The Employment Relations Authority
The Employment Relations Authority is an independent institution. 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. It investigates employment relationship problems and has the power to make legally binding decisions on these matters.
As noted above, the Authority must also consider whether mediation will be helpful before an Authority investigation or can refer parties back to mediation.
More information, and application forms, can be obtained from the Authority website or from the Department of Labour.
Applicants to the Authority need to fill out an application form which includes a Statement of Problem.
The applicant must explain what the problem is, including:
- the facts that caused the problem
- the steps taken to try to solve the problem such as mediation
- how they would like the problem resolved.
Other relevant documents should also be attached and then the application lodged with the necessary fee.
The Authority sends a copy of the Statement of Problem to the other party. The respondent must complete a Statement in Reply form within 14 days, giving:
- their view of the problem in plain language
- outlining their account of the facts
- describing any steps taken to resolve the problem, such as mediation.
Those involved may attend an investigation meeting without an advisor or representative. Many people choose to use a representative to present their case; however, people can represent themselves.
The Authority member sorts through the issues and establishes the facts in a number of ways, including:
- holding preliminary conferences, often by phone
- asking for information from the parties or anyone else
- holding investigation meetings
- interviewing the parties or anyone else
- allowing parties or their representatives to cross-examine others about their evidence or information during the investigation meeting.
An investigation meeting is a more formal process than mediation, and is more like attending a court hearing. It is open to the public.
During an investigation the Authority member may make a recommendation to the parties about solving the problem. If it is not rejected by one or both parties the recommendation becomes final and binding.
After the investigation meeting, the Authority member may need to get more information to establish the relevant facts. The Authority member will usually tell the parties by the end of the investigation meeting what extra information they need and who will be asked to get that information.
Where the Authority member completes the investigation and reaches a decision about the problem, the Authority will issue a written determination to the parties. Members of the public can also get copies of determinations.
If the Employment Relations Authority finds that a personal grievance has been established, the Authority can order remedies including financial remedies. Remedies might include an order that a dismissed employee be paid lost wages and/or an order that the employer pay compensation for humiliation, loss of dignity and injury to feelings. The Authority can also order that the employee be given his or her job back (i.e. reinstatement).
When considering financial remedies, the Authority must consider both the conduct of the employer and of the employee and may alter the amount of compensation accordingly. There have been examples where, although a grievance has been established, the employee’s conduct was such that the Employment Relations Authority has made a reduction to the amount the employer would otherwise have had to pay. The amount of compensation ordered by the Employment Relations Authority varies depending on the facts of the particular case.
The Authority can order one party to cover the other’s costs. However, this isn’t automatic, and parties are expected to make a claim with the Authority in writing.