Team-building encourages a more productive work environment. Work hard, play hard.
Team-building encourages a more productive work environment. Work hard, play hard.
Weight bias and discrimination has the potential to become the new racism. Are you an “obesist”? Or a “fatist” (as they like to call it in my office)?
The reality is that around 1 in 4 New Zealand adults are classified as obese. Obesity is a worldwide epidemic which can have serious consequences for employers and employees. Example: what happens when a job candidate applying to wait tables at your crazy-busy street cafe has stellar credentials, but he is overweight and you worry he won’t be able to keep up with the frantic pace on his feet for 10 hours a day? Can you refuse to hire him because you think he is too large?
The Employment Relations Act 2000 and the Human Rights Act 1993 govern the grounds of discrimination in the workplace. “Obesity” is not specifically referred to as a prohibited ground for discrimination, but “disability” is. Thus it begs the question – is obesity a disability? Disability is defined as:
While obesity may not be a “disability” per se, it may be a significant factor in finding that a person has a disability. Another thought to ponder: what if a person’s obesity is a symptom of a medical condition? Should we distinguish between cause and effect?
The UK judiciary have been faced with some difficult cases recently surrounding obesity issues in the workplace. While they have refused to accept obesity is a disability in its own right, they have concluded that an obese person may be disabled if their obesity has a real impact on their ability to participate in work.
In New Zealand, an employer can specify particular physical characteristics only if those characteristics are essential in order to perform the job satisfactorily, or in order to meet safety requirements. There must be a real and genuine reason for doing so.
Worksafe New Zealand was established to reduce our workplace injury and death toll by 25% by 2020. The incentive arose from the Pike River disaster, in which 29 of our men perished. The Health and Safety Reform Bill is a much-needed piece of legislation to protect the health and safety of our workers. The Bill allows for greater participation from all workers to get involved in health and safety discussions in the workplace. There will be higher legal requirements placed on managers and company directors to manage risk, and to ensure a safe working environment. At present the penalties for non-compliance range from $250k – $500k and 2 years imprisonment. The suggested penalties in the new Bill range from $300k – $3m and up to 5 years imprisonment – plenty of reasons to not be caught short of full compliance.
The Bill means that there can be no passing the buck, nor is there any room for ignorance. Directors and senior managers must be aware of the positive duties imposed on them and their obligations under the new legislation.
Similarly, employees should be aware of health and safety risks/requirements and should raise any concerns with their employer. A worker was recently fired from Top Energy for not following safety procedures. The Employment Relations Authority found that the employer was justified in terminating the employment due to the employee’s failure to follow safety procedures which resulted in a serious situation – his own electrocution. Therefore it is up to everyone in the workplace, not just employers/managers, to ensure safety comes first.
Worksafe also aims to focus on occupational health. You don’t need to be working in a dangerous physical environment for your health to suffer. Workplace hazards which need to be managed include physical, mechanical, biological, chemical and psychological. In particular, there are many psychological stresses on employees, such as:
Directors and managers must recognise and control potential hazards. Education and a broad knowledge of the legal requirements and duties imposed on individuals will be extremely important to avoid accidents or penalties moving forward. Liability will be based on the new standard set to kick in early 2015.
For further information or advice to ensure compliance, contact BuckettLaw – the employment law experts.
The horse is a showy beast with an unremitting desire to be challenged, to progress and triumph. 2014 is the year of the horse – a sign of speedy success, a time to shine, to ride to your destination. Christmas holidays have come and gone, the New Year celebrations can’t carry on, we’ve all had a little too much to drink over the past few weeks and we are back to the confines of the office, still pasty, left to gaze at the sunshine outside and remember the holiday that was… It is easy for the post-holiday blues to set in, leaving us feeling discouraged and disheartened. But tis the year of the horse! We must grab hold of the reins and canter ahead.
8 Tips for Workplace Productivity in the New Year & summer months
1. Start your year over
Already broken your New Years resolutions? Feeling pessimistic? Simply begin the year again. If you have already slipped back into bad habits, reassess your way of thinking and start again today. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again. Attitude is key – try bringing your positive holiday energy back into the work place and infect your co-workers with your optimism.
