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5 Key Areas of Focus

March 8, 2016

Here are 5 key areas of focus for small to medium sized businesses.

1. Employment

In many respects, employment law in New Zealand isn't easy and it isn't getting any easier. Businesses should ensure that they have robust, comprehensive, up to date employment agreements, supported by appropriate stand alone policies.  The consequences of getting things wrong can be severe.

2. Health and Safety

Health and Safety law is changing. It's relevant to employers but is more wide reaching than that e.g. manufacturers, importers and suppliers of products to workplaces may need to deal with health and safety issues relating to their products. Businesses need to undertake H&S risk assessments and put in place policies that will ensure that they comply with the law.

3. Terms of Trade and other Supply Contracts

The biggest change probably relates to the introduction of an unfair contract terms regime, under the Fair Trading Act. Where a business supplies a consumer ,terms must not be unfair. (To paraphrase, a consumer is someone who acquires goods or services of a kind ordinarily acquired for personal domestic or household use or consumption and they don't intend to resupply them or use the goods in the course of manufacture, even if the goods/services might also be ordinarily acquired for business use).

This will require a new way of thinking for suppliers, as many standard terms are likely to be unfair. It will not always be clear whether a term will be unfair. Some B2B deals may be caught, where the goods/services are of a kind ordinarily acquired for personal etc use e.g. where a business buys a fridge for the office or leases a fridge for the office.

While the Consumer Guarantees Act and some provisions of the Fair Trading Act can be contracted out of in B2B deals (but the unfair contract terms regime can't be contracted out of), this can be done only where it is fair and reasonable.

Documentation will need to be revised (this should already have been done). Significant fines can be imposed for failing to comply with the legislation, not to mention the possibility of adverse publicity.

4. Lenders and financiers

The same comments apply here. Lenders and financiers may be caught by the unfair contract terms regime and the ability to contract out of the Consumer Guarantees Act and some provisions of the Fair Trading Act in B2B deals will depend on whether the contracting out is fair and reasonable. Significant changes in terms will be required where the unfair contract terms regime applies.

Changes have been made to the Credit Contracts legislation, where new concepts of responsible lending are enshrined and the disclosure rules have changed.

Documentation will need to be revised. (This should already have been done.) Significant fines can be imposed for failing to comply with the legislation, not to mention the possibility of adverse publicity.

5. IP

In this well connected world, it's even more important to protect IP, including:

  • trade marks - note that incorporating a company under a name doesn't offer much protection;
  • copyright - there is no copyright register in NZ - it's important to keep a record of all workings that have led to the end result;
  • patents - not quick, reasonably complicated, and expensive, but worth considering if you have a process that should be protected;
  • designs - there is a design register.

Confidentiality Agreements (non disclosure agreements) are an important part of the arsenal in many situations e.g. discussing development of an app, or any idea.


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