In 2019 we saw a number of changes in employment laws. The changes were mostly focussed on strengthening employees’ rights. Some changes reverse or partly roll back a number of changes made by the previous Government.
90 day trial periods
Only businesses with fewer than 20 employees on the day of a new hire are now able to include 90-day trial periods in employment agreements for new employees. Employers with 20 or more employees are no longer 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.
The amendments 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 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
If an employee is found to have been unjustifiably dismissed, reinstatement to their formal position is the primary remedy.
Unions and Collective Agreements
Many of the 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.
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 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 are required to share details of new employees with the union unless the employee objects. Employers also are no longer permitted to refuse to bargain for a multi-employer collective agreement, and unions are able to initiate bargaining much earlier than currently possible.