Additional resources for Employment Tribunal

  • Max Bradford

The Government has increased the funding of the Employment Tribunal to reduce case backlogs and waiting times, Labour Minister Max Bradford has announced.

The Tribunal had been allocated an additional $450,000 per annum in the 1997 Budget, Mr Bradford said.

"I am confident that the additional funding will significantly aid the Tribunal's capacity to help employers and employees resolve disputes quickly and efficiently," Mr Bradford said.

In 1991, the Employment Contracts Act extended coverage of personal grievance procedures from only union members under the old labour relations legislation, to every member of the New Zealand workforce.

That is from about 400,000 people, to well over 1.7 million now. "As people grow increasingly aware of their right to access dispute resolution procedures, it is important to ensure the Employment Tribunal is adequately resourced," Mr Bradford said.

The Tribunal is a key component of the Employment Contracts Act. Its mediation services make a major contribution to the satisfactory resolution of disputes and grievances. It is important that this role be maintained and enhanced.

The extra funding in the 1997 Budget would enable the Tribunal's regional presence to be strengthened through the establishment of two full-time Tribunal members in Hamilton, the source of a significant proportion of the Tribunal's work.

Mr Bradford said Employment Tribunal and Employment Court fees had also been revised. Application fees in the Tribunal are to increase from $35 to $70, while hearing fees will rise from $75 per « day of hearing to $150. Court application fees will also increase, and hearing fees will rise from $150 per day to $245 per day.

The changes will take effect from Monday 4 August.

"Considerable additional resources have been allocated to the Employment Tribunal over the past six years. The fee increases represent the first such movement since that time."

Free mediation hearings and the free first day of a Tribunal adjudication hearing or Employment Court hearing had been retained. "Most of the Tribunal's business is mediation and, apart from the moderate increase in Tribunal application fee, most applicants will not pay significantly more than they do at present. Both bodies remain low cost, accessible means of dispute and grievance resolution relative to the alternatives currently available," Mr Bradford said