Negligence on the Job: All Care and No Responsibility?

47 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2016

See all articles by Yvonne Oldfield

Yvonne Oldfield

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni

Date Written: 2013


In New Zealand the Employment Relations Authority has first instance jurisdiction to determine employment relationship problems involving breaches of employment agreements, including employer claims for damages arising out of employee breaches of express and implied terms of the employment contract. In recent years this has included a small but steady number of breaches of the implied contractual to exercise reasonable skill and care. This paper reviews the current law in respect of such claims along with the related issue of employee liability in tort to third parties such as customers. It shows that the current legal position means that workers with limited say over how when and where their work is done could end up bearing a significant part of the risk associated with that work. It concludes by considering whether it is reasonable for employees to be exposed to this level of risk and suggests that it is not, in fact, consistent with the protective objectives of labour law generally and the Employment Relations Act 2000 in particular. It is suggested that an appropriate response to this might be the introduction of an “indemnity regime” by which employers indemnify employees for losses associated with non-intentional breaches of duty.

Keywords: Labour Law, Employment Law, Employee Liability, Damages for breach of contract, New Zealand

JEL Classification: K00, K12

Suggested Citation

Oldfield, Yvonne, Negligence on the Job: All Care and No Responsibility? (2013). Victoria University of Wellington Legal Research Paper, Student/Alumni Paper No. 37/2016, Available at SSRN:

Yvonne Oldfield (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington, Faculty of Law, Student/Alumni ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington, Victoria 6140
New Zealand

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