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A small but important employment law change came into force on 13 June 2023 as the timeframe for employees to raise a personal grievance for sexual harassment increased from 90 days to 12 months. The timeframe to notify an employer for all other personal grievances, such as unjustified action causing disadvantage and unjustified dismissal (which are generally more common), remains at 90 days.

What does this mean for employers?

This change means the following for employers:

  • your employees now have 12 months to raise a personal grievance under section 103(1)(d) of the Employment Relations Act 2000 (the Act); and
  • your employment agreements must refer to this extended timeframe, as well as the 90 day timeframe for all other grievances, in its resolution of employment problem clause. These clauses are already mandatory, so will likely just need some tweaking.

This means that you should have your employment agreement templates reviewed and updated as soon as possible. You may also need to review and update company policies if they refer to the time periods or processes for raising a personal grievance.

Do employers need to update existing employment agreements?

Existing employees are automatically covered by the change which means there is no immediate requirement to change their employment agreements – it can also be a hassle to do so. However, you must still comply with the new law - i.e., you cannot contract out of it - and if you do amend employment agreements with existing employees for any reason in future, you will need to include the updated clause then. In any case, we recommend that you do alert your employees to this change in writing for now.

Does the extended timeframe take retrospective effect?

It does not take retrospective effect – the increased timeframe only applies if the alleged sexual harassment occurred or came to the employee’s notice, whichever is later, on or after 13 June 2023.

What is this change for?

This change is intended to improve the process by allowing victims of workplace sexual harassment more time to come to terms with what has happened before coming forward. It may, however, cause confusion where allegations overlap with other types of grievances and where the threshold required to successfully raise a personal grievance under section 103(1)(d) of the Act is not met. Practically, it might also be difficult for employers to investigate allegations that date up to 12 months back.

Our experts

If you have any questions about this, or if you would like your employment agreement templates or policies reviewed, please do not hesitate to reach out to our experts.

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