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Mediation for employment issues, you may have heard of it, but what is mediation in the context of employment? What can it be used for and what does the process look like?  Many people believe that mediation is only for when an employee brings a grievance against their employer, and while this is a common use for mediation, there are many other ways that mediation can be a useful tool for both employer and employee for a range of issues in the employment relationship.

What is Mediation?

Mediation is a service for employers and employees which is run through Employment New Zealand who operate under MBIE; the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. It is free and confidential, and generally a quick process to engage in, with some mediations lasting only a couple of hours before being resolved, which means less stress and lost productivity for all parties involved.  Mediation is a fantastic first step in resolving employment issues without having to go to the ERA (Employment Relations Authority) which is more costly, largely due to legal fees, more time consuming and usually more stressful.

Mediation is a collaborative approach; finding an outcome that both parties are happy with and avoids the win-lose approach that court can have.  Mediation is voluntary however mediation is your friend and if matters can be resolved in mediation then this is the best outcome for all involved as whatever settlement is reached remains confidential, keeping both employer and employee reputation intact.

When can I use Mediation?

Mediation can be used after employment ends and for employment problems while the employee is still working for the employer.  Issues such as bullying and harassment claims, issues between teams, collective bargaining with unions, strikes, lockouts and of course personal grievances like unjustified disadvantage or unjustified dismissal.

I Want to go to Mediation but What is the Process?

You have an employment problem that is not being resolved by speaking to the other party involved.  You’re starting to get a bit frustrated and have decided that mediation could help resolve the issue. So what do you do?

Mediation applications are found online. There is a Mediation Pre-application form above the Request Mediation button and this is a useful tool to use before you Request Mediation.  It gets you thinking of the issues and what supporting documentation you should attach.  Giving the mediator lots of information while sticking to the facts will give them a good sense of what the issue is about.

How do I apply for mediation online?

  1. Go to Employment.govt.nz and click on Resolving Problems, then Steps to Resolve, Mediation and Request Mediation
  2. Both parties are then contacted by Employment Mediation Services Staff and a suitable time and place for mediation to take place is arranged. (During Alert Levels 2, 3 and 4 COVID-19 Restrictions, all mediation will be done via phone or zoom video calls).
  3. Once it is convened (whether at a physical venue or via phone or zoom), the Mediator will speak to each party separately before group discussions take place.
  4. Discussion and negotiations take place.
  5. Settlement is reached, and a section 149 Record of Settlement will record the settlement details with both parties signing it and the mediator will sign this off, ensuring the settlement is full, final and confidential. The matter is now settled, usually within hours of entering Mediation.
  6. If settlement cannot be reached at mediation, you can either choose to adjourn the process and come back to mediation after a period of time, you can keep negotiating after Mediation and perhaps leave an offer on the table for a set time (seven days perhaps for thinking time) or the matter can be taken further to the Employment Relations Authority.

The Dos and Don’ts of Mediation

DO:

  • Stick to the facts. Try to keep emotions out of it even though emotions can be running high.
  • Remain calm, focused, and open minded.
  • Be collaborative and conciliatory. You should have the problem-solving mindset of working together to find a satisfactory outcome of both parties.
  • Put yourself in the other parties’ position to help give you perspective.
  • Focus on the issues, not the person. Try to keep personality out of it, stick to the issues involved not the person involved.
  • Listen for understanding. This will help you identify the other parties ’underlying need and concern.  If you can understand for example that what they really want is an apology as opposed to money, then negotiations may reach settlement quicker with this in mind.  Alternatively, perhaps they just need enough money from the mediation process to pay their rent while they look for another job and will accept the termination of their employment if the figure will satisfy their rent requirements to reach settlement.

