Employment law has changed – are you prepared?

Employers are being advised to prepare for employment changes this year after the Employment Relations Amendment Act was passed in December 2018.

The Employment Relations Amendment Act sees various changes, some of which have already taken effect or will take effect from May this year.

Employment Relations Amendment Act – what employers need to know

The Employment Relations Amendment Act gives further protection to employees and strengthens the role of collective bargaining in the workplace.

Employers will need to be aware of the following changes and how they could affect the business and its employees. We give a breakdown of what to expect and when the changes take effect. 

Changes now in effect include:

  • Union representatives can now enter workplaces without consent for certain purposes (providing a collective agreement is in place or bargaining is taking place).

  • Employers will be able to opt out of bargaining for multi-employer collective agreement (on reasonable grounds).

  • Earlier initiation timeframes have been restored for unions in collective bargaining, enabling a union to initiate bargaining 20 days ahead of an employer.

  • Reinstatement is the first course of action considered for employees that have found to be unfairly dismissed, unless otherwise stated by the Employment Relations Authority.

  • Employers will need to be aware of the protections afforded to ‘vulnerable employees’.

Changes to take effect from Monday 6th May 2019:

  • Employers must offer set meal breaks with specific rules in terms of payment, length and timing.

  • 90-day trial periods will now only apply to SMEs with less than 20 employees. Businesses with 20 or more employees can continue to use probationary periods to assess an employee’s skills against the role’s responsibilities.

  • Employers taking on employees in specified ‘vulnerable industries’ will have to maintain terms and conditions already provided in the employees’ employment agreement.

  • Parties bargaining for a collective agreement will have to conclude single-employer collective bargaining (unless there are genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds not to).

  • The 30-day rule will be restored, therefore new employees must be employed under terms consistent with the collective agreement for the first 30 days. The employer and employee may agree more favourable terms than the collective.

  • Pay rates will need to be included in collective agreements, along with an indication of how the rate of wages or salary payable may increase over the agreement’s term.

  • Employer’s obligations to prospective and new employees who are not union members will be changing, including a duty to pass union information.

  • Employers will need to allow for reasonable paid time for union delegates to undertake their union activities, such as representing employees in collective bargaining.

What next?

EQ Consultant's Principal Consultant, Viv Patterson advises: “There are a number of employment changes taking effect this year, including the Employment Relations Amendment Act, Minimum Wage Act and Domestic Violence – Victims Protection Act. Employers need to be prepared for changes in the workforce in order to respond accordingly. We often see employers take a reactive approach which can cause additional stress and pressure on resources. By taking proactive steps and seeking advice from the outset, employers ensure compliancy and can minimise disruptions later down the line.”

For more information about the Domestic Violence - Victims Protection Act and Minimum Wage Act changes click here.

This blog is not intended as legal advice but is intended to alert you to current topics of interest. For further advice about responding to the employment relations changes within your organisation please call (03) 366 4034 or email info@eqconsultants.co.nz