Deirdre Farr

School of Management
Massey Business School


Thesis Title
Worker voice and the health and safety regulatory system in New Zealand

Research Description
My research aims to a gain deeper understanding of worker engagement, participation and representation (employee voice (EV)) in workplace health and safety (WHS). My findings will describe how the new statutory WHS provisions, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, are influencing perceptions and practices in the contemporary work environment in the construction industry in New Zealand. Although, EV is explored within multiple disciplines, terms defining EV have been used interchangeably with variable objectives and meanings (Anderson & Nuttall, 2014; Lamm, 2010; Walters & Nichols, 2009; Wilkinson, Gollan, Marchington, & Lewin, 2010). Workplace practices also vary and may include a range of direct and indirect EV mechanisms (Barry & Wilkinson, 2016; Marchington, 2015; Wilkinson, Donaghey, Dundon, & Freeman, 2014). Furthermore, the difference in objective and meaning of EV highlights how contextual factors, such as the social, political and economic environment, have influenced the forms of EV that have emerged and co-existed in organisations (Marchington, 2015; Wilkinson et al., 2010). Adopting a multiple-case study methodology and interpretivist inductive research design (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994, 2013; Yin, 2009) will enable me to focus on multiple individual meanings and capture the complexity of each situation (Collis & Hussey, 2009; Simons, 2009).

Research Importance
Identifying issues and developing a framework of effective EV in a New Zealand context will help policy makers, employers, government agencies, workers and practitioners overcome barriers to sustaining and exceeding compliance with statutory duties. This study will also add to the research on EV mechanisms used to manage WHS.

Personal Description
I am an assistant lecturer in the School of Management at Massey University, Palmerston North. As a member of the Employment Relations Group I have co-authored in peer reviewed journals and presented at international conferences. I have worked as a Health and Safety Analyst in the forestry industry where my role involved monitoring and reporting on health and safety activities. My prior research and work experience stimulated my interest in exploring ‘employee voice’.

Associate Professor Jo Bensemann
Associate Professor Felicity Lamm
Associate Professor Ian Laird



Farr, D. (2018, January). A new way: Converging and diverging perceptions of "genuine' worker involvement in health and safety. Paper presented at the 6th International Conference on Precarious Work and Vulnerable Workers, Auckland University of Technology (AUT) Auckland, New Zealand.

Farr, D., & Foster, B. (2016, August). Employee Voice as determined by the employer: A peak at the data from a regional survey of SMEs. Paper presented at the AUT NZ Work Research Institute (Employment Relations Section), AUT, Auckland.

Rasmussen, E., Foster, B., Farr, D., & Sutcliffe, P. (2016, September). Where have all the research on employers gone? Paper presented at the International Labour and Employment Relations Association 11th European Congress Future of Representation, Milano, Italy. 

Foster, B., & Farr, D. (2015, October). The inter-relationship between Employment Relations Practices and Occupational Health and Safety Practices in SMEs: Testing a theoretical perspective. Paper presented at the Understanding Small Enterprises (USE), Groningen, The Netherlands.

Farr, D., & Foster, B. (2015, October). Defining a healthy and safe work environment in SEs in New Zealand: A study of the 'good employer'. Paper presented at the Understanding Small Enterprises (USE), Groningen, The Netherlands.

Foster, A. B., Rasmussen, E., & Coetzee, D. T. (2014). Employment Relations: Employer attitudes and their ability to facilitate a high skill, high wage economy. Paper presented at the 28th AIRAANZ Work Employment and Human Resources, Melbourne.

Rasmussen, E., Foster, B., & Coetzee, D. (2013). Transforming New Zealand employment relations: The role played by employer strategies, behaviours and attitudes. Paper presented at the International Labour and Employment Relations Association 8th Asian Regional Conference: Work and Employment in the Asian Century, Melbourne. 

Coetzee, D. T., Foster, A. B., & Laird, I. (2012, November). A 'Good Employer' perceptions and practice in small enterprises. Paper presented at the 15th Labour, Employment and Work Conference (LEW), Wellington, New Zealand.

Rasmussen, E., Foster, B., & Murrie, J. (2012). The decline in collectivism and employer attitudes and behaviours: facilitating a high-skill, knowledge economy. Proceedings of the 16th World Congress of the International Labour and Employment Relations Association (ILERA) 2012, Philadelphia, United States. * Coetzee (née Farr).


Farr, D., Laird, I., Lamm, F., & Bensemann, J. (2019). Talking, listening and acting: Developing a conceptual framework to explore 'worker voice' in decisions affecting health and safety outcomes. New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations, 44(1) 79 – 100.

Rasmussen, E., Foster, B., & Farr, D. (2016). The battle over employers' demand for 'more flexibility': Attitudes of New Zealand employers. Employee Relations: The International Journal, 38(6), 886-906. 

Foster, B., & Farr, D. (2016). Some willingness to engage: A survey of employment relations practices and employee voice opportunities in SMEs in regional New Zealand. New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations, 41(1), 41-64.

Foster, A. B., Laird, I., & Farr, D. (2014, June-July). Research Bites: The inter-relationship of ER practices and OHS outcomes in SMEs. HR Magazine. 

Foster, B., Rasmussen, E., & Coetzee, D. (2013). Ideology verses reality: New Zealand employer attitudes to legislative change of employment relations. New Zealand Journal of Employment Relations, 37(3), 50-64.

Coetzee, D. (2011). Testing the concept of the 'good employer' in a small enterprise context: Central North Island. (Master of Management in Human Resource Management). Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand. Retrieved from