Rest and Meal Breaks

 

Rest and Meal Breaks:

What the 6th of May changes might mean for you

Most employers are aware of the recent changes to rest and meal break legislation that were introduced last month. However, you may still be grappling with what, if any, change is required when you apply the new legislation to your workplace.

 

What changed?

Prior to the change, the law stipulated that employees were entitled to receive a ‘reasonable’ opportunity to take rest and meal breaks. The new legislation stipulates that employees are entitled to set breaks based on the number of hours that they work.

 

What are the entitlements?

Less than 2 hour total work period No breaks
2 – 4 hour total work period 1 x paid 10min break
4.01 – 6 hour total work period 1 x paid 10min break, 1 x unpaid meal break of 30mins
6.01 – 10 hour total work period 2 x paid 10min breaks, 1 x unpaid meal break of 30mins

 

When should the breaks be taken?

The employer and employee can agree when the rest and meal breaks are to be taken.

  • In many office-based roles, the employee will continue to have the responsibility to decide when to take their breaks based on the requirements of their role and their own preferences.
  • In other roles and work environments, you may have a roster that sets the rest and meal break times for all employees. This may be changed from time to time – usually in consultation with employees
  • You can also agree that flexibility is required around the timing of breaks i.e. “the first paid rest break can be taken at the end point of a production run at any time in the first half of the shift”.

Employers must consider their health and safety obligations in agreeing to the timing of breaks – i.e. in high risk environments or safety sensitive roles, you are obligated to manage the risks that may arise from worker fatigue.

 

What happens if you can’t agree on the timing of breaks?

The Act does outline the timing of breaks if the employer and employee can’t agree (see below), but also states that the employer can provide breaks at different times if it’s not reasonable or practical for breaks to be taken at the times set in law.

The times outlined in the Act are:

2 – 4 hour total work period ·         1 x 10 minute paid rest break in the middle of the work period
4.01 – 6 hour total work period ·         1 x 10 minute paid rest break one-third of the way through the work period

·         1 x 30 minute unpaid meal break two-thirds of the way through the work period

6.01 – 10 hour total work period ·         1 x 10 minute paid rest break halfway between the start of work and the meal break

·         1 x 30 minute unpaid meal break In the middle of the work period

·         1 x 10 minute paid rest break halfway between the meal break and the finish of the work period

 

Remember that even if you have employees that work in an office environment you have an obligation to ensure that breaks are being taken and your staff are sufficiently rested.

Positive People have 24 years experience helping employers develop HR policies and processes which are best practice, minimise risk and help to get the most from your team. Call us today to ensure you have your breaks sorted.

Employment Relations Changes

 

Employment Relations Changes:

What to Expect and When

 

Are you trying to keep up with what is happening with the upcoming changes to employment law? We’ve made it easy with a brief outline of the proposed changes and some information on what stage they are at in the process.

The key changes coming into force are:

  • Changes to the Employment Relations Act, including the 90-day trial period
  • Minimum Wage increase
  • Changes to the Holidays Act
  • Fair Pay Agreements

Employment Relations Act 2000 Amendment

The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 was passed into law on 6 December 2018. It introduced a number of employment law changes.

The main changes included:

  • The right to set rest and meal breaks will be restored, the number and duration of which depends on the hours worked. For example, an eight-hour work day must include two 10-minute rest breaks and one 30-minute meal break, while a four-hour work day must include one 10-minute rest break. Employers must pay for minimum rest breaks but don’t have to pay for minimum meal breaks. Employers and employees will agree when to take their breaks. If they cannot agree, the law will require the breaks to be in the middle of the work period, so long as it’s reasonable and practicable to do so.
  • 90-day trial periods will be restricted to businesses with less than 20 employees.Businesses with 20 or more employees will not have access to 90-day trial periods. They will be able to use probationary periods to assess an employee’s skills against the role’s responsibilities. A probationary period lays out a fair process for managing performance issues and ending employment if the issues aren’t resolved. However, it is a much more complex and protracted process to use to terminate employment than a trial period.
  • Strengthening collective bargaining and union rights
  • Restoring protections for vulnerable workers, such as those in the cleaning and catering industries, regardless of the size of their employer

More information on these changes can be found here

Timing

Most of the changes relating to strengthening union and collective bargaining rights were implemented on 12 December 2018. Changes to rest and meal breaks and 90-day trials will come into effect on 6 May 2019

 

Minimum Rate Increases

The Government has announced it will increase the minimum wage to $17.70 an hour on April 1 2019, with further increases to take it to $20 by 2021.

