Workplace access

Union representatives and employers must comply with the rules in the Employment Relations Act 2000 about accessing workplaces.

Process to access workplaces

A union representative wanting to come into a workplace must come at reasonable times when any employee is employed to work. 

A union representative does not need to obtain consent from the employer before entering the workplace if either:

  • a collective agreement is in force that covers work done by employees at that workplace; or
  • a collective agreement is being bargained for that covers work done by employees at that workplace. 

Where either of the above doesn’t apply then the union representatives must obtain the consent of the employer or representative of the employer before entering the workplace.

There are some circumstances where access to a workplace may be denied by the employer or if a certificate is issued in accordance with section 24 of the Employment Relations Act 2000.

Employment Relations Act 2000 section 24 Issue of certificate of exemption – New Zealand Legislation(external link)

The employer cannot unreasonably withhold consent for a request to enter and must respond to the request by the working day after the date of the request. Consent is treated as having been obtained if the employer does not respond to a request within 2 working days after the date of the request. 

Where consent is not required, the current conditions on entry still apply. They will only be able to enter for certain purposes, during business hours and must follow health, safety and security procedures. On arrival, a union representative will need to make a reasonable attempt to find the employer or, if they are unable to, they will need to provide a written statement with the date, time and reason for their visit.

Conduct of union representatives in the workplace

Union officials must act in a reasonable way in the workplace. Union representatives must:

  • act reasonably, having regard to normal business operations
  • comply with any existing reasonable health, safety and security procedures
  • notify the employer or occupier of the reason for coming in, and provide evidence of their identity and authority to represent the union. If the employer or occupier isn’t there or can’t be found (despite reasonable efforts), the union representative must leave a written notice saying who they are, the union they represent, date, time and purpose of entry. Evidence of identity will often be required for all visitors anyway for security and health and safety requirements.
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