Employment Relations Authority

The Employment Relations Authority is an independent body set up under the Employment Relations Act 2000. Its role is to resolve employment relationship problems by looking into the facts and making a decision based on the merits of the case, not on technicalities.

There are steps that need to be taken before you can bring your case to the Employment Relations Authority. The Department of Labour provides information on employment matters and is your first point of contact.

Step 1: Employer and employee try to resolve the issue together. Check your employment rights and responsibilities at the Department of Labour.

Step 2: Try mediation. The Department of Labour provides mediation services.

Step 3: Take the matter to the Employment Relations Authority.

The Authority

The Employment Relations Authority resolves employment relationship problems that cannot be solved through mediation. It is an independent body set up under the Employment Relations Act 2000.

Authority Members

A member of the Employment Relations Authority will investigate your case. Members are independent. Members will only speak to parties if both sides are present, such as at the preliminary conference or investigation meeting. For information about the arrangements for dealing with your case, talk to a support officer.

How it works

If you have an employment relations problem, you can bring the matter to the Employment Relations Authority. In most cases the Authority will not investigate your problem until you have attended mediation.

The Authority looks into the facts of a case and makes decisions based on the merits of the matter, not on technicalities.

When you lodge an application with the Authority, it will seek a response from the other party and arrange a timetable for the Authority's investigation. A preliminary conference will be set up to identify what the issues are. This is usually done by phone. The Authority may also ask for more information.

An investigation meeting is then held with all of the parties and a member of the Authority. This is where the issues get discussed and investigated. Witnesses usually attend the meeting to answer questions. You may also choose to have a representative come to the meeting with you. Members of the public may attend unless specifically excluded by an Authority member.

After this meeting the Employment Relations Authority member who presides over the investigation will consider the evidence and issue a decision in writing, called a determination. The determination is legally binding.

How long it takes

It can take a few weeks or a few months for an application to be processed, heard, and determined by a member. The length of the process will depend on factors such as urgency of the application, whether parties have tried to resolve their problem at mediation, the availability of parties, representatives and the complexity of the case.

Authority Offices

The Authority has offices in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Its members may travel to other places where a problem has arisen to investigate cases.

Authority offices are staffed by support officers who process your application and provide administrative support to Authority members.

Support Officers

The role of the support officer is to:

  • process your application
  • provide guidance on how to lodge an application with the Authority
  • explain the process once the application has been lodged
  • be a point of contact for your application.
  • The support officer can not:
    • complete application forms on your behalf
    • provide legal advice
    • tell you if your case is likely to be successful
    • explain your employment rights, responsibilities or obligations.

If you want to know your rights as an employer or an employee, go to the Department of Labour's website or phone the Department on 0800 20 90 20.

The Department of Labour does not provide specific legal advice. If you need legal advice, contact Rennie Cox Urban Legal now.

The Department of Labour has a booklet called Going to the Employment Relations Authority. Like this website, it explains how the Authority operates and what you need to do if you need their help. To order a free copy phone the Department on 0800 20 90 20 or order it from its website.

The Employment Court of New Zealand was created by the Employment Contracts Act 1991, and has continued under the Employment Relations Act 2000 in an amended form. It has a long heritage with a New Zealand specialist industrial relations court existing in various forms since 1894.

The Court exists to hear and determine cases relating to employment disputes, particularly challenges to determinations of the Employment Relations Authority, questions of interpretation of law, and has first-instance jurisdiction over matters such as strikes and lockouts.

The Employment Court has offices and courts located in Auckland and Wellington, plus a court in Christchurch. In certain instances the Court will travel to hear cases in other locations.

There are four permanent Judges headed by the Chief Judge. Usually one Judge alone presides. However where cases raise important questions, the Chief Judge may elect to have a full court with at least three Judges sitting.

The Employment Court is a court of record, exercising a jurisdiction conferred on it by statute, some of it transferred from the High Court. It is currently administered by the Ministry of Justice.