DON’T:

  • Be aggressive and have an opponent mentality.
  • Make personal attacks or use accusatory language, such as “you always singled me out in front of others” or “you are the worst manager I have ever had.”
  • Act like you are in a courtroom. The other party is not on trial.
  • Refuse to compromise. If the matter escalates to the Employment Relations Authority you may end up worse off than if you had of compromised and reached a mutually agreeable settlement at Mediation.
  • Get caught up on small details, look at the big picture instead. There are worse alternatives to a negotiated agreement such as lost time and productivity, huge legal fees, and loss of confidentiality if it escalates to the ERA and this can be damaging to the reputation of both employer and employee.

Other Points to Note About Mediation

Yes, you can have a legal representative with you, or an employee advocate, an HR consultant or a Union Rep.  You could bring a friend or family member as support or a community leader. Other people in the room could be an interpreter if required.

Keep the Lines of Communication Open

Keen to settle but want to informally discuss what the other party will settle for so an offer can be made? “Fireside chats” (without prejudice discussions) can take place in negotiations prior or after mediation.  These are discussions around what you might settle but can’t be used against you in court. Be careful to ensure all communications are clearly noted “without prejudice” otherwise they are admissible. It is wise to use a legal representative for without prejudice discussions as these are normally only used for serious employment problems.

It’s Not All About Money

Maybe their bottom line is a “Sorry.” Apologies can speed up resolution processes. Sometimes an aggrieved party just wants to hear the words and be assured that they won’t repeat the behavior again. Hearing the other party say sorry and be genuinely apologetic can ensure parties can heal and move on.  Mediation can be a cathartic experience for those seeking a humble apology.

Make Sure You Know What a Settlement is For

If there is a settlement that includes a payment for hurt and humiliation, remember that Hurt and Humiliation payments are non-taxable but payment for lost wages are. The employee may settle for a figure that comprises both hurt and humiliation and a payment for any lost wages so be careful about knowing the difference and taxing these payments accordingly.

Be Mindful of Timelines

Mediators can set time limits for mediation with the agreement of parties involved.  Parties may agree that if the matter is not resolved for example within 5 hours, the Mediator can then make a recommendation in writing about the solution and the date it will become binding.  You can accept or decline the recommendation before the date it becomes binding and if it is not rejected it becomes fill, final and enforceable.

If you are an employer and have employer insurance, you will need to follow the advice of the Insurer who will likely take the matter over and recommend you attend mediation and advise what you should settle for.

Final Thoughts

Mediation is a fantastic way to collaboratively and openly nip employment problems in the bud. Settling by way of mutual agreement which means buy-in of both parties and a salvageable employment relationship in some cases.  Mediation is a quick and easy dispute resolution service that is cost effective for everyone involved. So if you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to resolve an employment issue yourself by talking to the other party involved, apply online for mediation to get it resolved and get back to doing the things you’d rather be doing.

You’ve got a fabulous idea for a new business but are unsure about which business model you should work with. We take a look at B2B vs B2C to help you decide if selling to customers is right for you, or you’d prefer to sell directly to other businesses instead.

What Are the Differences in Selling B2B vs B2C?

You are in business to sell your products or services and make a profit. You’ve got two choices when doing so: sell to the consumers who are the general public or sell to other businesses who will either resell your products or use them to make their products.

Depending on the products you sell, this decision may already have been taken away from you. For instance, if you sell pulp for papermaking, you are most likely going to sell to another business who can turn that pulp into paper. If you sell baby clothes though, you’re probably going to sell directly to your customers.

Let’s take a look at the main differences between both of these business models.

