Question :
Hey there, I am currently working for talent agency based in AKL. (Be have talent on our books who we book onto TV commercials, TV series etc). We had no work come through to us during level 4 lockdown, yet we were told we all had to continue to work as the government was paying us the wage subsidy. (Tidy up the website, contact talent on the books about updating info etc). We then had to all sign an agreement that our hours were going to drop to 25 hours. Now we have work coming through to the business, yet are still only getting the wage subsidy. And because we all signed the reduced hours contract, technically the company is still paying us 100% of our wages (still only the wage subsidy). Just seems a bit unfair as now the business is currency making money – yet still not paying their staff anything. I’ve talked around and people have said it doesn’t seem fair at all – we almost back to normal with the workload. Anyway, hope this makes sense and thanks in advance for your time! 

Question submitted 14/07/20 @ 02:28pm
Industry: HR & Talent
  • Up

    Hi there – it makes sense, and it is clearly a challenging situation. A question, was there consultation when the Company made the request for you to change your employment conditions and when that happened, did you sign a new contract or an amendment to your contract?

    On the wage subsidy, this is a payment made by MSD (Government) to the Company (not to the employees) with the objective that it will help keep the employees employed by the Company – when it was originally set up, the Government gave a guideline (hope) that employers would pay around 80% of the base salary/remuneration to employees – however the reality is that many employers were not able to do that and/or chose to not do that, maybe to keep as many people employed as possible – and that ended up with employees getting paid lower than the 80% and even to just the subsidy level.

    If you agreed to a change in conditions to working to 25 hours, and there was effective consultation, then I would assume that you are only required to work those 25 hours, and that if the Company wants you to work longer hours and/or there is more work, then they will need to again consult with you about changing the terms and conditions.

    So suggest you share with the others here on the situation, and then lets see if we can help give some guidance for you to go forward. Andy


    Hi there. If you can, I would encourage you to have a conversation with your employer – explain that you’ve noticed the upturn in business and ask them when they expect to be able to move back to pre-covid terms and conditions. If their intention is to ‘return to normal’ soon, then you’ll have your answer. If they say that you’ve signed a new contract and there is no intention to go back to your earlier arrangements, then you need to decide if the approach they took at the time you signed was appropriate and there was fair and reasonable consultation process to ensure you understood what you were agreeing to. If not, or if you were coerced into signing under duress, then you may have grounds to raise a personal grievance. You and your colleagues might want to jointly seek advice from an employment lawyer or advocate so you understand the pros and cons of such action. Certainly for now, if you are contracted to work 25 hours, you shouldn’t be working longer than that without being paid. All the best.

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