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Employment Law - looking back and ahead

31 January 2020

With a few weeks of work under the belt after a break, here’s a quick refresher on changes to Employment Law in 2019 and look ahead to what could lie in 2020.

2019

The Domestic Violence – Victim’s Act 2018 came into force on 1 April 2019 and provides additional legal protections in the workplace for people affected by domestic violence. Affected employees are entitled to up to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave per year. This is separate from annual, sick and bereavement leave. The Act also gives the victims of domestic violence the right to ask for short-term flexible working arrangements.

The Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018 also came into force last year. The amendments restore key minimum standards and protections for employees, and implement changes to promote and strengthen collective bargaining and union rights in the workplace. Some of the changes included:

  • A new definition of “wages” which includes amounts payable to an employee for their time, piece work, and by way of commission.
  • Changes to set rest and meal breaks based on the number of hours worked.
  • Limiting 90-day trial periods written into contracts to businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
  • The ability to transfer existing terms and conditions of employment contracts after a restructuring for employees in specified ‘vulnerable industries’.
  • Including pay rates in collective agreements.
  • Raising the minimum wage $17.70 per hour, with another increase to $18.90 from 1 April, 2020.

2020

One potential change on the horizon is the introduction of a Fair Pay Agreement (FPA) system. The Government has signalled that these agreements will be a set of minimum employment standards, such as wages, redundancy, or overtime, which will be specific for occupations or sectors. They will be agreed through bargaining between the affected workers and employers and will become legal requirements in that sector. Last October, the Government released a discussion paper inviting feedback on the design of the FPA system. Consultation closed on 27 November 2019. We wait to see if draft legislation will follow.

If you’re interested in better protections for contractors, you still have a couple of weeks to make comment on the Government’s discussion paper on this subject. Feedback is open until 14 February. Matters include: deterring employers from misclassifying workers as contractors; making it easier for workers to access a determination of their employment status; enhancing protections for contractors without making them employees; changing who is an employee under NZ law.