Running the ruler over businesses in New Zealand

18 March 2019

4. Kirk HopeWorkplaces and working relationships in New Zealand are generally in good shape.

That’s the news from the latest employer survey conducted by the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment.

Every year MBIE surveys around 2,400 employers, seeking information on hiring practices and workplace management in all kinds of businesses throughout the country.

The latest results show businesses working hard, engaging positively with employees and striving to meet their legal requirements.

Pain points included difficulties grappling with health and safety requirements and filling job vacancies.

The survey lays to rest a number of myths.

One myth is that wholesale sackings are happening under trial periods regulations.

In fact, the survey shows that employee trial periods are working as intended - helping many more people into jobs.

Most employers interviewed in the MBIE survey used trial periods to check on a trial employee’s skills or ability to do the job or to check that they were reliable and had a good attitude.

About a quarter of those using trial periods had decided against continuing the employment of a trial employee, mostly on those grounds.

Rather than wholesale sackings, the data actually shows employers working very hard to find and retain employees with relevant skills and good attitude.

Another preconception not supported by the MBIE data is that jobs are becoming more casualised, with the growth of a ‘gig’ economy.

The MBIE survey showed about a quarter of employers had employees on casual agreements, down from a third last survey.

Those using fixed term contracts did so because of fluctuating demand or the need to cover staff absences or obtain specific skills.

So, while there may be a gradual trend towards more job casualisation in other places, this is not apparent in the New Zealand data.

The survey overall shows positive relations with employees and unions, and a strong focus on meeting employment regulations.

The survey shows that most workplaces have no union members, but where they do, the relationships are generally good.

Larger companies are more likely to have union members on staff, and more likely to find it efficient to engage with unions on employment matters.

This shows the strength of New Zealand workplace regulations in allowing both collective and individual employment agreements, since it means smaller and larger companies can work with their employees in the way that suits everyone best.

The survey shows the business-union relationship is mostly neutral with regard to business outcomes.

Most employers said their relationship with unions had no impact on the business, and only a few said there was either a positive or negative impact.

So the survey indicates that union activity is mostly not harmful to business outcomes - a positive and reassuring finding for business.

It seems that new health and safety regulations are being well integrated into business practices.

Most businesses – more than 90 percent of those surveyed – reported having processes to manage health and safety risks, and around two thirds said they involved staff in health and safety decisions.

But there is a concern about the work involved – only 46 percent thought this was reasonable.

The biggest issue for businesses – an issue echoed in many other surveys - is the difficulty of obtaining skills.

Two thirds of employers with job vacancies had found them hard to fill.

About a quarter had recently hired a migrant, mostly to get the right skills and qualifications, but said that the visa process and the process of getting the employee’s skills validated had been difficult.

This survey of 2,400 employers gives a helpful picture of the issues involved in New Zealand business today.


Kirk Hope | Chief Executive | BusinessNZ |

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