The Select Committee reported back on the changes proposed to the Employment Relations Act 2000 (Act) contained in the Employment Relations Amendment Bill (Amendment Bill) on 7 September 2018.
The Amendment Bill, introduced earlier this year, aims to “reintroduce certain minimum standards and protections for employees” and “make changes to collective bargaining and union rights in the workplace” in order to increase fairness in the workplace and promote productive relationships.
In summary, the Select Committee has suggested the following minor changes to the Amendment Bill:
Collective bargaining and Unions
- Specifying an employee must be paid for time spent on union activities at the same rate as if the employee was performing their employment duties.
- Providing more information about an employer’s union information sharing obligations, including:
- Inserting a section with more specific grounds for employers to refuse to provide information;
- That the costs of providing information would be borne by the Union;
- The requirement that the Union provides information in the form they want it to be passed along to prospective employees;
- Clarifying how an employer tells new employees that their information will be passed onto a union; and
- Clarifying how employees would notify employers of their intention to join a union, and the requirements for the period in which notification must be made.
- Requiring greater specificity about the rate of wages or salary in a collective agreement so that minimum rates, and an indication of how rates could increase during the term of the agreement, must be included;
- Clarifying that more favourable terms and conditions of employment than those in a collective agreement can be negotiated during the first 30 days;
- Providing that any omission or error in providing notice of a strike will not invalidate the strike;
- Including a definition of “small-to-medium-sized employers” as employers with fewer than 20 employees at the beginning of the day on which a relevant employment agreement is entered into;
Rest and meal breaks
- Exempting employers engaged in the protection of New Zealand’s national security from prescribed rest and meal breaks;
- Clarifying that financial compensation for rest and meal breaks should be the amount equivalent to what the employee would have earned during a rest or meal break, calculated at the average rate for the relevant work period;
Employee protection provisions
- Allowing the Minister to recommend that categories of employees listed under Schedule 1 of the Act can be added, deleted or amended provided certain conditions are met; and
- Inserting a definition of wages clarifying that it includes the amounts payable for time, piece work, or commission.
None of the recommended amendments are fundamental or significant changes to the initial draft of the Amendment Bill. This is welcomed by the Unions, who will clearly enjoy greater powers and union membership under the amendments, but it has been heavily criticised by business groups and associations as being “harmful and oppressive” to the employment law landscape.
The Bill will now go back to Parliament for its Second Reading.
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