2. Set goals
No matter what stage of your career you have reached, there is always room for improvement. Once again, a positive attitude will assist you in setting achievable goals. Assume success and have confidence that your goals will be reached. Be ambitious, focus on a new project. Anticipate needs around your workplace and aim to satisfy those needs by using your initiative. Push your boundaries in order to work harder and smarter. To achieve that raise or promotion you shouldn’t have to increase your work hours. By working smarter and more efficiently during work hours you can increase productivity and job satisfaction. Concentrate on one thing at a time, or one thing per day to ensure you stay focused on particular goals.
3. Get physical
The abundance of daylight hours in January leaves no excuse for laziness. Enhance your personal wellbeing by getting physical. Get outside on your breaks and lap up the sunshine. A change in routine will bring positive results. If you usually exercise in the evening, try an early morning jog, or organise a team of workmates for a game of touch rugby at the park during your lunch break. We all know exercise boosts our energy levels, de-stresses and increases productivity. Make the most of our stunning summer days – get outdoors and get physical.
4. Eat well & hydrate
Peaches, sweet corn, nectarines, cucumber, spinach, apples, plums, apricots, beans, avocados, cherries, limes, melons, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, beetroot and tomatoes are all in season over the summer months. Eat them! It is so easy to make healthy food choices with an abundance of fruit and veg available. Kick start 2014 with these nutritious options and set a high standard for the rest of the year. Drink water and lots of it. If you are getting bored with plain water, add fresh lime, or invest in a SoadSparkle for the office. Your mind and body will love you for it (as will your boss).
5. Get to work earlier
With the cloudless blue sky luring us outside it is understandable to want to finish work early and head to the beach. Why not see if you can start work earlier and finish up earlier? If this is not possible, get to work bright and early and accomplish all of the important tasks first thing in the morning when you are at your most productive. This way you should, at the very least, not be slogging away in the evenings. You can’t do everything in a day and the sun will rise tomorrow whether or not you have finished your tasks.
6. Spring clean
There’s no point in waiting 9 months for your next spring clean: begin 2014 with a workplace makeover. Getting a head start by organising you work space will increase productivity and help reduce stress. A clean and orderly environment will keep you organised and efficient throughout your hectic day. Go through the stacks of paperwork towering in the corners of the room and take time to consider whether you really need to keep that manual from 2007. De-clutter your computer, make folders for documents you will reuse and remove everything else. Make the time to organise, rearrange and tidy now, and save time in the long-run.
7. Improve relationships
Positive workplace relationships are crucial to promote teamwork, morale and productivity. There is no better time to focus on improving relationships and communication than the beginning of a new year. Keep lines of communication open by making yourself available and freely conversing with others. Ask your boss how you can improve. Cooperate with co-workers and make an effort to be an interested observer. Do not assume anything – always ask, “why?” This will encourage others to communicate more effectively while improving interactions and understanding.
8. Be productive outside of work
Keep busy with the outdoor activities New Zealand has to offer over the summer months. Filling your evenings and weekends with social events and keeping a healthy work/life balance is sure to increase your happiness, which should reflect in your work. Embrace networking opportunities and encourage your colleagues to be social. There are free activities offered throughout the country such as the St John’s Bar outdoor cinema in Wellington, Music in Parks and Movies in Parks in Auckland, the Saturday Night Market in Christchurch just to name a few. Get out, horse around and be productive.
We all love a good James Bond film – plenty of action, guns, spies, a gorgeous woman, and Bond comes out on top. But when this becomes your reality, minus the action, guns, and gorgeous women, who will come out on top?
GPS technology is becoming a common tool used by employers to keep tabs on their employees whereabouts. This aims to prevent employees from abusing their privilege of having use of a work vehicle, diverting from their destination, and falsifying timesheets. That brand new iPhone 5 given to you on your first day of work may have seemed like a generous gesture at the time. But when you realise your employer has been using it to track you, I would imagine you’d like to throw their generous gesture right back at them.
Why shouldn’t an employer track their employees? If their employees are where they say they are, and doing what they say they are doing, what’s the problem? Employer-friendly apps are in abundance. Beginning at the tempting price of ‘FREE’, these apps are advertised as perfect for tracking your friends, children and work colleagues. ‘Trackster’ ($2.59) is a popular choice, claiming it can “make a big difference to businesses” by increasing productivity. These GPS tracking apps can track an employee’s whereabouts, how long they have been there for, where they have been previously, and follow them while they travel. James Bond isn’t so unrealistic after all! But with this incredible technology comes major issues of privacy, consent and reasonableness.
