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What's changed in the Employment Relations Act 2000?

As a result of the passing of the 2018 Amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000, you need to now ensure that you are complying with the following changes, that came into effect the day after the Bill was passed into law by royal assent:

For those of you that have a unionised workplace, Union representatives can now enter your workplace without consent provided your employees are covered by or are bargaining for a collective agreement with the Union. The Union rep can still only enter the workplace for certain purposes and must respect normal operating hours and follow any H&S and security procedures.

Where the Union does not have a collective agreement the Union rep must still seek your consent before entering your workplace.

Union representatives can also enter a workplace to assist a non-union employee with matters relating to health and safety if that employee has requested their assistance.

Pay deductions can no longer be made for partial strikes, such as wearing t-shirts instead of uniforms as part of low-level industrial action. Employers can respond to a partial strike action the same way as any other strike, which could include suspending employees without pay or a lockout.

Businesses must now enter into bargaining for multi-employer collective agreements, if asked to join by a union. They will not have to settle a multi-employer collective agreement if their reason for not wanting to settle is based on reasonable grounds.

For example, if there are significant differences between two employers – such as one operating in Auckland where prices and wages are higher, and the other in Invercargill – it could be reasonable for an employer to negotiate a single-employer collective agreement instead.

Employees now have extended protections against discrimination on the basis of their union membership status, including either being a union member or intending to be a union member.

From now, an employer’s behaviour can be seen as discriminatory if it occurs within 18 months of employees undertaking union activities. This is an extension of 6 months. It does not apply retrospectively.

Reinstatement as a primary remedy. If requested by the employee, reinstatement will be the first course of action considered by the Employment Relations Authority, for employees that have found to be unfairly dismissed. Reinstatement means the employee gets their previous job back.

The Employment Relations Authority will still assess whether reinstatement is practicable and reasonable for both parties.

Initiation for bargaining. Earlier initiation time frames have been restored for unions in collective bargaining, enabling a union to initiate bargaining 20 days ahead of an employer.

Vulnerable Employees. New categories of employees may apply to receive the protections afforded to ‘vulnerable employees’ through an application process set out in the Act.

If you require assistance with understanding these changes, contact McKone Consultancy today.

Watch out for our Blog coming in March 2019 about other changes to the Employment Relations Act that come into effect on and from 6 May 2019

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