Parliament recently passed several significant employment-related bills and amended various existing law - parts of which have either come into effect or are about to do so. These changes reflect the Labour Government’s campaign promise to provide a more balanced relationship between employers and employees, and a more supportive legal framework.
NZALPA Legal Officer Mark Dignan provides a brief summary of the key changes:
Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018
Last year, NZALPA submitted on the proposed changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000 and presented to the Select Committee on a range of topics that we considered critical changes to the current legislation for our members. As we reported in previous editions of Uplinks, unfortunately the Select Committee did not accept all our recommended changes.
However, a number of positive changes to the Employment Relations Act became law in December last year, including:
- Union representatives are able to enter workplaces without employer consent where employees are covered by a collective agreement (or are bargaining for one), provided this is done so reasonably.
- Employers are no longer able to make pay deductions for partial strikes.
- Employers must enter into bargaining for multi-employer collective agreements (MECAs) if asked to join by a union. However, employers do not have to settle if they have genuine reason/s based on reasonable grounds not to.
- Unions can initiate collective bargaining 20 days ahead of an employer (i.e. 60 days prior to CEA expiry).
- Reinstatement is once again the primary remedy (if requested by the employee) in cases of unjustified dismissal.
- New categories of employee may apply to have the protections given to “vulnerable employees” in a restructuring process (previously it was employees in certain cleaning, catering and laundry roles).
Further changes will come into law on 6 May this year.
Trial periods: Only employers with less than 20 employees will be able to use trial periods. (Employers with 20 or more employees may still use probationary periods and employees may claim for unjustified dismissal where grounds exist).
Rest and meal breaks: All employees will be entitled to rest and meal breaks which, unless the parties agree otherwise (or they are ATCs), must be taken at the prescribed times. Employers and employees can agree to change when the breaks happen, but they cannot agree to shorter break lengths.
The 30-day rule: For the first 30 days of employment, new employees who are not already members of a union that is party to a CEA that covers their work will start on terms and conditions of employment in the existing CEA - plus any additional terms and conditions that are mutually agreed to and are no less favourable to the employee than the terms and conditions in the CEA. If more than one CEA covers the employee’s work, the terms and conditions of the CEA that binds the greatest number of employees will apply. Once the 30 days have concluded, the employee and employer can negotiate other terms and conditions.
Union information: Employers must provide information about unions to prospective employees, and provide a copy of the relevant collective employment agreement(s).
Pay rates in CEAs: CEAs must contain the pay rates payable to employees bound by the CEA.
Union work: Employers must allow union representatives reasonable time to perform their duties within working hours and pay union reps at the same rate for doing union work as they would normally be paid. Employers can only refuse requests to do this if it will unreasonably disrupt their business or the performance of that employee’s duties.
On 11 June 2019, a further change will come into effect, extending the grounds for discrimination against employees on the basis of their union membership status or involvement in union activities.
$1,000 fine for failing to provide a written Individual Employment Agreement (IEA)
Changes to the Employment Relations (Infringement Offences) Regulations 2019, also come into effect on 6 May 2019. Under the new Regulations, employers could face a fine of $1000 for failing to provide an individual with a written employment agreement.
Contact NZALPA if your employer has not provided you with a written IEA.
The Domestic Violence – Victims’ Protection Act 2018
Parliament has also introduced laws that provide employees affected by domestic violence up to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave per year.
Employees will be able to take this leave as needed – similarly to the existing sick leave and bereavement leave provisions. Please note that the way your employer records this leave is obviously significant, and if you need to access this category of leave, ensure your employer records leave appropriately to protect your safety, privacy and confidentiality. Please also remember that you will have the support of the Peer Assistance Network and NZALPA.
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