Should an employee have to know and consent to being ‘spied on’ by their employer? And if they do consent, where does the ‘spying’ stop? It is unreasonable for this tracking to be 24/7 surveillance. Surely it should shut off as you leave the office at the end of the day, and resume upon your return the following morning. Yet none of the apps pride themselves in having this automatic capability yet. If your iPhone or Android is being tracked during work hours, then chances are your employer can check your whereabouts any time of the day or night. The old croaky call into work on a Friday morning because you have come down with something overnight will no longer suffice when your employer can log into their Bond technology and see you happened to be within a 30 meter radius of the local bar only 4 hours ago. Good luck explaining that one.
This leads into the issue of privacy. Surely it is none of your employers business where you were last night, whether it be a bar, gay strip club or another employee’s residence. This could lead to all sorts of other employment issues – discrimination, workplace bullying – don’t get me started! So the decision to ‘spy’ on employees could have adverse effects. In 2010 the Law Commission reviewed the law of privacy and considered the issue of surveillance in the workplace. Their report acknowledged the concern of the inequalities of power between employers and employees. The issue stated that “employees cannot be assumed to have freely consented to restrictions on their privacy, and workers need some legal protection of their privacy in order to redress the power imbalance”. However the Commission came to the conclusion that the existing law, in particular the duty of good faith contained in the Employment Relations Act 2000, was at present, adequate to deal with workplace surveillance issues.
To combat privacy issues, companies can issue policies so employees understand they shouldn’t have any expectation of privacy during work hours or when using a work vehicle. But this isn’t a guaranteed solution. What’s to stop an employee purposefully misplacing their smartphone, or accidentally leaving it at work? This would allow them some privacy and completely undermine the whole tracking regime. Ha! This Bond technology isn’t foolproof!
Or that’s what a Christchurch man thought until he was dismissed for serious misconduct after falsifying his timesheets. Mr Stuart was discovered by GPS technology fitted into his work vehicle when his supervisor became suspicious and requested their employer review the GPS records. This review revealed that often Mr Stuart’s work vehicle was parked at his residence well before he claimed to be finishing work each day. The Employment Relations Authority found that Mr Stuart was justifiably dismissed as he was employed in a position of trust, and falsifying timesheets was considered to be serious misconduct in the company’s Code of Conduct. This recent decision indicates the reality of GPS tracking in the workplace. Understandably employers want to maximise productivity, and there are employees out there willing take advantage of any situation.
Is GPS tracking the solution? Employers will love it – nothing will go unnoticed. Employees will hate it – nothing will go unnoticed. What is reasonable ‘spying’? We will have to wait with anticipation for this Bond sequel to play out.
Exciting news for all of you struggling to make ends meet – the government has proudly announced an increase in the minimum wage is set to take place from April 1st. Woohoo! 25 cents more an hour! This takes our minimum wage from $13.50 to $13.75 an hour. That’s a $2 increase per day, and workers will earn around $10 more a week. This is before tax. Can our lowest paid workers afford to live off an income of $550 (pre-tax) a week?
There are thousands of real people, doing real work with real responsibilities in our communities such as caregivers, security guards and cleaners to name a few. These people have families to feed and bills to pay, purely for survival. But what if they wish to go on a holiday, pay for a child’s school camp or dabble in a bit of Wellington’s culture? Maybe for people in minimum responsibility jobs, some might view $13.75 as a fair representation of their efforts. When making a comparison to the UK minimum wage of £6.19, our $13.75 doesn’t look so bad. But Australia dishes out a grand $15.95, or a minimum of $606.40 per week. No wonder so many young Kiwis are heading over the ditch.
And the governments excuse for this pitiful increase? Labour Minister Simon Bridges claims our wage rates represent “a careful balance between protecting low paid workers and ensuring jobs are not lost as the economic recovery gains pace.” Thus, we must consider reality. In a utopian world all employers would have the funds to comply with minimum wage requirements, no matter the economic situation. This seems to be the belief of writers of an independent report prepared for Service and Food workers union. This report published two weeks ago identified $18.40 as a suitable ‘living wage’. Wouldn’t this be amazing! That’s an extra $186 per week – now that would be something to get excited about! But in this economy, with job losses being a regular occurrence, this prospect is unfortunately out of reach. Still, workers and employers need to stay positive. 25cents is better than nothing. And if recent trends are anything to go by, the minimum wage should continue its climb, taking you along for the ride.