B2B or Business to Business model:

  • selling your product or service directly to another business
  • often requires large product quantities delivered on a set date
  • requires a long-term relationship between you and your buyers
  • involves more people in the buying decision and process
  • possibly selling your product at a lower price than a consumer would pay for it
  • less of a lead pool to grow to purchase your product or service
  • requires in-depth knowledge about and sharing of your product or service
  • a more complex and involved selling process
  • payments are often received a month or later after product/service delivery

B2C or Business to Consumer model:

  • selling product or service directly to individual customers
  • wide lead pool to target and sell to
  • top price for your product/service paid by the customer
  • small quantities sold at a time
  • fewer people involved in the buying process
  • short relationship with customers
  • customers interested in benefit to themselves
  • instant payment upon purchase
  • easier to sell to individual customers than large corporations

As to which path your business should take, it comes down to whether it would work for what you sell and if you are happy to sell that way. Remember though, that both business models will still require the standard business considerations: a website, good bookkeeping and financial management, a business plan, cashflow management and outsourcing. The good news is, we can help you with all of those! Get in touch with our team today to arrange a chat about your business and how we can help.

Having a desk job suits many of us down to a tee, but can come at the expense of our health and well-being. A sedentary desk job and lifestyle can lead to increases in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity and a decline in mental well-being.

Before you pull out the old ‘but people have had desk jobs for hundreds of years’ excuse, remember that our lives have changed greatly since then. We are on the whole less active at home, drive almost everywhere and eat a lot of high calorie and processed foods. These things are only making it more important for those of us with a desk job to keep active during the working day. At MBP, we’re all about looking after the financial health and well-being of our clients, but also their physical too. So, here are a few suggestions on how you can increase your activity levels in the office like we do.

5 Ideas for Keeping Active at Your Desk Job

It’s time to stand up and get active while in the office. Five activities you could choose to try and implement into your daily desk job routine include:

  1. Using a standing desk or desk raiser – alternate between sitting and standing at your desk throughout the day. If you don’t have a standing desk available, add a desk raiser for your laptop to sit upon, or make one using materials you have around the office or home.
  2. Sit on an exercise ball – a chair may be super comfy, but it lets your body relax into a position without effort. When you sit on an exercise ball, your core muscles are forced to work. You sit up straighter with improved posture, and you can also move your backside around too.
  3. Walk around the office – instead of sending emails to others in the office, get up and walk to them if you can instead. Walk the long way to the coffee machine and even take your coffee outside to stretch your legs.
  4. Stretch breaks – set your time to stand up and do some stretches every hour. Arm swinging, leg lunges, squats, walking on the spot and shoulder shrugs are great active activities.
  5. Take the stairs – where you can, skip the elevator and take the stairs instead. You could even get off the bus a stop earlier or park the car further away and walk to the office.

If you have any additional staying active at work ideas, drop your suggestions in the comments below. As always, the team here at MBP are here to help, so if you have any questions about the running of your business (not your running program), please get in touch as we’re happy to help.

Originally Published 7th May 2020
Last Updated 30th August 2020

The government has announced what COVID-19 Alert Level 2 will look like for New Zealand.  The decision to shift to Level 2 is yet to be made.  Cabinet meets on Monday to decide if, and when, the shift to Level 2 will occur.  However, all indications are that Level 2 will begin from next Wednesday, but the Prime Minister has signaled that Level 2 may be phased in over a period of time to reduce the associated risks.

The framework for Level 2 significantly removes many of the strictest restrictions of COVID-19 Alert Levels 3 & 4 which will be a much-welcomed relief for our collective sanity and a major boost for the economy.  The changes resemble a first step towards something like a return to ‘normal’. However, it isunlikely we will return to a true ‘normal’ until COVID-19 is a distant memory and a vaccine is available. The road ahead is long and we are truly only just starting the journey.

Like the shift to level 3, it is fair to expect an initial rush of people wanting to get out and spend. Be prepared to manage an influx of orders or customers, you don;t want your restaurant, cafe or store to be the reason we get kicked back into Level 3 or be shamed in the national media for any failings.

