Disputes procedure: general provisions

Disputes procedure: general provisions

The Employment Relations Act provides that any party to an employment agreement, or any person bound by an employment agreement, may pursue a dispute about the interpretation, application or operation of that employment agreement.

There is no formal statutory process to be followed in pursuing a dispute under the Act (e.g. written statements about the dispute are not required).

The Act promotes mediation as the preferred way to resolve any employment relationship problem (including any dispute). Accordingly, if a dispute cannot be resolved by direct discussion, the parties are required to use the mediation services provided by the Department of Labour.

The mechanism for an employee (or the manager concerned) to raise a contract interpretation issue is via the employment relationship problem resolution process.

Note: As with any employment relationship problem, the employee concerned may choose to be represented in connection with disputes proceedings. In accordance with Section 236 of the Employment Relations Act, where an employee authorises a representative (including a union official) to represent them on any employment matter, management is obliged to recognise and deal with that representative in good faith. Depending on the circumstances, this may mean that all communications with the employee (written and oral) in connection with that matter need to be directed to the employee via their authorised representative. To ignore or bypass the employee’s representative in such circumstances would amount to a breach of Section 286 leaving the employer open to legal action.