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Published 17 October 2023 | 2 min read
How will the National Party reshape employment policies in New Zealand?
In the aftermath of New Zealand's 2023 General Election, the nation's business landscape finds itself at a crossroads, with key political parties presenting new visions for employment and workplace-related issues. For New Zealand leaders, understanding these policy proposals is paramount, as they will significantly impact their operations and workforce management.
The National Party and ACT Party, the newly elected government, have unveiled their approaches to labour and workplace regulations. National, takes aim at the Fair Pay Agreements (FPA) Act, and ACT seeks to streamline the Employment Relations Authority (ERA) process, redefine contractor agreements, and freeze minimum wage increases. This list is not exhaustive.
National's policy proposals centre on several critical areas:
1. Fair Pay Agreements: National intends to repeal the Fair Pay Agreements Act 2022, asserting that it burdens businesses with additional costs and contributes to inflationary pressures. The party does not specify its stance on already ongoing FPAs.
2. Parental Leave: The National Party envisions more flexibility for parents in taking parental leave. This includes allowing parents or caregivers to concurrently take their leave or transfer it between partners.
3. Seasonal Workers: National aims to double the Recognized Seasonal Employer scheme worker cap over five years, reaching 38,000 workers annually. They also plan to modify Accredited Employer Work Visas for agriculture, eliminating the median wage requirement and providing a pathway to residency for scheme workers.
4. Trial Periods: National proposes fully reinstating 90-day trial periods for all businesses, irrespective of their size, allowing greater flexibility in hiring and employee evaluations.
ACT New Zealand
ACT offers its unique perspective on employment policies:
1. Employment Relations Authority: ACT argues that the ERA is slow, costly, and susceptible to abuse, leading to irreparable employer-employee relationships. Their proposed changes include requiring the ERA to deliver decisions within a month of investigation meeting conclusion, discharging ERA members failing to meet this key performance indicator, and making employee behavior a factor in remedies awarded.
2. Contractor Agreements: ACT seeks to redefine contractor agreements by excluding independent contractors from the employee definition. To achieve this, the agreement must meet specific criteria, including a written agreement and no restrictions on working for other businesses, except for specific tasks provided.
3. Minimum Entitlements: ACT proposes a three-year freeze on minimum wage increases, possibly aiming to reduce sick leave entitlements and remove a public holiday as well.
Are rushed decisions a positive in employment dispute resolution?
The current employment dispute resolution process in New Zealand has its shortcomings. The ERA often struggles to meet statutory deadlines, leading to rushed determinations that may exacerbate further litigation. ACT's emphasis on employee behaviour in remedies may change the dynamics of personal grievances, potentially presenting unintended consequences.
For managers and decision-makers, it is crucial to remain informed and engaged with the evolving employment policies presented by the National Party and ACT. Both parties offer distinct solutions to the nation's employment challenges, and the outcomes of their policies will significantly affect businesses across the country.
In this ever-changing landscape, staying updated on the latest developments and actively participating in the conversation about these policies is key to navigating the future of New Zealand's employment and workplace-related issues.
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