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Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this course students will be able to demonstrate the necessary knowledge and skills required to:

1. Apply the major theoretical approaches to employment relations in New Zealand
2. Analyse the roles and motivations of the major parties to employment relations in New Zealand, and their complex relationships
3. Apply New Zealand law to the formation and enforcement of employment agreements and the resolution of personal grievances
4. Critically analyse and discuss some contemporary issues in New Zealand employment relations
5. Critique current employment practices from the ethical perspectives of decent work and social justice.

Learning outcomes

The news of New Zealand employment relation has been under turmoil for more than almost 25 years. The issues related to employment relations have witnessed major shifts during the 1980's, 1990's and after 2000. In this aspect, the employment contracts 1991 have distributed a sharp change from the business sectors and occupational bargaining to the workplace with a stark fall down on the union density. There was also a remarkable expansion of individual rights of the employees in terms of human rights, and personal grievance tights that covered the regulations on behalf of all the employees.

  However, this right is set within the organisation to address several issues related to conflicts and harassments in between employees in the workplace. Ideally, it has been found that conflicts between employee’s members can be resolved by the parties who are interested in discussing their concerns for coming down to an agreement. However, there are instances although very rare when problems taking place over a time cause serious disharmony for the employees in such circumstances, the situations may not be solvable leading to serious breakage in the relationship.

Based on this critical factors of compatibility between employees, the study will connect debates that are often discussed in a separate way. In this, the essay first discussed the advent of individualism present within employment relations and the duty of the employer behaviour and tactics that have played role in this dramatic shift. In contrast to this, the paper also highlights the influence of economic and social factor on the change of employee relations.  Based on this issues the study illustrates a dispute caused between two parties in New Zealand workplace Walker v ProCare Health limited [2012] NZEmpC 90.

There are several issues that of employee behaviour that can be dealt with through the traditional process of management. However, there are also situations that cannot be easily solved. In this context, Wilkinson, Wood & Deeg (2014) stated that New Zealand court of law have identified the serious personality conflicts and severe disharmony within the workplace that is making unsustainable for the employers to follow effective procedures before dismissing the employee.  It has been seen that individualism within the organisation has led to the rising of collective bargaining through the support of individual choice of rights and attitude.  

There are several factors that play a role in determining collective arguments within the domain of employer relations. In this context, the employee relations Act attempt to improve the steps against persona grievances made by the employee as well as the employer (Standing, 2014). However, it was due to the rise economic and social fluctuations of policy that employers are increasingly moving towards collective bargaining due to the cut down of wages and strict employment relationship policies.

Major theoretical approaches to employment relations in New Zealand

Therefore, for showing incompatibility as an issue of employee conflicting relationship, workplaces are required to prove it is as a severe ongoing process of disharmony. There are several cases of incompatibility since the year 2012 that has reached far before dismissing the employee. According to Boxall & Macky (2014), it has been found in this context that the employment court of New Zealand has recently held that a dismissal can be held for incompatibility based on the employee's confrontational behaviour was unjustified against the organisation.  

  In this content, the court successfully approved Ms' Walkers uncompromising and illogical behaviour into consideration with a substantial cause of the sudden breakdown of trust and confidence in the employment relationship.  Manuti et al. (2015) contradicted this lawful dismissal issue on the ground of incompatibility saying that it is still onerous as it is quite difficult for the employer to justifiably dismiss an employee on the basis of incompatibility.

However, the issues related to incompatibility develops over a long period of time, followed by snowballing impact of minor incidents taking place within the workplace in opposition to significant incidents of misbehaviour that independently warrant disciplinary activities. As stated by Smollan (2015), this type of serious incompatibility can tend to disrupt the productivity of the organisation, thereby declining performance, by dividing loyalty and influencing trust from the required workplace relationship.

The current case of Vicki Jane Walker vs. ProCare Health organisation is one amongst very few judgment that took place in New Zealand in favour of the employer (Walker v ProCare Health Limited NZEmpC, 2012).  The case highlights that financial controller Ms’ Walker was deliberately dismissed for the incompatibility issue following a chain of incidents related to the flawed and ill communication style and attitude. It has been found that Ms’ Walker referred her senior colleague for a long time in a less than endearing time by saying “that thing there”. Her selection of red font and sequence of exclamation marks in her emails made her colleagues think that she was humiliating them through the emails (Contributor, 2018).

Again, during the festive season, Ms’ Walker was involved in Pre-Christmas party program with a college, she behaved very rudely with her colleague while cancelling their reservation for the Christmas lunch. Through her consistent bad and unruly behaviour inside the workplace, she made it clear that she was not prepared to bring changes in her behaviour in any proper way.

Roles and motivations of the major parties to employment relations in New Zealand

Other than this, she also had raised an issue related to increased workplace stress, while she did not even compromise to take a look on the implemented remedial plan that was developed to address the breakage of communication and to redevelop the relationships. The organisation has attempted to take every possible step to reduce pressures and to change him, an employee. However, when all the steps miserably fault ProCare initiated to take down the formal process of review on employment on the basis of Incompatibility.

According to the legal rules of the Employment Relatio0ns Act 2000, an employee may be dismissed on the basis of various reasons. However, Bullock, Stritch & Rainey (2015) cited that most of the common reason for dismissal under this act is related to poor performance and misconduct within the workplace. In contrast to this, an employee also has the right to challenge the dismissal and can claim that it was an unjustified way of dismissal where employers’ actions can be put under justification. In this context,  under section 103 (1) A of the Employment Relations Act 2000  lays down the statement that an employee has the right to brings down a personal grievance against the dismissal claimed by the employer, only if they think that they have been dismissed unjustifiably (Walker & Calvert, 2016).

