This will also be the year employers will pay more attention to their employees’ mental health, Max Whitehead told NZ Herald.
The discussion follows the suspected suicide of 21-year-old Huntly farmhand Colby Harris. Harris’ mother issued a plea that farmers be “allowed to have a life.”
"They need to be able to have a life outside of what they're doing. In the last year he had given up all the things he liked to do because the hours were too long. He was absolutely exhausted," the mother said.
There was "a lot of mental illness with some workers and we are pushed harder and harder to do the work faster and faster," Whitehead said.
An earthworks machine operator said a co-worker was demoted upon seeking counselling after a breakup.
“He was told to get over it.”
Another worker, a dairy farm contract milker, said he had worked on eight different farms and had observed that big landowners did not really care about how many hours the employees put in.
A worker told the NZ Herald it should be up to the employer to keep an eye on their staff's well-being. "Someone who is depressed does not have the wherewithal to approach a boss."
Many changes will take place in New Zealand workplaces this year, said an employment law consultant, and it these will not be restricted to the minimum wage hike, adjustments to the Equal Pay Act and extension of parental leave.