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.

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.

2018 Employment Legislation Changes

What the changes mean for you

Although the details of the changes haven’t been confirmed yet, here are our thoughts on what some of the changes might mean for your business.

Restriction of 90-day trials

For those that employ less than 20 people, there won’t be any change. However, if your numbers are creeping up towards 20, you will need to keep across that to ensure that you’re not including a trial period if you’ve become ineligible.

If you employ 20 people or more, you will lose the ability to use the 90-day trial. You will still be able to apply a probationary period. These were in play prior to the trial period being introduced and some employers have continued to use them instead of the trial.

For more information here on the potential changes to the 90 day trial period and probationary periods

Restoration of meal breaks

In 2015 there were changes to rest and meal break entitlements. Where previously there had been minimum entitlements, the 2015 changes made it up to employers and employees to negotiate when and how long rest and meal breaks should be. An employer is currently required to compensate employees where they cannot give an employee rest and meal breaks, but the legislation does not state what that compensation should be.

The upcoming change will see a re-introduction of required meal and rest breaks to be provided over a work day or shift. However, we don’t expect this to be a huge change for most employers. Many have chosen to continue to apply the same breaks as before the 2015 changes – either written into the employment agreement, or in practice. In addition, the current legislation does state that employees are entitled to breaks. If anything, this change will just provide clarity again on what this means.

Reinstatement restored as primary remedy for unjustified dismissal

Reinstatement as the primary remedy means that if an employee is dismissed and successfully challenges the dismissal (the Employment Authority finds that unjustified dismissal has occurred), reinstating the employee to their former role is the first remedy to be considered. In 2011 the Employment Relations Act was amended to remove reinstatement as the primary remedy for unjustified dismissal. However, since then it has still been available as an option and some commentators have pointed to a growing trend in reinstatement as a remedy in recent years.

It’s restoration as primary remedy is unlikely to have a widespread impact. Most employers rarely, if ever, end up in front of the Authority. Also, where reinstatement is genuinely not practical for either party, other remedies for unjustified dismissal can and will still be considered.

 

Month: January 2018

Employment Law Changes

This year we are expecting to see a significant shift in the employment legislation landscape, and last week’s announcement signals the start of these changes.

The following changes were confirmed last week:

  • Trial periods will be restricted to small business (up to 19 employees) only. All employers will be able to use probationary periods, but unlike the 90-day trial, these do not allow unjustified dismissal
  • Guaranteed rest and meal breaks
  • A number of changes relating to collective bargaining, including removing the ability of employers to opt out of multi-employer collective agreements.

The bill is expected to have its first reading before February 3rd. In addition, we have the following changes to paid parental leave and minimum wage coming up:

  • The minimum wage will rise to $16.50 per hour ($0.75 increase) from 1st April, with increases set to continue to a targeted $20 per hour by April 2021.
  • Paid parental leave will extend from 18 to 22 weeks from 1st July and to 26 weeks from 1st July 2020

Other changes being indicated include:

  • An increase in minimum redundancy protection for employees affected by restructuring. This could go as far as a statutory entitlement for redundancy pay of at least four weeks for the first year of service and two weeks for each subsequent year of service, up to a maximum of 20 years
  • Contractors who work under the ‘control’ of an employer, but are not employees are likely to see their rights extended for more statutory protection
  • Legislation may be introduced to make it easier for women to bring claims if they consider they are not being paid equally. In particular, changes are likely to give women in female-dominated industries better access to collective bargaining
  • Reinstatement is likely to be re-introduced (it was removed in 2011) as the primary remedy for unjustifiable dismissal claims.
  • Minimum employment standards being extended to apply to all employees working in New Zealand, including foreign employees working for foreign companies. This will impact employers with a globally mobile workforce.

It’s a case of ‘watch this space’ for the possible changes outlined above, followed by looking to see how changes will impact employers and industries when implemented. We’ll keep you informed via this blog, or follow us on LinkedIn or Facebook for regular updates. If unsure of anything, contact us.