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Employment Legislation Changes

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill 2018 was introduced to Parliament on 29 January 2018. This Bill sets out the changes that the new Labour-led Government intends to make to New Zealand's Employment Relations Act 2000. Of note is that several sections in the Bill will come into force four months after the Bill receives its Royal Assent, some aspects will come into effect six months after Royal Assent and the remainder come into force the day after Royal Assent.

Over the coming weeks we will provide a series of Video Blogs to explain the various components of the Bill. In the meantime the main highlights of the Bill are as follows:

Coming into effect 4 months after Royal Assent

  • Employers will be required to allow union delegates reasonable paid time during working hours to perform their duties in respect of the employees of that employer.

  • Parties to collective bargaining will have a good faith duty to conclude a collective agreement, unless they have a genuine reason on reasonable grounds not to.

  • Collective Agreements must contain rates of pay and those rates of pay must be agreed in collective bargaining.

  • New employees will be covered by the provisions of a Collective Agreement (where one exists) for the first 30 days of their employment

  • Employers will be required to provide the applicable Collective Agreement and union contact details and option to join the union(s) at the same time they provide an intended Individual Employment Agreement to an employee

  • Employers will be required to provide prospective employees with information about the role and function of the applicable union when the intended employment agreement is given to the prospective employee

  • New employees are encouraged to have an active choice on whether to join the union or to object to their details being provided to the union(s)

  • The use of 90-day trial periods will be limited to employers with fewer than 20 employees

  • The exemption for employers with fewer that 20 employees from the current rules about business transfers, which will allow employees of these employers to elect to transfer to an incoming employer, will be removed.

  • The time frame for employees to elect to transfer to an incoming employer and placing information and notification requirements on the employer are extended.

  • The right to prescribed rest and meal breaks with limited exceptions are reinstated

Coming into effect 6 months after Royal Assent

  • The grounds for discrimination are extended to include an employee's union membership

  • The time frame under s107 for which an employee's union activities may be considered to contribute to an employer's discriminatory behaviour are extended from 12 months to 18 months.

Coming into effect the day after Royal Assent

  • The requirement for a union representative to gain consent prior to entering a workplace will be removed- though standard H&S requirements must still be met.

  • Unions will have the right to initiate bargaining 20 days before the employer

  • The ability for employers to opt-out of multi-employer collective bargaining will be removed

  • Reinstatement as the primary remedy in unjustified dismissal cases, is restored where the employee requests it and where reinstatement is practicable and reasonable

There is a lot of detail behind each of these bullet points. McKone Consultancy will go into that detail using a series of short Video Blogs that expand, based on the available information, on the intentions and likely impacts when these changes are enacted.

In the meantime, until this Bill is passed into law, the current provisions of the Employment Relations Act 2000 remain in place. That being said, employers should be mindful of these proposed changes, particularly if you are entering into collective bargaining later this year. Contact Tony McKone if you require any assistance or guidance on any of the above matters.

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