Basic Principles for Alert Level 2

Level 2 was described by the Prime Minister as a safe reopening of the economy.  The fundamental principles include:

  • People should stay at home if they are sick (as you always should!); and
  • Anyone with any cold or flu symptoms should be tested; and
  • Enhanced hygiene measures need to be in place (regular cleaning of high touch surfaces, etc); and
  • Contacts need to be traceable (i.e. a guest register will be required for somewhere that strangers can be in contact with each other); and
  • Social distancing (2m) remains for contact with strangers, but can be somewhat relaxed for non-stranger interactions; and
  • Bubbles will be a thing of the past; and
  • No gatherings of more than 100 people (inside and outside); and
  • Contactless payment will no longer be required; and
  • Borders remain closed, but domestic travel can resume.

The Government is working on a nationwide contact tracing technology that will be based on QR codes, but it does not sound like that will be ready in time for the shift to Level 2. As with most things, you’re better to have a plan for your own business rather than waiting on the government.

Update: The NZ COVID Tracer App is now live. Displaying the app’s QR codes to enable people to sign-in is also now mandatory for all businesses. To create your unique QR code, Click Here.

Alert Level 2.5 – Adjustments Following Auckland Cluster

The government has mandated the use of protective masks on all public transport from Monday the 31st of August.

Gatherings in Auckland will be limited to 10. However, there are no travel restrictions so people from Auckland can travel freely nationwide. It is important to maintain social distancing and the other basic principles of Alert Level 2.

It is advisable to wear a face covering or mask whenever you leave your private home. Masks will be a part of our daily life until Alert Level 1. Read more on how to wear a face covering safely and make it part of your routine.

What Alert Level 2 Means for Businesses

If businesses can safely trade within the Level 2 framework, they will be able to do so.   The shift to Level 2 will provide the first opportunity to trade for about 7 weeks for many businesses, including some of the hardest hit industries.

Like the shift to level 3, it is fair to expect that there will be an initial rush of people wanting to get out and spend.  Consumer confidence is extremely low, so consumer spending will almost certainly fall to far lower than normal levels at some point after this initial rush.  Therefore, businesses will want to make sure they are prepared and can reopen safely in those first few days.

The Prime Minister today described how certain industries will be able to operate.  Here is a brief summary:

Retail – can trade with enhanced hygiene measures, especially for high touch surfaces.  Numbers of customers in the store may need to be managed for larger retailers to ensure social distancing.

Hospitality – Unsurprisingly hospitality has the toughest requirements.  A hospitality venue will be subject to the “3 S’s”:

  • Seated – patrons must be seated.
  • Separated – there must be physical distancing between the tables.
  • Single server – each table must be served at the table by a single server.

These requirements may mean that it is impractical or uneconomical for certain hospitality venues to reopen at Level 2. This specifically applies to some bars and nightclubs. However, some restaurants will also not be able to seat a viable number of patrons or will simply not have the required number of staff to enable single server service per table.

Hairdressers and beauty salons – can resume seeing customers but will need to wear personal protection equipment due to the prolonged close proximity to customers. Masks or facial shields are the key items to be worn. Regular hand washing with soap and water is more practical and effective than gloves in many instances.

Sport and recreation – Gyms, pools, parks and museums, etc. can all reopen, subject to necessary precautions.

Sports can resume on a case by case basis.  A domestic rugby and netball competition will start as soon as possible.

Education – Can resume subject to necessary precautions.  Schools will resume the first Monday after the announcement.

Take a Precautionary Approach to Health and Safety in Your Workplace

While COVID-19 is in or community, caution is the best cause of action. You don’t want your business to be ground zero of the next cluster.

Cleaning is key for all businesses. We recommend bathrooms and high touch surfaces are cleaned as frequently as possible. Tills/EFTPOS machines should be sanitised after contact payments, hands should be washed at least every 15 minutes and bathrooms should be cleaned as often as practicable given their levels of use.

If your team can work from home, encourage it. The non-taxable $20/week allowance to help cover costs of staff working from home has been extended by the IRD until March 2021. They have also extended the time frame for making non-taxable payments of $400 to staff to reimburse them for the costs of setting up a home office. You can make these payments with no reimbursement evidence (receipts, etc.) and with no payroll or FBT implications.

