Almost a year after it was introduced, the Employment Relations Amendment Bill finally passed its third and final reading on 5 December 2018. Most changes take effect in two stages: the first group the day after royal assent and the second will take effect on 6 May 2019. The clincher is it has been announced that royal assent is expected this week (the week of 10 December 2018). So that means a number of the changes will likely be effective this week – right before Christmas. We set out what to expect for each stage below:
Changes in effect the day after royal assent (expected week of 10 December 2018):
- Union representatives will be able to enter workplaces without consent provided the employees are covered under, or bargaining towards, a collective agreement – and as long as it is for a certain purpose, respectful of normal operating hours, and in line with health, safety and security procedures;
- Where there is no collective agreement or bargaining occurring, a union representative will need to seek consent to enter a workplace;
- Union representatives will also be able to enter a workplace to assist a non-union employee with health and safety matters if that employee has requested their assistance;
- Pay deductions will no longer be permitted for partial strikes, employers can respond to a partial strike action the same way as any other strike, including suspending employees without pay or a lockout;
- Businesses will be required to enter into bargaining for multi-employer collective agreements, if asked to join by a union. They will not have to settle if their reason for not wanting to do so is based on reasonable grounds;
- Employee have extended protections against discrimination on the basis of their union membership status;
- If requested by the employee, the first course of action considered by the Employment Relations Authority will be reinstatement for unjustified dismissal. This will be done on the basis of it being practicable and reasonable for both parties;
- Earlier initiation timeframes have been restored for unions in collective bargaining, enabling a union to initiate bargaining 20 days ahead of an employer; and
- New categories of employees may apply to receive the protections afforded to ‘vulnerable employees’ through the process set out in the Bill.
Changes in effect from 6 May 2019:
- Union delegates must have reasonable paid time to represent employees unless it unreasonably disrupts employer business;
- The duty of good faith requires single-employer collective agreements to be concluded, unless there are genuine reasons based on reasonable grounds not to;
- Wages and salary are to be included in collective agreements (including potential increases);
- The obligations in relation to new and prospective employees who are not union members commence – passing on union information to new employees, providing an “approved active choice form” within first 10 days of employment and employees to be employed under collective terms for the first 30 days;
- 90-day trial periods are restricted to businesses that have less than 20 employees. Bigger businesses will have to rely on probation periods instead;
- Employees in specified “vulnerable industries” will be able to transfer on their current terms and conditions if their work is restructured, regardless of the size of the employer, plus employees will have 10 working days to elect to transfer; and
- Rest and meal breaks are restored, the number and duration of which depends on the hours worked.
We note that Lane Neave will be hosting a number of seminars in the New Year on these changes.
Workplace Law team
If you have any queries in respect of the above, or any other Workplace Law issues, please contact a member of Lane Neave’s Workplace Law team:
Employment: Andrew Shaw, Fiona McMillan, Gwen Drewitt, Maria Green, Hannah Martin, Joseph Harrop, Holly Struckman, Alex Beal, Giuliana Petronelli, Abby Shieh
Immigration: Mark Williams, Rachael Mason, Daniel Kruger, Nicky Robertson, Julia Strickett, Ken Huang, Mary Zhou, Shi Sheng Cai (Shoosh), Sarah Kirkwood, Janeske Schutte, Lingbo Yu
ACC: Andrew Shaw
Health and Safety: Andrew Shaw, Fiona McMillan
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