When you have an employment issue, it is a tricky landscape to navigate. In a recent report by Radio New Zealand, the very issue of employment advocacy is discussed.
Employment Advocates are not regulated, and there are calls for Advocates to be licenced and have a complaints process, a way of determining if the Advocate is experienced, to avoid the risk of employment issues being escalated to a level that is not required.
When facing any employment issue, whether from an employer or employee perspective, outside help is usually essential. It is critical to understand who you are engaging, to know if you are representing or supporting yourself, or your business well.
Employment Advocates are not always qualified in any employment area, such as law, human resources or industrial relations. However, they may have Union experience or experience in employment from a business environment. You may find Advocates working in “no win, no fee” type scenarios, or free advice services. There are some good Advocates out there, and from experience, there are some that are not experienced and provide poor advice and support.
Human Resource Consultants generally belong to a professional national body, such as HRNZ. Many are qualified at a tertiary level, specialising in human resources. HR Consultants will often work heavily in the day-to-day operational side of HR, in a way to support employers and employees to work more harmoniously, in good faith with each other. HR Consultants will also work with employment disputes, but mostly try to prevent them.
Employment Lawyers specialise in applying the law to employment disputes and will deal with employment issues at all levels. They represent employers and employees and have more dealings with the Employment Relations Authority and mediation. Employment Lawyers often work closely with HR Consultants and HR/Culture Managers to support processes and escalation to settlements.
Note: Employment Advocates can, and do use the word ‘law’ in business titles. Do your homework if you are seeking legal representation, particularly if you are engaging in without prejudice discussions.
How do you Choose?
You have a multitude of options and the level of support you need depends on whether you want to have a difficult conversation with your employer or employee to bring about positive and practical change in your working relationship, or whether the matter is so serious it is likely to lead to mediation or litigation.
Research their Background
Understand the credentials and experience of the person you engage. Ask around. Some good questions to ask:
- Are they associated with a business, and how long has it been established?
- What do other people say about them?
- What are their credentials and what professional organisation do they belong to?
- How do they handle confidentiality?
- Are they licenced investigators?
We Suggest you Ask
- How do you think I should approach this issue? (Have they asked you what outcome you want?)
- Are there any costs involved, how are costs structured?(Keep in mind, it can be difficult to pre-empt how long it will take to engage in a process before an outcome is reached)
- How do you know when to escalate the issue/situation? (If you are working with an Advocate or HR Consultant)
- What is my best and worst-case scenario?
Choose wisely, go with the person you feel most comfortable with and who will represent you well. Go with someone who will ask you questions, listen and engage. Be considerate of your reputation and how the person representing you may destruct or preserve the employment relationship, depending on the issue.
To listen to the report from RNZ, click here.
At PeopleHQ, we are qualified HR Consultants with a Licenced Investigator. We are experienced in minor employment relationship issues, through to complex personal grievances. In saying that however, we know the trigger points where escalation to specialist Employment Laywers is in the best interests of the parties, and we work collaboratively with a number of Lawyers across New Zealand.
With people at the centre of all that we do, our ethos is about relationship preservation, but ultimately resolution, that takes many forms, and we discuss multiple scenarios with our clients at the time, with pragmatic and timely advice.