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Case study—

Solving complex employment issues to keep small businesses safe and legal



    How might we make it easy for small businesses to build legal
    employment agreements?


    An online tool that gets a big tick from business owners and
    employment experts

Hiring is a key pain point for many small businesses. It’s an emotional investment as well as a business decision.

This means paperwork and minimum entitlements can feel superfluous.

But this mindset leads many small businesses into hot water, even if they treat their workers fairly. Others swing too far the other way and overload their employment agreements with unnecessary details, which can later lead to disputes.

“My biggest fear is hiring the wrong person and
then being stuck with them due to a slip-up.”

small business owner

An existing government tool, Employment Agreement Builder (EAB), was widely regarded as imperfect. Written in legalese, with no supporting text, EAB’s previous incarnation often contributed to the problems it was trying to solve. With this tool about to be retired, Empathy recommended it be redesigned for business.govt.nz, as it was spot-on for packaging and demystifying government requirements for
small businesses.

Delving into the hiring process

The new tool had to reassure small businesses that creating written employment agreements — a legal requirement as well as a great foundation for employment relationships — wouldn’t be hard or time-consuming.

We talked to small businesses about how they went about hiring people. We learned what worked well and what didn’t. We tested each iteration with small businesses, and contributed customer insights throughout.

During the writing phase, we pushed and pulled our plain English copy into shape with input from labour inspectors, policymakers, and employment lawyers from unions and the public and private sectors. Again, we tested with small businesses and with employees.

Useful and usable for all

The outcome? The tool launched in April 2016 to critical acclaim — critics being small businesses, HR advisors, government employment experts, and unions. More than 100,000 employments agreements were completed in the first year after launch.
EAB won distinction in the people’s choice category at Clarity International’s Plain English Awards.

“I can do it all as I go. I can follow my nose and it feels hard to make a mistake.”

small business owner

It’s a great product for small businesses, and for our government client. It shows we love creating solutions that meet the needs and achieve the goals of both sides.