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Employment Relations Amendment Bill: The Good and the Bad

Published December 18, 2018 (last updated November 17, 2020) -

Employment Relations Amendment Bill: The Good and the Bad

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill has received Royal Assent, officially making it law in New Zealand. In this article we take a look at the big impacts for employers — both good and bad.

A return to certainty around meal and rest breaks

From May 6 2019, employers will be required to offer set meal breaks, with specific rules in terms of payment, length and timing. While it could be argued this adds a layer of complexity for business owners when employing and managing staff, it actually adds greater certainty around an entitlement that had previously been a source of confusion. This change brings clarity and means both employers and employees know exactly where they stand when agreeing to rest and meal breaks.

Tighter boundaries around Good Faith in reaching Collective Agreements

One of the big changes stemming from the Employment Relations Amendment Bill will be the process surrounding Collective Agreements and Collective Bargaining. While it essentially gives greater powers to unions, employers can also expect a tightening of the rules around Good Faith in the bargaining process.

90 Day Trial restrictions

As of 6 May 2019, having a 90 Day Trial in an employment agreement will be restricted to businesses that employ 19 or fewer employees. Since 2011 all employers had been able to put new staff on a 90 Day Trial, effectively allowing them to ‘try and see’ a new employee, and — if things didn’t work out — dismiss them without risk of a Personal Grievance. For medium-sized businesses who employ 20 people or more, it will mean putting greater emphasis on the recruitment and management of new staff as the protection of the 90 Day Trial will soon be removed.

Greater protections for Vulnerable Workers

While provisions that protect Vulnerable Workers are generally good, it does add greater complexity when a business is being sold or a contract transferred. Under the new provisions Vulnerable Workers from a business that is being sold or under a contract that is being transferred have the right to transfer to the new owner/operator on the same terms and conditions, and those conditions must be offered by the new employer, no matter how many employees they currently employ.

What you need to do

Sections of the Employment Relations Amendment Bill are now in effect, and others will come into place from 6 May 2019. It’s more important than ever for small business owners in New Zealand to be prepared, to update their policies and procedures and be clear about their rights and obligations. If you need assistance, we can help you.

About Employsure

Employsure is one of New Zealand’s largest workplace relations advisers to small and medium businesses, with over 5,500 clients. We take the complexity out of workplace legislation to help small business employers protect their business and their people.

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