In support of this case, McKenzie (2015) stated that employees have been increasingly shifting towards individualism with an increased interest towards collective bargaining. It has been further stated that with the rise in individualism it is clearly evident that employers preferences for dismissal may also raise severe obstacles towards the specific approaches in achieving high wages, and high skilled economic. It has been reported that owing to lack of employer resistance and support for the employee, employee apathy and lack of interest on the employee has dropped down the union density by 50% in New Zealand. Geare et al. (2014) commented that employee apathy and lack of interest towards the employee is leading to a representation gap due to which employees incompatibility are taking place within the workplace. This has resulted in large discount structural factors with the cause of union decline followed by structural changes in the employment relations in the workplace.

  Contradicting this above judgment McKenzie (2015) stated that having been successful in front of the authority, Ms Walker’s decision to challenge the employer’s determination may have been a high-risk attempt. However, this has successfully opened the way for the employer of the organisation to defend their claim that the dismissal on the basis of misbehaviour caused the employee was justified. Therefore, no stones were left unturned by any of the parties in an effort to justify their personal opinion.

New Zealand law and employment agreements

Both the parties and their evidence dealt with a plethora of various incidents and events that ushered in a perfect storm type scenario that lead to the dismissal of Ms Walker. Plester & Hutchison (2016) commented that there were never any issues with the performance of the employee. However, it was her early stage of discontent about the various aspects of her rude communication style that stretched the case with the involved personalities.

  Considering the case, it can be said that, employee relationship issues are common in the workplace. In this context, while investigating the employer’s attitude it has been found that a disciplinary action is not always a criminal prosecution. Therefore, employers do not always need to prove the misconduct that takes place beyond tall the justified doubt. It has been argued on this basis that the employer needs to follow fair processes prior to deciding to dismiss an employee. In this aspect, the employee's needs to be given an opportunity to throw a comment on the proposed dismissal for illustrating the reasons for the employers thought whether it is appropriate or not.  

In support of this Yao et al. (2015) stated that the employer needs to consider the employee's opinion as well as the comment again the dismissal with an open mind. However, in circumstances when the occurrence of misconduct is nor very serious, the employer decides that dismissal is an incessant employer may decide the give employee warning.  Drawing from the instance of the dispute that occurred between the parties it can be said that ProCare could have given Ms Walker a chance to clarify her problems provided with a type of warning that may be different at various stages of the process.  

In this process of warning the employer could have included the information by clarifying the misconduct and ill behaviour done by the employees along with the consequences of further misconduct within the workplace premised. They could also have given the employee a warning in a written format followed by a different process of the employment contract.


Therefore, from the above study, it can be seen that there are increased shifts within legislative policies that facilitated the growth of individual opinion and rights.  The rise of individualism is related to the impact of employee policy that decentralised the bargaining and half the employee individual rights, however, that was the beginning of the employee relationship act and policies. In the later stage of the study, it has clarified with arguments, that Ms' Walker had faulty issues that gave rise to consistent incompatibility issues within the workplace. However, the employers of the organisation could have taken a different effort in dealing with the issues.

Contemporary issues in New Zealand employment relations

Therefore, it can be said that employee relations issues are not a justification that brings a breakdown of relationship it can also shatter the trust and confidence of the employee relationship agreement. Therefore, both the employers and employee needs to communicate with each reaching a mutual understanding of agreement for gaining a substantial level of satisfaction in benefit of union membership within the workplace. Dealing with employment relationship issue is a complicated task when it goes out control. However, cases can be easily dealt upon with the help of relevant legal principles in an effective way.

Reference list

Boxall, P., & Macky, K. (2014). High-involvement work processes, work intensification and employee well-being. Work, employment and society, 28(6), 963-984.

Bray, M. (2014). Employment relations: theory and practice (3rd ed.). North Ryde, New South Wales: McGraw-Hill Education

Bullock, J. B., Stritch, J. M., & Rainey, H. G. (2015). International comparison of public and private employees’ work motives, attitudes, and perceived rewards. Public Administration Review, 75(3), 479-489.

Contributor, N. (2018). Court upholds 'incompatibility' dismissal based on employee's abrasive conduct. Retrieved from

Geare, A., Edgar, F., McAndrew, I., Harney, B., Cafferkey, K., & Dundon, T. (2014). Exploring the ideological undercurrents of HRM: workplace values and beliefs in Ireland and New Zealand. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 25(16), 2275-2294.

Manuti, A., Pastore, S., Scardigno, A. F., Giancaspro, M. L., & Morciano, D. (2015). Formal and informal learning in the workplace: a research review. International journal of training and development, 19(1), 1-17.

McKenzie, D. M. (2015). The role of mediation in resolving workplace relationship conflict. International journal of law and psychiatry, 39, 52-59.

Plester, B., & Hutchison, A. (2016). Fun times: the relationship between fun and workplace engagement. Employee Relations, 38(3), 332-350.

Smollan, R. K. (2015). Causes of stress before, during and after the organizational change: a qualitative study. Journal of Organizational Change Management, 28(2), 301-314.

Standing, G. (2014). A precariat charter: from denizens to citizens. London, Bloomsbury.

Walker v ProCare Health Limited NZEmpC, 90 1 72 (Auckland Court 2012).

Walker, L., & Calvert, P. (2016). ‘So what made you decide to become a school librarian? 'Reasons people currently working in New Zealand school libraries give for their choice of employment. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 48(2), 111-122.

Wilkinson, A., Wood, G., & Deeg, R. (Eds.). (2014). The Oxford handbook of employment relations: comparative employment systems

Yao, C., Thorn, K., Duan, Z., & Taskin, N. (2015). Workplace stress in a foreign environment: Chinese migrants in New Zealand. Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: An International Journal, 34(7), 608-621.

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