Changes to the Employment Relations Act – what you need to know and implement

A number of changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000 come into force today. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Rest and Meal Breaks: Prescribed rest and meal breaks are introduced with effect from today. Employers will now have to provide employees with the correct number of rest and meal breaks but can agree with employees when these breaks are taken. If there is no such agreement, the timing of breaks defaults to the statutory timeframes. Employers should review employment agreements to check that any contractual rest and meal breaks are consistent with the new requirements and ensure that their employees are getting the correct breaks in practice.
  • Trial Period Provisions: 90 day trial periods are now only available for businesses who employ less than 20 employees. If you have existing employees on trial periods, those remain enforceable, but if you have 20 or more employees, you can no longer use a trial period in your employment agreement.
  • Protections for “vulnerable industries”: Employees in specified “vulnerable industries” can elect to transfer employment on their current terms and conditions if their work is restructured, regardless of the size of their employer.
  • 30 day rule restored: For the first 30 days of employment, new employees who are not union members must be employed under the same terms as an applicable collective agreement (and any additional terms which are no less favourable).
  • Duty to conclude bargaining restored
  • Pay-rates must be included in a collective agreement
  • Employers to pass on information about the role of unions to prospective employees
  • New active choice form: Employers must (within 10 days of commencement) provide new employees with MBIE’s ‘active choice’ form regarding whether they intend to join a union. The form is then provided to unions unless the employee expressly objects. A link to the form is here.
  • Reasonable paid time for union delegates to undertake union activities: The employer can only refuse to allow such paid time if the employer is satisfied, based on reasonable grounds, that the activities would unreasonably disrupt the business or the performance of the union delegate’s duties.

Where to now?

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