 

Changes to the Holidays Act

A review was commenced following several high-profile cases where employers have failed to pay their employees the correct rate for annual leave.

The current Act states that holiday pay can be calculated two ways; either on the basis of ordinary weekly pay at the beginning of the holiday period or on the average weekly earnings over the previous 12 months, and that employers must pay whichever rate is the highest. Where employees are part time, have overtime rates or have bonus or incentive payments these rates can be significantly different. The practicality of calculating this every time an employee goes on leave is very difficult and many payroll systems are not set up to do this correctly. The review will cover this, as well as the full Holidays Act with the aim of simplifying the regulations, ensuring the act is fit for purpose for the current work environment and making it easy for both employers and employees to ensure that correct entitlements are paid.

Timing

The review commenced in August 2018 and is expected to be completed by August 2019. The terms of reference also stated that an interim report would be issued within 6 months to inform the public about the progress of the review, so we should see this released soon.

 

Fair Pay Agreements

A working group was established in June 2018 to consider what a Fair Pay Agreement would cover and look like, with the aim of providing recommendations on how these may work in the future.

Fair Pay Agreements, as outlined as one of the Governments election promises, would be collective agreements which cover whole industries and set out the minimum requirements for that industry. The Government  indicated that it expected Fair Pay Agreements to be used in occupations where there is already a high level of Union membership (like nursing, teaching or manufacturing), and that once a Fair Pay Agreement is in place, it would be compulsory for all employees in that industry to be covered.

There was some discussion around small employers being exempt from Fair Pay Agreements and this was part of what the working group considered. They were also tasked with looking into whether regional variations should be allowed in Fair Pay Agreements, how often they should be renegotiated and if they should apply beyond workers (for example to contractors.)

The working group delivered 46 recommendations in their report. One of the recommendations is that workers should be able to initiate a Fair Pay Agreement bargaining process if they can meet a minimum threshold of 1000 people, or 10 per cent of workers in the nominated sector or occupation.

The full report from the working group was released on the 31st January 2019 and can be found here

Timing

The Government is now taking time to consider the recommendations and comments from the report before undertaking policy consideration and consultation.

Many of these changes will require updates to your employment agreements and could also mean changes to your current practices. Positive People can help to keep you ahead of the game and make sure you remain compliant. Contact us to talk through how you can prepare for the upcoming changes.

Domestic Violence Leave

Domestic Violence Leave:

What does it mean for employers?

From 1 April 2019 all employees will be entitled to 10 days domestic violence leave every year. While this is a positive step forward for supporting victims of domestic violence, it may have a significant impact on your business so it’s crucial to understand what the new legislation means and how to implement it successfully.

The legislation means that:

  • Each employee is entitled to 10 days domestic violence leave per year, if they or a child they care for is a victim of domestic violence
  • This leave does not carry over each year (unlike annual leave), and so each employee has a maximum of 10 days each year regardless of whether they have taken domestic violence leave before
  • Domestic violence leave that has not been taken does not need to be paid out on termination of employment
  • Like sick leave or bereavement leave, the entitlement is available only after 6 months continuous service
  • The employee must inform you of their intention to take domestic violence leave as early as possible before they are due to start work, or as soon as practical after this
  • The leave should be paid out as either the relevant daily pay or average daily pay (like sick leave)
  • An employer may ask that the employee provide proof of domestic violence to be entitled to the payment

So what steps should you take to put this into practice in your organisation?

