Employees at risk in changed e-waste bill

Employees at risk in changed e-waste bill

Amendments to the proposed e-waste bill could leave distribution and retail workers in the technology industry highly exposed, a legal expert warns.

Industry solicitor Rae Nield believes there is significant risk of prosecution for employees under the Waste Minimisation (Solids) Bill, if they dispose of IT products incorrectly.

Nield’s concerns are based on the provision under the bill for the creation of product stewardship schemes for technology equipment classed as priority products.

According to the bill these are products that the Minister of the Environment, who will enforce the bill, believes will or may cause significant environmental harm when they become waste. Or if there are significant benefits from the reduction, reuse, recycling, recovery or treatment of the product, and if the product can be effectively managed under a product stewardship scheme.

However, while the bill includes statuary defences for employers, employees are not covered by these, says Nield. “The defence provisions are unclear, but it does appear that employees might well be at a disadvantage, compared to their employers.”

The bill makes provision for two sets of defences, one for bodies corporate, such as companies, and another for general defence, on which employees will need to rely, says Nield. “Many employees won’t be able to use the Act’s defences because they won’t know that the defence provisions require them to fix problems caused by the contravention, and because it is not clear what you have to do to fix them.”

Employees will be at a disadvantage compared to employers because they will need their own legal advice, as the employer’s lawyer will have a conflict of interest because the employer may have a defence that is not available to the employee.

Another issue is that this is a brand-new law, which most employees will not know they are breaking, says Nield. “Employees know that stealing is a crime – laws against theft are centuries old. In contrast, most employees won’t have any idea whatsoever that they can commit a crime just by throwing out the wrong kind of product. In this situation, it is unfair to expose employees to greater risk of conviction than the risk that their employers face, although that is what the bill seems to do.”

However, the current version of the bill, which has just passed through a parliamentary select committee, does include improvements over an earlier draft, says Nield.

Following a submission by Nield that included feedback from a number of industry players, clauses that threatened to regard companies and individuals suspected of being in breach of the law guilty until proven innocent, have been removed.

In addition, the minister now needs to open decisions of what equipment is declared as priority products to public consultation. “We got that put in. Before it said the minister may consult with people seen as interested parties, but I said they also have to consult the public.”

The bill has now been tabled to go before Parliament, but Nield says it is too early to tell when it will receive its first hearing.

Follow Us

Join the newsletter!


Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.




Channel kicks 2021 into gear as After Hours returns to Auckland

Channel kicks 2021 into gear as After Hours returns to Auckland

After Hours made a welcome return to the channel social calendar with a bumper crowd of partners, distributors and vendors descending on The Pantry at Park Hyatt in Auckland to kick-start 2021.

Channel kicks 2021 into gear as After Hours returns to Auckland
The Kiwi channel gathers for the 2020 Reseller News Women in ICT Awards

The Kiwi channel gathers for the 2020 Reseller News Women in ICT Awards

Hundreds of leaders from the New Zealand IT industry gathered at the Hilton in Auckland on 17 November to celebrate the finest female talent in the Kiwi channel and recognise the winners of the Reseller News Women in ICT Awards (WIICTA) 2020.

The Kiwi channel gathers for the 2020 Reseller News Women in ICT Awards
Show Comments