Several employment law changes came into effect on May 6. Individual employment agreements that are not in writing are now an infringement offence under the Employment Relations (Infringement Offences) Regulations 2019.
Section 65(1)(a) of the Employment Relations Act 2000 already provides that an individual employment agreement must be in writing. At present an employer failing to comply with the section is liable to a penalty imposed by the Employment Relations Authority. Since 6 May, the infringement fee for a breach of section 65(1)(a) is $1,000.
Other changes that you should be aware of include:
- Domestic violence leave of up to 10 days if required.
- Trial periods are restricted to employers with fewer than 20 employees. Probationary periods still available but no immunity from claims for unjustified dismissal.
- A return to prescribed minimum rest and meal breaks.
- For employers with a collective agreement in place, the 30-day rule is back: new, non-union employees must be employed on terms consistent with the collective agreement for their first 30 days of employment. After that time, the employee and employer can negotiate an individual employment agreement.
- Employers must provide information about unions to prospective employees, and a copy of the collective employment agreement.
- Collective agreements must include pay rates and any pay increase over the term of the agreement.
- Employers must allow union representatives reasonable time to perform their duties within working hours and must pay them the same rate as usual.
For employers, now is the time to:
- Think about how you intend to manage requests for union access.
- Consider how you will manage domestic violence leave requests, including whether your payroll function can record that.
- Review your employment agreements and make sure they comply with the rest and meal break requirements.
- If you have 20+ employees and use trial periods, do you have a probationary period clause ready?
- For employers with a collective agreement in place, review your on-boarding process, to make sure you comply with the 30-day rule, and can then negotiate individual terms after that.
Now is the time to get organised and ensure you have the right agreements in place. If you need help contact Shima Grice to find out more.