Employment Relations Act picture of different employeesIn December the government passed changes to the Employment Relations Act which are intended to improve fairness and conditions in workplaces. The following changes came into effect on 12th December 2018:

  • Union representatives can now enter workplaces without asking for permission, provided that the employees are covered under, or bargaining towards, a collective agreement. However, representatives must adhere to site health and safety requirements, conduct their visit within normal operating hours and notify the employers. Representatives are still required to seek consent before entering workplaces where no collective agreement or bargaining exists, and at workplaces which are also residences (e.g. farmhouses).
  • Pay deductions can no longer be made for partial strikes, for example wearing t-shirts in place of regular uniforms as a form of low-level industrial action.
  • Businesses must now enter into bargaining for multi-employer collective agreements (“MECAs”), if asked to join by a union.
  • Employees will have extended protections against discrimination on the basis of their union membership status (such as being, or intending to be, a union member).

Further changes to the Employment Relations Act are coming into effect on 6th May this year, including:

  • An end to the 90-day trial period for firms with 20 or more employees. These businesses can still use probationary periods in order to assess an employee’s skills against the role’s responsibilities. Businesses with less than 20 employees can continue to use the 90-day trial period.
  • Reinstatement of prescribed minimum meal and rest breaks based on the number of hours worked. For example, during an eight-hour work shift the employee is entitled to a minimum of two 10-minute rest breaks and one 30-minute meal break.

For more details on the Employment Relations Amendment Bill 2018 please visit https://www.employment.govt.nz/about/employment-law/employment-relations-amendment-bill-2018/.