Important employment law changes

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Employment law legislation changes are not the most exciting topic of conversation; however, in April and May there are number of changes that every employer needs to have on their radar.

From May 6, trial periods will revert to the pre-2011 position, and can only be used by employers with fewer than 20 employers, at the time an individual employment agreement (IEA) is entered into. If an employee enters an IEA with a trial period at a time when an employer employs fewer than 20 employees, but this changes during an employee’s trial period, it will still be valid.

Section 67A of the Employment Relations Act 2000 sets out the mandatory inclusions a trial period must have to be valid.  These inclusions are that a trial provision must be a written provision in an employment agreement that states, or is to the effect, that for a specified period (not exceeding 90 days), starting at the beginning of the employee’s employment, the employee is to serve a trial period. The provision must also state when the trial period begins (usually on the first day of employment) and must also state that if an employee is dismissed during a trial period, then they cannot take a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal.

Employers are also reminded that, for a trial period to be valid, the IEA containing the trial period must be signed by the employee before the employee’s first day of work.

The Domestic Violence Victim Protection Act 2018 came into effect on April 1. This legislation now entitles employees who are affected by domestic violence to take up to 10 days’ leave per year, in addition to existing sick leave and annual leave they are already entitled to.

Employees affected by domestic violence will also be entitled to request a short-term variation to their working arrangements for a period of up to two months, and an employer must respond to this request within 10 working days. The legislation expressly prohibits an employee from being treated adversely in the workplace if they are, or are suspected to be, a person affected by domestic violence.

Another change affecting employers is that, from April 1, employers will need to file payroll information for every employee with the Inland Revenue Department, within two days of every payday. Previously, employers could file monthly, even if employees were paid weekly or fortnightly. If some of an employer’s employees are paid monthly, and some are paid weekly, the employer will still need to file within two days from the payday for each employee.

From April 1, the minimum wage increased from $16.50 per hour to $17.70, with the starting-out and training rates increasing from $13.20 to $14.16 per hour (80 percent of the minimum wage). This is part of the Government’s plan to have the minimum wage reach $20 per hour by April 2021.

From December 12, changes to the Act further reverted to the pre-2015 rules on union access, including the right for union representatives to enter the workplace without consent (provided employees are on a collective agreement or one is being worked towards), and pay deductions can no longer be made for employees engaged in partial strikes (such as wearing t-shirts instead of uniforms as part of low-level industrial action).

Employers need to ensure they keep abreast of important legislative changes in employment law, to ensure compliance and avoid legal action.

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About Author

Erin Burke

Employment Lawyer and Director at Practica Legal Email: erin@practicalegal.co.nz phone: 027 459 3375