And for all you employees on minimum wage, remember:
Employers paying minimum wages, take note:
Just another day at the office battling Valentines Day eager beavers to bring BuckettLaw chocolates to you. Lovers of all things chocolatey watch this space.
During one of the many, many, “How was your Christmas/ New Years/ isn’t this weather fantastic” chats that are par for the course in January, a friend muttered that she had the sneaky suspicion that work was getting in the way of her real life. I thought, you’ve got a point there, Sheryl*. Sadly, the New Zealand Government doesn’t agree with me.
Kiwis.. we think of ourselves as No. 8 wire innovators, Everest conquerers. We pride ourselves on our open-mindedness, our relaxed approach to life. Yet, in reality, we are dragging the chain behind the rest of the world when it comes to our work/life balance and the cracks are starting to show.
Despite advice from the powers that be (Aunty Helen and the UN), the New Zealand Government is sticking to its guns, refusing to introduce legislation to limit the number of hours the humble Kiwi can work per week. In doing so, we’re falling behind the rest of the world with workplaces that are stuck in the dark ages of arbitrary hours, set days and places, while others move towards flex-time (or less time) and a results-based approach.
On average we Kiwis work bloody hard, 1724 hours a year according to OECD figures. That’s 175 more hours than the Danes, 86 more than those in the UK and a whopping 380 than the Germans. While no one could accuse the Germans of being lazy, they’re sitting pretty with around 9 weeks more holiday than your average Kiwi.
So what’s it all in aid of? Health? Wealth? Happiness? There’s evidence a plenty to show that this isn’t the case. In fact, that ‘work hard play hard’ attitude can get us into hot water and we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to research to back it up.
You wouldn’t think it if you wandered onto New Zealand immigrations website. It lures off-shorers to our land of ‘easy living’ with “If you’re looking for a more balanced lifestyle, you’ll find New Zealand’s got the recipe just right.” Do we.. really?
A recent study in the journal PLoS ONE shows that people that work more than 11 hours a day have a more-than-doubled risk of a major depressive episode, compared with people who work the more-standard seven to eight hours a day.
The daily (and nightly) grind is taking a toll. A survey of nearly 1500 kiwis, released by Hudson Recruitment this week, showed that 41.6% of employees were feeling more stressed than a year ago and 77% were shouldering more responsibility and working longer hours.
And those findings join a host of others suggesting a link between clocking serious hours and heart disease, heart attacks, higher blood pressure, lower life expectancy.
If that wasn’t enough reason for you to rethink burning the midnight oil at the office consider the added extras- sitting all day is linked to a higher likelihood of developing a chronic disease such as diabetes.
Lack of sleep is also a kicker and can lead (to name but a few) to decreased memory, increased weight gain, a higher chance of having a car accident, diabetes, irritability, serious cardiovascular health problems, and possibly cancer (no biggy). According to The National Sleep Foundation we should be shooting for at least 7-9 hours. So get home, keep work out of the bedroom and get some decent shuteye.
We’re burning out our employees, the long hours+ill-health combination also means lost labour in the long-term and higher medical costs for employers, the government and you ( the tax-payer).
But doesn’t working harder make you richer? Nope.. it turns out productivity fuels wealth, not hours worked. Hence why so many companies overseas are turning to flexible approaches (more on that next week).
While the hours=results mentality works for robots in a production line, surely we’ve moved on. Germany (the powerhouse of the EU) and their extra 9 weeks holiday proves this if nothing else.
In the corporate world, staying at work late amongst the underlings is almost a competitive sport; does it change the work output? Invariably, no. people can only pump out so much good work a day, outside of this is when mistakes occur. These mistakes can be dangerous. A recent study of hospital interns found that young doctors who worked longer shifts made almost 36 percent more serious mistakes, like giving the wrong dose or the wrong medicine altogether to patients.
But why not just work hard, play hard? (Says the Government) To that I say, what use is the working if you don’t have the time or energy to do the playing? And where’s this work-life balance recipe you speak of?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating the life of a sloth, but ask yourself.. is work getting in the way of your life?
10 hours plus.. it’s not healthy, it’s not making us wealthy.. go on workaholics, go home, have dinner with your family, sleep for eight hours, take that holiday… maybe one day we will be as powerful as the Germans.
** names have been changed to protect anonymity