The Labour government came in with a long to-do list of changes to employment law. In this article co-authored by Shima Grice and Lucy Nolan we look at what has changed and what is still to come.
The year 2019 brought with it a raft of employment law changes. These included:
- Minimum wage increased to $17.70 an hour.
- Domestic violence leave was introduced.
- Set rest and meal breaks were re-introduced.
The use of 90-day trial periods was limited to businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
- Employees in specified ‘vulnerable industries’ gained the ability to transfer their existing terms of employment upon restructure of their work, regardless of the size of their employer.
- The “30-day rule”, where a collective agreement automatically applies to an employee on individual terms, was reinstated.
- It became obligatory to include pay rates in collective agreements.
- Employers must now give union delegates reasonable time to carry out their functions within working hours and to pay them at their usual pay rate.
- Employers became obliged to pass on information about the role and function of unions to potential employees.
What do we know is coming in 2020?
- Minimum wage will increase to $18.90 an hour on 1 April.
- Paid parental leave will increase to 26 weeks for parents of babies due on or after 1 July 2020.
- The Employment Relations (Triangular Employment) Amendment Act 2019 will come into force by 28 June. This is where an employee’s employer works for a third party, and that third party directly exercises control over the employee. Employees will be able to apply to join a controlling third party to an existing personal grievance against their employer. It will also permit an employer to apply to join a controlling third party to a personal grievance it is facing.
What else might change?
- Changes to independent contracting relationships. A discussion paper on better protections for contractors was published on 26 November 2019. It is open for feedback until 14 February 2020. It considers:
- Deterring employers from classifying workers as contractors and not employees
- Making it easier for workers to access a determination of their employment status
- Changing who is an employee under New Zealand law
- Enhancing protections for contractors without making them employees.
- There won’t be any relief for employers grappling with the Holidays Act. The taskforce appointed to review the Act delayed its report, and Workplace Relations Minister Iain Lees-Galloway has said that a new regime is likely to be several years away.
- The Fair Pay Agreement Working Group has reported back, with several recommendations, but we understand that these are not expected to be implemented this term either.