We now have details of proposed changes to employment law. In some respects it is Back to the Future as a number of changes simply reverse changes by the last government. However, there are some significant changes to collective bargaining that are proposed, and more complicated issues like industry-based Fair Pay Agreements are still some time away.
The Bill is now before Select Committee, and submissions closed on 30 March 2018. So what are the key changes?
90 day trial periods
Trial periods are here to stay, but limited to businesses which employ fewer than 20 employees. Probationary periods will continue to be available, but employees subject to probationary periods can still bring unjustified dismissal claims. We hope to see the Select Committee clarify details like how the 20 employee limit is calculated.
Most of the proposed changes are to collective bargaining and union rights. They include terms that have not been in the law before:
- A requirement to include pay rates in collective agreements. This may be by including pay ranges or methods of calculation.
- A requirement to provide reasonable paid time for union delegates to represent other workers (for example, in collective bargaining).
- A requirement for employers to provide additional information about unions along with a form for new employees to indicate whether they want to be a union member.
- Greater protections against discrimination for union members.
Changes that are to restore certain laws that previously applied are:
- Restoration of the duty to conclude bargaining unless there is a good reason not to.
- Restoration of the earlier initiation timeframes for unions in collective bargaining, so that a union can initiate bargaining first.
- Removal of the ability for employers simply to opt out of bargaining for a multi-employer collective agreement.
- Restoration of the “30 day rule” where for the first 30 days of employment new employees are employed on applicable collective agreement terms.
- Repeal of partial strike wage deductions which will prevent employers from making deductions from wages for low level industrial action.
- Restoration of union access without prior employer consent; union access will still be subject to requirements to access at reasonable times and places, having regarding to business continuity, health and safety.
This will be restored as a “primary remedy” for employees who have been found by the Employment Relations Authority to have been unjustifiably dismissed.
Statutory rest and meal breaks will also be restored. This will include exceptions for certain workplaces in “essential services”, where it is not practical for workers to take breaks at certain times.
Finally, a Members Bill attempting to deal with “triangular employment” is on the Parliamentary Order Paper. It appears to be intended to allow, for example, labour hire workers working in a business to be covered by collective agreements that business has with its employees, and allow personal grievances against the business. It is unclear if this will have the numbers to progress, but as always, we will continue to update you with changes as they occur.