Taking the boss to court for unpaid overtime can be costly

Morning Talk 17/05/2018

An employment law specialist says employers are vulnerable to legal action because they’re pushing the limits of acceptable workplace behaviour.

In what's being described as unprecedented, with hundreds of employees previously complaining about unpaid work in New Zealand.

Employment specialist Max Whitehead says he wonders in cases where an employee is a member of a union, where their representatives were when these unacceptable practices were being demanded of an employee.

“In that particular [nursing] situation, [where] a handover is required, people’s lives are at stake, there’s information to impart, that can take three minutes, five minutes or can take fifteen, so there is a requirement to pay.

"I would have thought their union would have dealt with this." he told RadioLive's Morning Talk.

Mr Whitehead says taking legal action against an employer can be costly,estimating up to $20,000 to take it to employment court.

His advice follows news that more than 1500 retail workers believe they have missed out on potentially thousands of dollars, dating back years.

Businesses are now scrambling to change their practices.

One retail worker, who didn't reveal her name for fear of losing her job, told Newshub she's been deliberately ripped off.

"The managers have set budgets that they have for wages, so it makes sense to me that they would've done it to save money."

She's worked part-time for the Briscoes Group for five years. After closing, she says she stays 15 minutes to cash up, clean up, and close up. That's an unpaid 15 minutes.

"I think it adds to the feeling of being under-appreciated, because we're already such low-paid workers and obviously a lot of money goes through Briscoes Group that brings in millions of dollars a year, so it seems ridiculous they can't pay us for 15 minutes of work a day."

Listen to the full interview with Max Whitehead above.

Morning Talk with Mark Sainsbury, 9am - 12pm Weekdays and streaming live on 'rova' channel 9 - available on Android and iPhone.