewed by Michael Quigg

This book is aimed at providing a broad overview of employment. It acknowledges that employment law, possibly more than any other area of the law, has the greatest impact on our daily lives. It is a timely overview as the future shape of employment changes due to globalisation, technological changes, casualisation and new forms of employment relationships eg, zero hours contracts.

Commentary of a socio-economic and political nature is included but that reflects the reality of employment law. This aspect of employment law can be polarising. The reader can accept or reject any perceived partisan views expressed but they are thought-provoking and add a context that aids one’s appreciation of the matters being traversed.

This book is a great read or resource for anyone who wants to obtain a broad understanding of the full range of all aspects of employment law issues in New Zealand. Younger readers and those whose memories may be fading will benefit from the concise history of the development of employment law in New Zealand and the treatment of many of the tried and true topics in a broader historic context.

Those wanting to either understand or remind themselves of the basic principles in a suite of areas can use this book as a starting point. If they wish to delve deeper into a specific area they can refer to the relevant legislation, the conventions, cases or other topic specific texts. There are multiple references in the book to assist in short circuiting that exercise should that be needed.

The vast array of law that impacts on employment relationships is difficult to cover in a single book. An admirable job is undertaken in this case with the core areas being supplemented by coverage of other broader more general areas ranging from Contractual Remedies to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act and the Privacy Act. Industry-specific subject matter is also addressed in reasonable detail eg, State Sector, Education, Health, Police, etc.

There is an embedding of traditional employment law topics such as dismissal in a contractual and wider statutory context that is often missing from looseleaf employment law texts. This provides the reader with a better contextual appreciation of employment topics and recent decisions addressing those topics.

For a hardback book that updates and enhances the original text called Labour Law in New Zealand published in 1989, this book is as up to date as it can be as at June 2014. It is unfortunate that not more readily available information in some areas is available: eg, the statistics on the work of the employment institutions are as at 2006. There are, however, useful website references so the reader can check for any updated material as it becomes available.

The injection of some analysis of overseas authorities that are considered in a New Zealand context adds to the appeal of this book and is thought provoking. Topics such as issues arising from the use of social media are addressed but given their recent origin and the limited material available to the authors at the time of publication, this area may need to be supplemented from other sources by someone wishing to pursue this topic in greater detail.

The book is divided into 14 broad chapters. The identification of the sub-chapters along with a reasonably comprehensive index allows the reader to readily navigate the various topics and find out which topics are covered and where they are located.

Given the book is partially co-authored, it is cohesive and seamless. This may be due to the acknowledged reduction in the contribution of John Hughes for reasons explained in the Preface. While the hand, and at times the well-known and regarded views of the principal author Gordon Anderson are clearly discernible, the views and thoughts of the highly respected John Hughes in certain chapters add to the value of this book.

This book naturally covers some of the same ground that Gordon Anderson addressed in his 2011 book Reconstructing New Zealand’s Labour Law but it is much more of a true textbook. It is a great first port of call for anyone wishing to address any one of a myriad of employment law issues in New Zealand. While the case law and the legislation will in time lose some currency, this one-stop shop will remain a great initial starting point for many years to come.

Employment Law in New Zealand, LexisNexis NXZ Ltd, October 2014, 978-1-927149-56-0, 743 pages, paperback and e-book, $120 (GST included, p&h excluded).

Michael Quigg is a partner at Wellington corporate law firm Quigg Partners. He has worked in New Zealand employment law for more than 20 years and is Convenor of the Law Society’s Employment Law Committee.

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