Ensuring each staff member has an up-to-date employment contract – as required by law – just got a little easier with the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) launching an online employment agreement builder.

This is a great, user-friendly tool that guides users through the key steps to create employment agreements, covering what must legally be included, together with outlining common mistakes made by employers and how to avoid them.

As well as being a legal obligation, an employment contract is the document that sets out the relationship between employer and employee and, done well, should help prevent conflict occurring in the first place. If the worst does happen, however, it spells out both parties’ rights and obligations, as well as the pathway to resolving issues.

My main word of caution is: make sure you have any “DIY” contract, be it derived using this tool or any other source, double-checked by a lawyer before letting it go live. We’re seeing an increasing number of near-catastrophes come into the office – including businesses cutting and pasting clauses from the Internet and cobbling together contracts that threaten to cause more problems than they would ever resolve.

Contracts rarely, if ever, fit into a one-size-fits-all box. All agreements, to some degree or another, need to be personalised to the situation, individuals and/or business at hand.

In the case of employment contracts, there are three levels of clauses to consider:

Mandatory: By law, there are clauses that MUST be included in any employment contract.

Recommended: While the law stops short of insisting on certain inclusions, there are certain clauses that are a good idea to include in an agreement.

Optional: There is also a raft of “possible” clauses for inclusion, but whether or not they’re needed should be taken on advice from your lawyer, depending on the nature of your business and the employment relationships with your staff.

When using the Ministry’s online employment agreement builder, there is a simple tick box layout, which takes you through a range of choices. As you go down the questions, you “build” the contract. Throughout the process, clear examples are provided, together with tips on what to include – as well as what to leave out.

Once the agreement is finished, you can download it to have your legal adviser check over.

Remember, while MBIE’s toolbox is comprehensive and a great starting point to document a solid draft employment agreement, what it can’t do is completely customise it to your business, define all grey areas or anticipate fully the potentially-critical issues specific to your industry or company.

Watch this space: We’ll be running a special BizClub workshop on MBIE’s employment agreement builder in the next month or two. Keep an eye out for details, or you can register your interest now by emailing the team bizclub@aspiringlaw.co.nz

Business & Commercial Employment & HR Employment agreements