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.

Verbal Warnings

Verbal Warnings – Do they have a place today?

As the disciplinary process evolves, it is helpful to reflect on your own organisation’s process and make sure it is up to date, current, fair and reasonable.

A key part of a traditional disciplinary process is the verbal warning – a step Managers can take when they believe an employee’s actions are serious enough to warrant more than an outline of expectations or a coaching session, yet not serious enough to warrant a Written Warning. Frequently these warnings are given by Managers without following a full process, and Companies often then mistakenly rely on them as the first step in a progressive warning process for misconduct.

A general rule of thumb for misconduct is that the progressive disciplinary processes should allow for three formal warnings for the employee prior to dismissal being considered. It’s important to consider whether a verbal warning forms part of the progressive disciplinary process for your organisation, and if so, specify this in your Code of Conduct.

For a verbal warning to be part of a progressive disciplinary process:

  1. It must be confirmed in writing, outlining the breach of policy and procedure and future expectations, and ideally have the employee’s signature
  2. You must still conduct an investigation, allowing the employee to respond after having the opportunity to prepare, have a support person present, and have access to all the information you have gathered about the misconduct

To be utilised and considered as part of a progressive process, the process you follow before issuing a verbal warning must be the same as if a written warning is given.

If you do not follow this process, then a verbal warning may be considered as part of the investigation into further misconduct but cannot be relied upon as one of the formal steps. It is instead background information confirming that the employee was aware of the Company rules and the impact of their actions.

If you do not follow this process, details of the verbal warning should not be stored on the employee’s personal file. Instead it would be considered the same as a coaching session, a letter of expectation or a Manager’s diary note.

For many Companies this requirement for a full process has meant that verbal warnings have become a thing of the past.

A more current approach is to streamline the process, doing away with verbal warnings altogether:

  • First instance of the behaviour – Informal discussions reflecting concerns. The Manager would be advised to keep “diary notes”
  • Second instance of the behaviour- Issue a Letter of Expectation alongside conducting a Coaching session driven by a Performance Improvement Plan (if appropriate). This is an informal process which does not require a formal investigation. The Manager outlines the impact of the behaviour and uses a coaching approach to help the employee identify ways they can improve. This is documented by the Manager and kept as part of the Performance Improvement Plan
  • Third instance of the behaviour – An investigation is initiated, which can then set off the formal disciplinary process, inviting the employee to respond. It also includes the other requirements of a full process. A possible outcome could be a first written warning.
  • Continuation of the Disciplinary process

Having a process which is sound, streamlined and allows for the employee to have an opportunity to change their behaviour is critical to minimising the risk of any comebacks on the process.  

This area can be a minefield, and is not easy to get right.

Positive People are experienced in developing performance management frameworks which are legally compliant, understandable and practical for both managers and employees. Contact us today and we can help you review yours.

HR Software Systems

How HR software can make your managers better leaders

No doubt you’re already using software for your accounting and view it as essential to the success of your business. But have you considered implementing an HR information management system? HR automation isn’t new, but with cloud-based technology it’s now cost effective and feasible for small and medium-sized businesses.

Much like your financial software, an effective HR system will quickly prove itself as a tool that saves you time, money and frees you and your managers up to focus on the more important aspects of leading your people.

If you’ve been manually handling HR operations in the past, you may be wondering about how a software system will benefit your business, particularly your managers.

  1. It will help your managers make better use of their time

Time is the one thing none of us can get more of. If your managers are having to manually create, print, sign, scan, save and manually upload documents, they don’t have time for things that matter more – like coaching and mentoring their direct reports.

Sadly, HR software won’t solve all of your time management woes, but it certainly helps to save time so you can better allocate those resources.

  1. It will provide you and your team with important insights

When you’re manually handling HR records, you miss out on some valuable information. HR software collects and analyses data to provide you with accurate insights in order to make strategic decisions.

  1. It will support effective performance appraisal processes

Gone are the days where you need to purchase expensive performance appraisal software, or muck around with multiple Word documents and hard copy forms. A good HR software system will incorporate a performance appraisal system that will facilitate an efficient process and focus your managers attention where it should be – on having quality conversations with their employees about their performance.

So, what should you look for if you’re in the market for HR software?

  • It pretty much goes without saying, but a cloud platform is essential
  • You should also prioritise ‘employee self-service’ features. The more you’re able to shift responsibilities from your managers, the more useful they can be. For example, with self-service a new employee can log in and view their employment agreement, digitally sign and have this saved to their file where they can access it throughout their employment
  • Alongside affordability, scalability is also important – you only want to pay for what you need, when you need it
  • Full functionality will ensure your managers get the best out of your system. Essentially, HR software is an HR administration tool. However, along with HR document management, look for a system that incorporates:
    • Recruitment process / candidate management
    • A performance appraisal system
    • Health and safety management

This will ensure all relevant HR documentation is correctly stored and easily accessed.

Positive People partner with enableHR HR software. We’d be happy to arrange a time to show you around the system so you can get an idea of how it might work for you and your team. We think you’ll find it ticks all the boxes.

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.