Anyone in New Zealand will know our Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (“HSWA”) has dramatically changed attitudes, awareness and practices in our workplaces and public areas. The HSWA applies to those who are employed or volunteer at our churches, as well as those who come onto the premises.
But what about the mission partners sent to some other place on the globe? Does church leadership have a duty of care to mission partners sent by the church to minister cross-culturally in another country under the HSWA?
Legal advice we have obtained states a church commissioning a mission partner is a PCBU (a person conducting a business or undertaking) under the HSWA. “With this comes obligations for the church to assess, manage and eliminate or minimise risks and hazards that a missionary may encounter in the foreign country they are going to.”
SO, WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR LEADERSHIP GROUPS OF CHURCHES?
If the mission partner serves under the auspices of a mission agency, then that agency might be the PBCU. It could be that church HSWA obligations are lessened but investigations need to be made to be certain that this is so, that the mission agency has the ‘control and influence’, not the church. If the mission partner has no mission agency connection, then the sending church leadership is the PCBU. Churches cannot insure against potential claims for non-compliance with the HSWA. This includes the costs of any action brought and fines imposed by the Department of Labour.
In this resource, we provide some practical ways to help leadership meet its obligations through an assessment of risk and hazards that the mission partner may face, including any of those that are unique to the foreign country the mission partner is travelling to. During the process of sending a mission partner it is imperative for church leadership to be satisfied their obligations under the HSWA are considered. That should involve working through the checklist section of this guide with the prospective mission partner and determining how compliance with HSWA requirements will be met.