Keep­ing up with em­ploy­ment laws

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

Par­lia­ment has re­cently passed a se­ries of changes to our em­ploy­ment laws. They are of­ten quite de­tailed and tech­ni­cal, but in gen­eral terms the changes are:

Flex­i­ble work­ing re­quests will be able to be made by all em­ploy­ees, not just those car­ing for oth­ers, and can be made more than once per year. Em­ploy­ers will need to re­spond in one month in­stead of three months.

Vul­ner­a­ble (pro­tected) work­ers (usu­ally cater­ing and clean­ing work­ers) will not be able to au­to­mat­i­cally trans­fer to a new em­ployer if the new em­ployer ( and as­so­ci­ated en­ti­ties) em­ploys 19 or fewer em­ploy­ees.

If em­ploy­ees do trans­fer, the old and new em­ploy­ers must agree on li­a­bil­ity for hol­i­day, sick and be­reave­ment leave and the law fixes an ap­por­tion­ment if the em­ploy­ers do not agree.

New em­ploy­ers tak­ing on em­ploy­ees in pro­tected em­ploy­ment will be able to ob­tain in­for­ma­tion from the old em­ployer about em­ploy­ees’ leave en­ti­tle­ments, em­ploy­ment agree­ments, wage and time records and per­son­nel files.

Some in­for­ma­tion pro­vided to em­ploy­ers as part of an in­ter- view process for selections, pro­mo­tions etc will no longer have to be pro­vided to em­ploy­ees. The ex­cluded in­for­ma­tion is about other peo­ple or is eval­u­a­tion ma­te­rial or opin­ion re­lat­ing to an em­ployee’s con­tin­ued em­ploy­ment, or is about the iden­tity of the per­son who sup­plied the in­for­ma­tion.

Rest and meal breaks will be­come more flex­i­ble and ne­go­ti­a­tions with em­ploy­ees al­lowed.

Tim­ing of rest breaks can now suit the business needs for ser­vice or pro­duc­tion. Breaks can also be re­stricted where the na­ture of the work makes that nec­es­sary. Rest breaks ne­go­ti­ated must still com­ply with the Act and be paid.

Col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing no longer has to re­sult in an agree­ment. Cur­rently bar­gain­ing has to con­tinue un­til agree­ment is reached. Em­ploy­ers can now opt out of multi-party bar­gain­ing.

Em­ploy­ers will be able to re­duce em­ploy­ees’ pay dur­ing par­tial strikes.

Em­ploy­ers will be able to ne­go­ti­ate em­ploy­ment terms with new em­ploy­ees who are not union mem­bers, rather than hav­ing to ini­tially ap­ply the col­lec­tive agree­ment.

The Em­ploy­ment Re­la­tions Au­thor­ity will now have to give its decision at the con­clu­sion of the hear­ing, with a writ­ten decision within three months. Al­ter­na­tively the au­thor­ity can pro­vide an in­di­ca­tion of its find­ings on the day, sub­ject to any ad­di­tional ev­i­dence. A writ­ten decision within three months is still re­quired.

The new law is yet to be given the Royal As­sent (signed by the Gov­er­nor- Gen­eral) and will come into ef­fect four months after that hap­pens.

How all th­ese changes work in prac­tice will re­main to be seen and are likely to be sub­ject to test­ing in the Em­ploy­ment Re­la­tions Au­thor­ity and Em­ploy­ment Court.

Col­umn cour­tesy of Rainey Collins Lawyers, phone 0800 733484. If you have an in­quiry, email aknowsley@rain­ey­collins.co.nz.

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