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Winds of Change

The Law Commission has finished its three year review of the law for dividing property on separation under the Property (Relationships) Act 1976. Its long awaited Report was tabled earlier this week in parliament by Justice Minister Andrew Little. In its Report the Law Commission makes 140 recommendations aimed at modernising the law by making the law simpler and fairer, which will be welcomed by many. While a number of existing rules within the Act are still satisfactory, the Act itself has not kept pace with social change in our country over the past 43 years, as a result it is no longer ‘fit for purpose’ in 21st century NZ.

Key changes include introducing a new statute (the Relationship Property Act) to cover relationships ending by separation, changing classification of the family home, streamlining the law for eligibility to the new Act, introducing family income sharing arrangements, giving the court greater powers to divide trust property where a trust holds property that was produced, preserved or enhanced by the relationship, giving children’s best interests greater priority (including rights to occupy the family home immediately post separation) and improving the way relationship property matters are more efficiently resolved in practice.

The Government will now give further consideration to the report, its recommendations and the wider impact of its proposals. Whether this results in the wide sweeping “winds of change” the Law Commission seek remains to be seen, but it appears fairly likely that change will happen.

Further information and a c copy of the Law Commission’s Report is available on its website: https://www.lawcom.govt.nz/our-projects/review-property-relationships-act-1976?id=1589

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Significant changes to employment law

The Employment Relations Amendment Bill reverses a lot of the changes introduced by the National Government. Below are the key changes all employers and employees need to know about.

  • The use of 90 day trial periods will be limited to employers with fewer than 20 employees. Employers over this threshold and currently using 90 day trial periods will need to review and modify their employment agreements before the Bill comes into force.
  • Prescribed rest and meal breaks will be restored. Currently there is no prescribed time and length of rest and meal breaks and the new change will mean an eight hour shift must include two 10 minute rest breaks and one 30 minute meal break. However, there are some exceptions, such as companies providing essential services.
  • Reinstatement will be restored as a primary remedy for employees that successfully raise an unjustified dismissal claim.
  • Small employers with 19 or fewer employees will no longer be exempt from providing the protections afforded to vulnerable employees such as cleaners and caterers and those who are deemed to be at a greater risk of losing their job due to a restructuring. All vulnerable employees will now be able to elect to transfer to the new employer on the same terms and conditions.
  • Union and collective bargaining rights will be strengthened with the changes aimed at restoring union rights in the workplace. Of the number of changes, union representatives will have better access to the workplace and the duty for businesses to conclude single-employer collective bargaining will be restored.

Please do not hesitate to contact our employment team with any queries relating to the changes and how to comply.