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Newsletter 22 Jan 2014

Posted on January 23rd, 2014

RELIGION IN THE WORKPLACE

What does it mean in practice?

We have had enquiries at various times about religion in the workplace, rights of the employer and employee and questions relating to discrimination.

Guidelines developed relating to legislative, moral and ethical principles have been established in two fundamental areas:

1. New Zealand legislation makes it unlawful to discriminate on religious grounds and gives people the right to express themselves religiously.
2. The employer is obliged to reasonably accommodate an employee’s religious beliefs provided that does not unreasonably disrupt the employer’s activities.
The aim of these guidelines is to provide examples of best practice and possible actions that will be helpful in resolving workplace issues for both employees and employers. In almost all cases, the different calendars, dress, personal styles, dietary rules and moral codes can be reasonably easily addressed with information, awareness, forward planning and good will. An individual’s religious rights are tied to and dependent on respecting the rights of others to have different beliefs and practices. This equally extends to respecting the right of others not to have religious beliefs at all.

DRESS CODES AND APPEARANCE

Inevitably there have been disputes, debates and discussions about clothing and appearance at work. A number of religions have codes of dress and appearance that may raise issues in the New Zealand workplace. This can conflict with company dress codes or uniforms. A number of religions require headgear, such as turbans or skullcaps for men, or headscarves for women or that men have beards. Some have guidelines about women not wearing trousers or men’s attire. Ideally a discussion will have taken place and agreement confirmed in the form of an employment agreement before employment is commenced. Where health and safety requirements specify protective clothing or equipment is utilised and this creates a difficulty, the issue should be discussed with the reasonable expectation of finding a practical and acceptable resolution. Employment agreements should include dress codes and workplace policies where applicable. In brief, the employer must reasonably consider every request in good faith and accommodate the request if it does not unreasonably disrupt the employer’s activities.

COMPANY VEHICLES

Misuse of company vehicles can become a major cost to an employer if a comprehensive policy surrounding their use has not been properly established and conveyed to the employee at the time of employment or at the time an employee is given the use of a company vehicle.

The purpose of a vehicle policy is to ensure the safety of drivers of company vehicles and of others on the road, to safeguard company assets and to establish the rules for using the vehicle.
Areas which a comprehensive policy should include are:
•Allocation of responsibility
•Who may use the vehicle, when and for what purpose
•Safety of the vehicle
•Driver behaviour
•Fringe Benefit Tax (FBT)
•Log books
•Accidents, breakdowns and emergencies
•Fleet or fuel cards
•Private use

If these areas are covered in a policy at the time of employment and or provision of a company vehicle then confusion over responsibilities can be avoided. We draft vehicle policies to specifically meet your company requirements. Please contact us with your questions or if you would like a vehicle policy drafted to add to your code of conduct or company rules.

WORKPLACE SAFETY

Some accidents are just that, accidents, but most work accidents are avoidable. This is simply a matter of evaluating the risks in your workplace, seeing where your problems are and then putting measures in place to protect your employees.
Sole practitioners such as consultants or plumbers or electricians working in the domestic market have to comply with the same regulations as the likes of Fletchers or New Zealand Steel. No individual or company is exempt!
There have been some timely and tragic reminders in New Zealand recently of how catastrophic a failure in safety procedures can be in a workplace. According to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MoBIE) NZ’s record of work safety is not good - on average 2 people killed and 600 injured at work per week!
No matter how careful we are in complying with Health and Safety best practice, there is nevertheless, always the potential for an “accident” to occur.
Implementing the ACC Workplace Safety Management Practices Audit Standards into your business provides an excellent platform in recognising workplace health and safety and measuring your capabilities in workplace safety management. Within the audit standards there are three measurable levels of performance which can reward the organisation with a discount on Workplace Cover levies from 10% to 20%. Start the year with a clean record and save money on your levies. Contact us to find out how we can help implement ACC Workplace Safety Audit Standards in your workplace.

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