Encourage the wearing of masks in your business when social distancing is not possible. This is not a requirement but is a cautionary approach that should see the risk of COVID and flu spreading in your workplace drastically reduced.

With everything we have learned over the past few months, take the time this week to review your internal Infection Control and Prevention Policy. Make the required updates and discuss these with your team.

Book in a Free Chat with one of our Experts

Need to discuss your plans for moving forward? Click HERE to book a free 30 minute chat with an MBP Business Partner. We can advise on everything from tax to payroll, human resources, cashflow and more.

If you’ve been reviewing your business’s financial position and are looking for ways to improve your cash flow, one of the first things to look at are your expenses. As your business grows, so will your costs, but there are things you and your employees can do to keep them down as much as possible and so improve your cash flow by optimising overheads.

It’s important not to rest on your laurels. Continually thinking of ways to reduce your overheads is essential for a healthy cash flow, so conducting regular reviews of your business expenses should be a regular task.

Reducing Expenses

Although there’s no getting around paying for things like phones, internet, power, office equipment and rent, there are ways to optimise these overheads and keep these costs to a minimum. Review these expenses and consider the following:

  • Communications – with fierce competition in this industry, it should be easy for you to negotiate a better deal for phone and internet use. Talk to your current supplier about a new deal and if they won’t come to the party, shop around for a new one.
  • Energy costs – some of this is obvious, such as turning off things when they’re not in use. Green energy options are worth looking into, especially if you’re shopping around for a new energy supplier.
  • Rent – if your business is not client-facing, you might consider working from home. Not only can you claim your home office as a business expense, but not paying commercial rent is a huge saving. More and more businesses are becoming virtual – it’s worth considering if yours can be as well.

It’s worth joining industry associations relevant to your business. They often organize discounts for their members. And the networking contacts you make will often have ideas about savings or deals they’ve made that are reducing their expenses.

Outsourcing

The great thing about outsourcing is that it frees you up to spend more time in activities that grow your business. This is especially true of administrative tasks, so you could look at outsourcing:

  • Payroll – this is time consuming and often stressful, especially if you make mistakes. Outsourcing this task eliminates those factors and frees you up for more profitable activities.
  • IT systems – unless you’re an actual IT-based business, retaining someone to look after your IT needs is a very costly expense. Outsourcing your IT often means you can negotiate a contract that’s almost as good as having someone on site because there’s lots of competition in the IT industry.

You might also want to consider reducing your staff expenses by converting some of them to part-time instead of full-time employees, especially if the workload justifies it.

Ways to Save

There are a number of things you can look at here, tried-and-true methods for keeping costs down. Some of the most effective are:

  • Business taxes – talk to your accountant or a business tax specialist about ways you can legally save on your taxes. For instance, can you claim an area of your home as an office, which is a legitimate business expense?
  • Importing – you could look at importing your business’s raw materials. It could be that they’re cheaper to buy from an overseas supplier than the one you’ve been using locally.
  • Make the most of technology – moving your accounts to a cloud-based system, reducing manual paperwork processes and communicating with your customers over Skype or Zoom instead of visiting them face-to-face will all help reduce costs. You can even have your staff work from home and, as mentioned above, save on renting a commercial space.

Summary

As with most things in business, optimising overheads comes down to planning and creative thinking. Talk to your staff as they might have ideas on savings, and it’s important to make sure that they’re doing what they can on a regular basis to keep costs down.

It is also important to keep in mind that cutting expenses can often lead to a slower recovery for your business following a cashflow crisis. Making smart choices in what to save on so that you don;t limit your ability to scale back up in the future is essential to your long term survival.

Optimising overheads by cutting costs is a short-term solution to what may be a long term issue. If you need some advice and support, reach out to the team at MBP for a free 30 minute consultation. You can book a chat with us HERE.