We recommend you:

  1. Update your Employment Agreement or Employee Handbook to include a clause on domestic violence leave
  2. Talk to your payroll provider to make sure they have set it up in their system, and ensure your payroll administrator is aware of the information they need to process this correctly
  3. Develop a clear policy that covers requests for domestic violence leave and the process and support available to any employee who requests it. This information will be very sensitive so you must consider the privacy aspect of these requests very carefully when developing a policy
  4. Educate you leadership team on handling requests, how to be sensitive and supportive to the employee, and how and when to request proof of domestic violence
  5. Consider what additional support you may be able to offer employees who request this type of leave, through counselling, EAP support or referrals to support agencies

Domestic violence can happen to team members from all levels of your organisation and have a major impact on their ability to perform their role. Anyone who is not safe at home will struggle to fulfill the requirements of their role, and asking for help in this situation can be challenging. By offering a supportive, caring environment where your team feel OK to ask for help, you can make a significant difference to their lives.

Positive People has 23 years’ experience helping organisations develop policies which align with legislation and support their teams. If you need help to implement a policy on domestic violence leave, please contact us today.

Upcoming Legislative Changes

ER Changes – What is planned and when is it happening?

 

With several recent announcements from the Government around employment standards and reviews it can be confusing to keep up with what is planned, when it’s planned and what this means for you.

Below is a brief outline of the proposed changes and some information on what stage they are at in the process, so you can keep ahead of the game and make sure you remain compliant.

 

Areas to keep an eye on are:

  • Changes to the Holidays Act
  • Fair Pay Agreements
  • Changes to the Employment Relations Act, including the 90 day trial period
  • The Minimum Wage

 

Changes to the Holidays Act

Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has commenced a review of the Holidays Act, following several high-profile cases where employers have failed to pay their employees the correct rate for annual leave.

The current Act states that holiday pay can be calculated two ways; either on the basis of ordinary weekly pay at the beginning of the holiday period or on the average weekly earnings over the previous 12 months, and that employers must pay whichever rate is the highest. Where employees are part time, have overtime rates or have bonus or incentive payments these rates can be significantly different. The practicality of calculating this every time an employee goes on leave is very difficult and many payroll systems are not set up to do this correctly. The review will cover this, as well as the full Holidays Act with the aim of simplifying the regulations, ensuring the Act is fit for purpose for the current work environment and making it easy for both employers and employees to ensure that correct entitlements are paid. This review is expected to take one year.

 

Fair Pay Agreements

A working group has been established to consider what a Fair Pay Agreement would cover and look like, with the aim of providing recommendations on how these may work in the future.

Fair Pay Agreements, as outlined as one of the Governments election promises, would be collective agreements which cover whole industries and set out the minimum requirements for that industry. While little further detail has been provided on these, the Government has indicated that it expects Fair Pay Agreements to be used in occupations where there is already a high level of Union membership (like nursing, teaching or manufacturing), and that once a Fair Pay Agreement is in place, it would be compulsory for all employees in that industry to be covered. There is some discussion around small employers being exempt from Fair Pay Agreements. However this will be up to the working group to establish.

The terms of reference for the working group indicate it will also be able to look at whether regional variations should be allowed in Fair Pay Agreements, how often they should be renegotiated and if they should apply beyond workers (for example to contractors.)

Recommendations are expected to be made by this group by the end of 2018.

 

Changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000

Earlier this year a bill was introduced to parliament which proposed changes to the Employment Relations Act. The key proposed changes are:

  • Limiting 90-day trial periods to employers with fewer than 20 employees
  • Reinstating set rest and meal breaks, with limited exemptions
  • Restoring reinstatement as the primary remedy in unjustified dismissal disputes
  • Removing the small to medium enterprise exemption to the requirements in Subpart 1 of Part 6A of the Act when a business is sold and restructured.

This bill is still at the select committee stage, so no date has been set for the changes to come into effect. This means that for these areas the provisions still stand as in the current legislation. A report is due on 1 August 2018, so we should know more about the changes, and when and if they will come into effect, then.

 

Minimum Rate Increases

While a commitment has been made to raise the minimum rate to $20.00 per hour by April 2021 no further specifics have been provided on how these will be achieved, what the annual increases will be and when. Traditionally 1 April is the date when annual minimum rate increases would occur, so currently it seems we will have to wait until closer to this date to understand how the annual increases will work to achieve this target by 2021.

 

Keeping up to date on changes to employment legislation is critical for any employer to make sure you minimise risk and remain compliant. Positive People can help you keep up to date so if you have any questions on current or proposed legislation, please contact us.