Let’s Do This! Coalition Government announces employment law reforms

POSTED BY Duncan Coats
26 January 2018

posted in Parental Leave | 90 day trial provision | Legislation | Employment



Maybe it’s coincidence or very calculated, but a mere one day after the Coalition Government’s first 90 days of office, its employment law shake-up is starting to take shape. The curtailing of 90 day trial periods has of course grabbed the headlines but employers should be aware of not only that proposal but a number of other significant amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000.

What’s happening?

The Government has announced a new Bill which will have a significant impact on the employment law landscape. The key amendments include:

  • 90 day trial periods. Only employers with fewer than 20 employees will be able to rely on a 90 day trial period clause.
  • Rest and meal breaks. Prescribed minimum rest and meal breaks will be re-introduced. Though the details remain to be seen in the Bill, we expect that the prescribed breaks will be along the lines of those that existed before they were repealed by the previous National Government. Very limited exemptions will apply.
  • Reinstatement. Reinstatement of an employee to their former position (or placement of the employee in a position no less advantageous to the employee) will be restored as the primary remedy where that employee is successful with a personal grievance.
  • Collective bargaining and union rights. A number of amendments will be made to roll-back previous collective bargaining rights/obligations and new union rights will be introduced. Highlights include:
    • restoring the 30 day rule (where for the first 30 days new employees must be employed under terms consistent with the relevant collective agreement in place at their workplace);
    • restoring the duty on employers to conclude collective bargaining unless there is a good reason not to; and
    • the introduction of/extension of union rights such as greater anti-discrimination protections for union members, a requirement for employers to provide reasonable time off for union delegates to represent other workers and restoring the right of union access to workplaces without prior employer consent (though access will remain subject to requirements that access takes place at reasonable times and places).
  • Vulnerable workers. The Bill will also extend protections afforded to vulnerable employees in a restructuring situation. This will include removing the right for SME businesses (i.e. employers with fewer than 20 workers) to avoid taking on vulnerable employees in a restructuring situation.

Anything else on the horizon?

On 1 April 2018 the adult minimum wage rate will increase by 75 cents to $16.50 per hour and on 1 July 2018 paid parental leave will increase from 18 to 22 weeks.

There are also a number of other matters included in the Labour Government’s manifesto which employers will need to keep a lookout for in the medium-long term:

  • consultation regarding the proposed introduction of statutory redundancy compensation;
  • the introduction of fair pay agreements which would regulate minimum employment rights (such as wages and leave entitlements) for workers across certain industries; and
  • providing greater protection for foreign employees who work for foreign companies in New Zealand such that they have the same minimum rights as New Zealand employees.

As an employer, what do you need to do?

All will become a little clearer when the Bill is submitted before Parliament in February 2018 and the Bill is finalised before becoming law. So for now, keep a watching brief on matters over the coming weeks/months and look out for our further updates such that you are ready to act when the time comes.

Image courtesy of Alpha Stock Images - Nick Youngson - The Blue Diamond Gallery

POSTED BY Duncan Coats
26 January 2018

posted in Parental Leave90 day trial provisionLegislationEmployment



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