Survey shows consumer decisions influenced by staff treatment - Employment Law Update November


A 2018 survey undertaken by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment found that 48% of respondents will always, or most of the time, consider purchases based on knowledge of how the business treats its workers. The 2018 New Zealand Consumer Survey was designed to find out what consumers know about their rights and their experiences of dealing with problems as consumers and was responded to by nearly 2,600 adult consumers from October to December 2018.

As part of the consumer survey the following question was asked:

“Thinking about the types of information that you might see before purchasing a product or service, how often does the following apply to you? – Knowing that a business treats its workers fairly (eg. Pays at least minimum wage, provides a safe workplace), affects my decision on where to purchase products/services.”

In 2018 around 48% reported that they “always” or “most of the time” consider where to purchase products or services based on a knowledge of how that business treats its workers. This was an increase from 43% in 2016 when the same question was asked in that earlier survey. In 2018, 8% of consumers reported that they “never” consider how a business treats its workers when deciding where to purchase goods and services and 4% indicated they “don’t know”.

Further information about this survey can be obtained from www.employment.govt.nz, and the report for the whole survey can be obtained from www.consumerprotection.govt.nz


Inference of age discrimination from failure to offer redeployment

A recent decision of the Employment Relations Authority demonstrates that direct evidence of discrimination (such as an email directly saying you are not offering employment because of someone’s age) is not always necessary for there to be a finding that discrimination has taken place. Discrimination can potentially be inferred from indirect matters. The Employment Relations Authority found that an employer had discriminated against an employee on the basis of age when failing to discuss potential redeployment with the employee to another role prior to making him redundant.

The employee was employed as a carpet measurer and the employer made the employee redundant on the basis that it considered it no longer needed a dedicated measurer and that the measuring work could be absorbed into the work of carpet layers/installers. However, the employer considered that the employee was not suitable for a role involving the laying and installation of carpets because the installation of carpet was a heavy job involving lifting very heavy carpets. The employer considered that the employee was not able to do that part of the role. This was despite the fact that the employee had previously been an installer for many years and had a great deal of experience within the floor covering industry.

The Authority held that the employee should have been given the opportunity by the employer to consider whether in the event of a restructure of the business, which was going to impact his role, the layer/measurer position may have been an option for him. The employer failed to do that. There was no direct evidence that the employer did not redeploy the employee because of his age. However, the Authority found that on the balance of probabilities the employer’s decision not to consider the employee for such a role was because assumptions were made about his ability to do the work because of his age. The Authority concluded that amounted to discrimination and went towards the finding of the Authority that the employee was unjustifiably dismissed. The dismissal was found to be unjustified for a few reasons including this one and the Authority concluded that the redundancy was not genuine, was for ulterior purposes, and was undertaken to manage the employee’s exit. The employer was ordered to pay the employee $20,000 in compensation for hurt and humiliation in relation to his grievance for unjustified dismissal. Although no lost wages were awarded, the employee had not requested any lost wages. In the event that the employee had made a claim for lost wages, and also had not obtained other remuneration after his dismissal, the employer would likely have been ordered to pay that also.

See Davis v On All Floors (2016) Ltd [2019] NZERA 313.


Reproduced with the permission of Wolters Kluwer NZ




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