We Can Work It Out (Coronavirus Label) – Dukesons Business Law – Employment Lawyer – Business Lawyer

April 2020

This Blog isn't legal advice – if you need legal advice on any employment law issue, please contact me. I'm business lawyer (commercial lawyer) in Auckland who provides advice on a wide range of business law including employment law issues.

You’ll recognise the title to this blog only if you’re a Beatles fan. Might be optimistic, even a fantasy, for some. There are employees who’ve lost their jobs or still will, and businesses that have folded or still will. For the rest of us (excluding the very wealthy), we’re all taking a hit. Hopefully, we’ll all be kinder to each other after this and, even if it’s hard, be more thankful for what we’ve got.

The last major development on the business law front was the changes made by the Government to the Wage Subsidy rules. (See my blog: https://www.dukesons.co.nz/blog/coronavirus-changes-government-wage-subsidy-dukesons-business-law-employment-lawyer-business-lawyer) There are still grey areas.

The inclination of some employers, employees, commercial landlords, commercial tenants, and contracting parties to self-preserve makes it difficult for some of the pain to be shared especially where there's no Government assistance or provisions in contracts that govern the situation. Self interest or self preservation is often a strong motivator. An example of contract clauses that may provide answers include provisions in some leases that deal specifically with emergencies (including epidemics) and in contracts of different types, force majeure.

I've seen some evidence of kindness out there. Some commercial landlords have volunteered to share pain with their tenants or have accepted reasonable compromises sought by their tenants. Some employers have done everything they can to try to accommodate employees, though this may involve the parties agreeing on some compromise. There may be employers out there badly treating their employees but I haven’t so far had any complaints from employees. My employer clients all seem to want to do whatever they reasonably can to help their employees though many have limited ability to do so.

On the other hand, I’ve also seen some commercial landlords simply refuse to accept that some clauses in some leases will entitle tenants to demand a fair rent/opex apportionment – ultimately, those landlords are likely to be brought to down to reality in one way or another, as hard as it may be on some of them.

Without going into detail, both now and when things return to some sort of normality, employers who have employees working from home have health and safety obligations in relation to those employees, and obligations to ensure that the employees know what’s expected of them work-wise and that they have the necessary tools or equipment to do what’s expected of them. Some employers will have greater ability/resources than others to meet those obligations. As an aside, I suspect that when things return to some sort of normality, there could be an increase in the number of requests by employees for flexible working.

Not much in this blog by way of law but I’m thinking of all of my clients, and all of my contacts that I know well. Be kind (not the first to say it I know), stay safe (ditto).

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2 Enfield Street, Mt Eden, Auckland 1024. PO Box 946, Shortland Street, Auckland 1140.
Telephone: +64 9 379 4556 Mobile: 021 404 306. Fax: +64 9 379 4557 Email: steve@dukesons.co.nz