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Employment Update – 25 January 2018

Home Insights Employment Update – 25 January 2018

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Contributed by: Kylie Dunn, Emma Peterson and Jamie Crosbie

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Published on: January 25, 2018

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Changes to employment law - déjà vu?

Today the Government announced its first major raft of changes to New Zealand's employment legislation. For the most part these simply reverse changes made under the previous Government and, according to Minister for Workplace Relations Iain Lees-Galloway, are intended to be a "restoration of fairness in the workplace" and to undo the "steady erosion of rights" in employment law. The changes did not include any real surprises and included, as expected, restricting the use of 90 day trial periods to employers employing under 20 employees and the restoration of the specifics around statutory rest and meal breaks. One new notable change is a requirement for employers to provide reasonable paid time for union delegates to represent other workers.

The Bill is to be introduced to Parliament on Monday 29 January with a proposed first reading expected on Thursday 1 February. A summary of the Bill issued today by the Government sets out the following changes:

  • restoration of specified rest and meal breaks;
  • restriction of 90 day trial periods to SME employers (less than 20 employees);
  • reinstatement to be restored as the primary remedy for an unjustified dismissal;
  • further procedural protections for employees in "vulnerable industries" (Part 6A);
  • 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;
  • removal of the right of employers to opt out of collective bargaining for a multi-employer collective agreement;
  • restoration of the 30 day rule (where for the first 30 days of employment new employees must be employed under terms consistent with the collective agreement);
  • repeal of partial strike pay deductions where employers could garnish wages for low level industrial action;
  • restoration of union access without prior employer consent;
  • a requirement to include pay rates in collective agreements;
  • a new requirement for employees to provide reasonable paid time for union delegates to represent other workers;
  • a requirement for employers to pass on information about unions in the workplace to prospective employees; and
  • greater protection against discrimination for union members.

For the detailed summary of the Bill, click here.

The above changes are of course in Bill form only and will not come into effect until passed into legislation later in the year. There will be an opportunity for public submissions before this occurs.

The Government's announcement also confirmed that fair pay agreements are still on its agenda for 2018. We can expect more details regarding this and other proposed changes in due course.

Please feel free to get in touch with a member of the team if you would like to discuss any aspect of this update in more detail.


This publication is intended only to provide a summary of the subject covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No person should act in reliance on any statement contained in this publication without first obtaining specific professional advice. If you require any advice or further information on the subject matter of this newsletter, please contact the partner/solicitor in the firm who normally advises you, or alternatively contact one of the partners listed below.

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