New Zealand small businesses urged to prioritise employees wellbeing

Employees in New Zealand are rallying for increased health and safety protection in small businesses through a new bill.
By: | February 22, 2023

Employees across New Zealand have united in support of a bill that aims to provide additional safeguards for employees in small businesses. The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) led the submission of the Health and Safety at Work (Health and Safety Representatives and Committees) Amendment Bill, which would allow employees in small businesses greater access to health and safety representatives and committees.

Currently, organisations with fewer than 20 employees in low-risk sectors are not required to hold elections for health and safety representatives. However, this bill mandates that all organisations must conduct elections if employees make such a request.

According to Melissa Ansell-Bridges, National Secretary of the NZCTU, the bill will help employees play a greater role in shaping their workplace’s health and safety practices and was necessary because many employees in small businesses might not feel comfortable speaking up about health and safety issues.

These employees, she said, were usually in closer proximity to management and less likely to be represented by a union, resulting in fewer support options being available to them. “All businesses have a responsibility to deliver good health and safety outcomes regardless of their size,” Ansell-Bridges concluded.

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The NZCTU has also voiced its support for additional recommendations made in the Public Service Association’s submission, including the establishment of a statutory register of health and safety representatives, and legislative support for ‘roving health and safety representatives’.