Good faith

There are certain behaviours and principles that are essential to any employment relationship. Employees, employers, unions and parties to an employment relationship must deal with each other in ‘good faith’.

If all parties understand and are guided by these basic principles, they will be better placed to build a constructive and healthy employment relationship. These must-dos are particularly important when you’re interacting with others in challenging situations – for example, during workplace change, performance reviews, or disciplinary processes.

What does ‘good faith’ mean?

There are 3 key principles of ‘good faith’. In an employment relationship:  

  • all parties - must not act in a misleading or deceptive way  
  • all parties - must be responsive and communicative
  • before making a decision that could adversely affect an employee’s employment, an employer must give those employees information to be able to understand the situation and have a proper opportunity to comment on it.

Acting in good faith also means being fair with people and using common sense. It requires all parties to:  

  • be honest, open, and without hidden motives  
  • raise and respond to issues in a fair and timely way  
  • work in a constructive and positive way  
  • share relevant information (for example, employers need to share relevant information with their employees or anyone else they’re dealing with, such as unions) ahead of when they need it, and as soon as possible   
  • keep an open mind, listen to others and be prepared to change an opinion about a situation or behaviour  
  • treat others with respect. 

All parties in an employment relationship must: 

If all parties understand and are guided by these basic principles, they will be better placed to build a constructive and healthy employment relationship.  

These must-dos are particularly important when you’re interacting with others in challenging situations – for example, during workplace change, performance reviews, or disciplinary processes. 


Sometimes employers ask job applicants if they have a health condition that could impact on their ability to do the job being advertised. Employers cannot use this information to discriminate.  

Hiring Process

Job applicants and employees do not have to disclose if they are disabled or have a health condition when they apply for a job or once they are at work. However, if they do not disclose this information: 

  • it could be a breach of their good faith obligations if it affects their ability to do their job
  • it could be a breach of their duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 if it impacts on their or other people’s health and safety at work.

Your rights and obligations | WorkSafe(external link)

If a job applicant or employee discloses that they are disabled or have a health condition, the employer must store, use, and share that information in line with the Privacy Act 2020 and Privacy Principles.

Employee privacy  

The employee or job applicant may also request reasonable accommodations.

Acting in good faith requires that you’re truthful and do not mislead anyone that you have an employment relationship with. For example:

  • an employer taking disciplinary action against an employee should be honest with them about the reasons
  • when investigating allegations of misconduct, an employer should be open and truthful about the process – if they say they are going to use an independent investigator, this person must be truly independent
  • where an employee is under investigation, all available evidence should be presented – even if it works against the employer
  • when altering an employment agreement, an employer should be clear about what is being changed
  • if a union decides to call off a strike, they should inform the employer as soon as possible.

Acting in good faith means communicating with others in a clear, accurate and timely manner. All parties need to:

  • raise concerns as soon as possible, before taking any other action
  • respond to any concerns raised promptly
  • clarify any uncertainty quickly
  • respond to any questions or issues raised during an investigation or disciplinary process.
  • If an employer was aware of an incident when it took place but did not raise the matter with the employee at the time, they should not bring it into a disciplinary process later.
  • If an employee thinks ethical standards are being breached, they cannot remain silent, resign, and then claim they were constructively dismissed.

Constructive dismissal

Responding to concerns promptly

  • If an employee raises concerns about work-related stress, the employer should respond as soon as possible, and both parties should make a genuine effort to resolve any issues.

Work-related stress - WorkSafe(external link)

Clarifying uncertainty

  • If an employee appears to resign in the heat of the moment — during an argument, for example — the employer should not assume the employee has resigned, but rather let them calm down, and then ask them what they want to do.
  • If a new employee questions the meaning of any part of their employment agreement, the employer should clarify it for them straight away.

Responding to questions during an investigation or disciplinary process

  • If an employee is seen attending a sporting event while they are on sick leave, they should offer an honest explanation.
  • If an employee does not comment on concerns raised by an employer and the evidence they present, the employer may make a decision based on the information they have available to them. An employee does have a right to silence if they’re facing criminal proceedings for the same matter.

Making decisions that may cause job loss 

Some business decisions might result in employees losing their jobs. Acting in good faith means:

  • providing relevant information to employees about proposals for change in the workplace 
  • giving them an opportunity to comment before making any final decisions. 

Workplace change process

Providing employees with full and relevant information and giving them an opportunity to comment is part of a fair process. Employers should have policies and procedures in place to ensure they follow a fair process when dealing with problems.

Fair process 

The consequences of breaching good faith

A penalty may be awarded for any proven breach of good faith between employers and employees, for example, if the behaviour was intended to undermine the employment relationship.

All parties in an employment relationship have to act in good faith under the law. Good faith provides a basis for productive and ongoing relationships between employers, employees and unions.

Other rules also apply to good faith in collective bargaining.

Good faith in collective bargaining

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