Why a written individual employment agreement is important

Firstly—unless an employee is employed under a collective employment agreement, it’s essential under the Employment Relations Act 2000 to have one! An individual employment agreement (“IEA”) forms the basis of the employment agreement between employer and employee. It is the principal document referred to in any dispute between employer and employee. In most cases, if a power or right is not granted to the employer or employee by statute or contained in a workplace policy or the IEA it cannot be enforced.

Therefore it is crucial that the IEA provided to employees is clear, precise, includes all provisions required by law, and refers to any powers upon which the employer may wish to rely (eg, restraint of trade, no fault trial provision). If there is ambiguity or uncertainty in the drafting, the risk is that the ambiguity may be resolved by a finding against the employer’s original intentions.

I found an IEA on the internet! Will it work for my business?

The difficulty with pre-made employment agreements is that they are often very general in nature and may not be tailored to the particular requirements of your business. A “one size fits all” approach works poorly for many employers, as there tend to be matters specific to each individual business that need to be considered.

In addition, “free” IEAs are sometimes poorly drafted, with missing or inconsistent definitions and missing or inconsistent cross references. To rely upon such a document in the heat of a legal dispute can be extremely dangerous.

Also, once you have used an internet IEA it does not tells you if/when it needs to be updated.

A tailored agreement

A tailored agreement is designed specifically to meet the needs of your business and can cover:

  • No fault trial provisions;
  • Restraints of trade;
  • Confidentiality and intellectual property issues;
  • Incentives for senior employees;
  • Procedures for termination for physical and mental incapacity;
  • Non-standard hours of work or pay;
  • Other considerations specific to the needs of your business.

At Bartlett Law, we realise that it is not enough to simply give you a blanket agreement, but that it is necessary for you to understand how it operates and what steps you need to take if issues arise. We stand behind the IEAs we create (unlike those provided by anonymous websites) and we are available to help you make the most of your tailored agreement.

Revising existing IEAs

The law continues to evolve and change over time, just as the requirements of your business will change and evolve. At Bartlett Law, we will work alongside you to ensure your IEAs are kept up to date and meet the changing demands of today’s business world.

Workplace policies

To be effective, an IEA needs to be streamlined, concise and easy to understand. It is simply not possible to cover every possible contingency which may arise.

This is where workplace policies can be of assistance. Whether they are take the form of a policy document, a rule book or a handbook, they provide employers with the flexibility to regulate aspects of the relationship without having to constantly renegotiate the IEA.

Policies can cover:

  • Use of company vehicles;
  • Email and internet policy;
  • Health and safety procedures;
  • Guidelines for use of social media;
  • Drug and alcohol testing;
  • Working from home.

Polices seldom exist in a vacuum. Typically, there will be a number of common law, statutory or contractual obligations and requirements which must be considered. Compliance with these obligations will ensure that the new policy is effective and enforceable.


What Bartlett Law can do for you:

We are specialists in workplace law. We can:

    • Determine the unique features of your business that need to be addressed in your IEAs;
    • Draft IEAs tailored to the operational needs of your business;
    • Review and update your existing IEAs;
    • Draft and update policies tailored to your operational needs;
    • Analyse whether your existing policies comply with your legal and statutory obligations;
    • Guide you through some of the common pitfalls encountered when introducing policies.

For more information, see Individual Employment Agreements or contact us.