The Government’s employment relations expectations for the public sector

The Government’s expectations of how public sector employers effectively manage employment relations is outlined in a suite of documents comprising:

Taken together these documents outline, amongst other things, the Government’s expectations of public sector employers when negotiating employment agreements.

About the Government Workforce Policy Statement

On 5 May 2021 the Minister for the Public Service issued a Government Workforce Policy Statement (Workforce Policy) setting out the Government's expectations of how it wants the Public Service and most other public sector agencies to effectively manage employment relations.

The Workforce Policy sets out the Government’s expectation that the Public Service is an exemplar employer, one which uses modern, progressive employment practices, and is a great place to work. It also wants a productive unified workforce which is grounded in the spirit of service.

To achieve these goals, the Workforce Policy has four key workforce priorities:

  • Employ people fairly, equitably and in a way that allows them to live good lives and participate in the economy.
  • Work collaboratively with unions and other groups to achieve shared goals.
  • Create an inclusive environment for all workers with the aim of achieving a diverse workforce.
  • Achieve the goals within the fiscal context of the Government.

The final priority is particularly important in the COVID-19 environment and the public sector needs to be mindful of the fiscal context the Government is operating in.

With these fiscal conditions continuing, the Government has been clear that pay restraint needs to continue to be exercised across the Public Service for the foreseeable future.

About the Public Service Pay Guidance

To help agencies to give effect to the Government’s expectation of pay restraint, the Public Service Commissioner issued Public Service Pay Guidance to Public Service agencies on how he expects they will approach these matters. He has asked other public sector organisations to take the same approach.

This guidance will be reviewed at the end of 2022.

About the Commissioner’s further advice on the Workforce Policy and Pay Guidance

On 15 June 2021 the Public Service Commissioner wrote to all agencies to which the Workforce Policy applies formally conveying the Workforce Policy and Pay Guidance. This letter contains advice on how agencies are expected to apply these documents in the agency’s context.

The Workforce Policy Statement and Pay Guidance were published here on 5 May.  Since then they have been the subject of discussions and correspondence between ministers and unions. 

The Workforce Policy and Pay Guidance that were released on 5 May are unchanged except the review date for the Pay Guidance has been brought forward six months to the end of 2022.

The advice to agencies on how to apply the Policy Statement and Pay Guidance is provided in light of the correspondence from Minister Hipkins to the NZ Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi and the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi.  It addresses the matters covered in the Minister’s letters.

The advice needs to be read alongside the Workforce Policy and Pay Guidance.

The advice to agencies is reflected in letters that fall into three categories:

  • Public Service departments that undertake collective bargaining under delegation from the Public Service Commissioner. The Pay Guidance applies to these agencies.
  • Crown agents that must give effect to the Workforce Policy. They are asked to take the same approach as outlined in the Pay Guidance.
  • Other organisations that must have regard to the Workforce Policy. They are are asked to take the same approach as outlined in the Pay Guidance.

Each agency received the advice in a letter tailored to its organisational form.

See the correspondence between ministers and unions.

Questions and answers

See common questions and answers on the Public Service Pay Guidance and further advice from the Public Service Commissioner.

Information on negotiating collective agreements and pay equity claims in the Public Service

The Public Service Commissioner (Commissioner) is responsible for the negotiation of collective agreements in the Public Service.  In practice the powers and functions associated with this are delegated to Public Service chief executives. The Public Service Act 2020 also provides a new role for the Commissioner in relation to pay equity claims in the Public Service, similar to the Commissioner’s role in negotiating collective agreements.

The Commissioner has delegated the functions and powers in respect of both these responsibilities to Public Service chief executives through a single delegation instrument in two parts. 

The collective agreement part (Part A) was updated on 15 June 2021 to reflect the Government Workforce Policy Statement and the Public Service Pay Guidance.

The pay equity part (Part B) delegates the new functions and powers in dealing with pay equity claims. The negotiation of pay equity claims in the Public Service is a powerful tool to give effect to Government policies on achieving pay equity and closing the gender pay gap. 

See further information on pay equity and closing the gender pay gap.

Information on employment legislation

Information on the Employment Relations Act 2000 and related legislation and on minimum employment rights in New Zealand can be accessed through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Employment New Zealand website. The site contains useful guides to key employment processes, including collective and individual bargaining and minimum holiday and other leave entitlements. This site also has a link to the employment law database where copies of decisions of the Employment Relations Authority and the Employment Court can be accessed.

See www.legislation.govt.nz for copies of the Employment Relations Act 2000 and all other New Zealand statutes.

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