Employment Law

New Government, New Laws: Changes to Employment Law in the Pipeline

The new Government recently announced plans to modify employment laws. The proposed changes are mostly focussed on strengthening employees’ rights. If passed into law, the proposed changes reverse or partly roll back a number of changes made by the previous Government. This article explains some of the changes if the legislation is passed in its current form. The bill is currently before a Select Committee, with a report due 1 August 2018.

90-day trial periods

Under the proposed changes, only businesses with fewer than 20 employees on the day of a new hire will be able to include 90-day trial periods in employment agreements for new employees. Employers with 20 or more employees would no longer be able to take advantage of 90-day trial periods for new employees. These larger employers can still make use of a probationary period for new employees, but must follow a more rigid and thorough process before deciding to terminate employment. It will be important for employers to ensure that they meet these higher obligations when considering whether to terminate an employee on a probationary period.

Tea breaks

The proposed amendments will restore the statutory right of rest and meal breaks to workers, with very limited exceptions for workers in essential services. Employers of heavy transport drivers will notice little difference should the proposed changes go through, due to the work time and logbook regime. However the change will apply to all other employees who are not subject to work time restrictions. These workers will be entitled to take regular breaks throughout the day.

Reinstatement as the primary remedy for unjustified dismissal

Currently, if an employee is found to have been unjustifiably dismissed, reinstatement to their former position is just one of a number of remedies available to the aggrieved employee. Under the proposed changes, however, reinstatement will become the primary remedy. We are likely to see orders for reinstatement increase as a result, should this bill pass into law.

Unions and Collective Agreements

Many of the proposed changes strengthen the rights of unions and their members, with stricter protections against discrimination for union membership. Some, but not all, of these changes are set out below. Under the proposed amendments, if you are an employer who has negotiated a collective agreement with a union, you must ensure new employees are employed using the same terms as the collective agreement for at least the first 30 days of their employment. Unions would no longer require consent of an employer to access a worksite, and where a collective agreement covers the work to be done by a new employee, employers would be required to share details of new employees with the union unless the employee objects. The amendments would also restore the duty on employers to conclude collective bargaining unless there is a genuine reason not to. Employers would also no longer be permitted to refuse to bargain for a multi-employer collective agreement, and unions will be able to initiate bargaining much earlier than currently possible. Employers would also be required to provide reasonable paid time for union delegates to represent other workers.

Questions? Need more information or specific advice?

The information in this article is for information only and is not legal advice. For advice specific to you, please contact the team at Fortune Manning Lawyers. If you would like to find out more about the issues discussed above, or any other legal issue, give the team at Fortune Manning a call on 09 915 2401.