Employment law legislative changes are fast approaching

Having passed the half way mark of 2018, we are set for a busy second half of the year as the Government progresses with its package of employment law reforms. Together, these reforms will have a significant effect on New Zealand’s employment law landscape.

To assist you in making sure your business is prepared, we outline the upcoming legislation and timeframes below, along with our advice for employers.

Employment Relations Amendment Bill 2018

This Bill will implement the Government’s first round of employment reforms. It includes: the reinstatement of the requirement to provide employees with prescribed rest and meal breaks, restricting 90 day trial periods to employers with less than 20 employees, restoring reinstatement as the primary remedy, and a number of changes to strengthen collective bargaining and union rights in the workplace. You can read more about this Bill here.

The Bill is currently before the Select Committee, which will report back on 7 September 2018. The Bill is likely to be enacted shortly after that date (with some changes coming into force the day after Royal assent, and others 4 months later).

Employment Relations (Triangular Employment) Amendment Bill

This Bill seeks to give labour-hire workers and those in similar situations a number of the same workplace rights as full time employees. A ‘triangular employment’ relationship occurs when employees of one business (the primary employer) work under the control or direction of another business (the secondary employer). The Bill provides for employees in triangular employment to automatically be bound by any collective agreement of their secondary employer, and to have the ability to raise a personal grievance against their secondary employer. Read more here.

The Bill is currently before the Select Committee, which will report back on 21 September 2018. It is understood to have the support it needs to pass, including from New Zealand First and is likely to pass later this year.
The Bill is currently set to come into force the day after receiving Royal assent.

Domestic Violence – Victims Protection Bill

This Bill provides 10 days of leave a year to victims of domestic violence or people caring for affected children. It also provides employees who are victims of domestic violence a statutory right to request a flexible working arrangement.

The Bill is coming up to its third reading and is expected to pass later this year (supported by Labour, NZ First and the Greens). It is set to come into force on 1 April 2019.

Fair Pay Agreements

As has been widely publicised, the Government is seeking to establish a sector-level bargaining system which would allow unions and employers to develop ‘Fair Pay Agreements’ that set minimum terms and conditions for workers in an entire industry or occupation. In June 2018, the Government established the Fair Pay Agreement Working Group, chaired by Rt Hon Jim Bolger ONZ, to make recommendations on the design of the system.

The Working Group is expected to make recommendations to the Ministry of Workplace Relations and Safety by the end of 2018. We understand that the implementation of this legislation is a priority for the Government and we are likely to see a Bill introduced in the first half of 2019.

Parental Leave

The Parental Leave and Employment Protection Amendment Bill was passed to extend the duration of paid parental leave. Parental leave payments have now increased from 18 to 22 weeks (as of 1 July 2018).

There will be a further increase in parental leave payments to 26 weeks from 1 July 2020.

Holidays Act Review

In welcome news for employers, a Holidays Act Working Group has been established by the Government to carry out a full review of the Holidays Act. The Group will specifically focus on the provisions of, and payment for, holiday and leave entitlements. The Group will not consider the issue of historic underpayments of holiday pay and employers continue to have an obligation to remediate employees for underpayments and to pay correctly. Read more here.

The Group was established in May 2018 and is to report back to the Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety with its recommendations within 12 months (with an interim report provided within six months). A new regime is likely to be two to three years away.

Privacy Bill

This long awaited Bill intends to replace the 25 year old Privacy Act and bring New Zealand’s privacy laws in line with recent international developments and reforms. Key changes include new ways to enforce the information privacy principles, including more substantive fines and greater powers for the Privacy Commission. Read more here.

The Bill is currently before the Select Committee, which will report back on 11 October 2018. If passed with its current proposed commencement date, the new Act will come into force on 1 July 2019.

Pay Equity

The former Government’s Employment (Pay Equity and Equal Pay) Bill has been withdrawn from Parliament following the formation of the new Government. The current Government reconvened the Joint Working Group on Pay Equity Principles in January 2018 to provide further recommendations to address key stakeholder concerns relating to the former Bill. The Group provided its recommendations to Ministers in February 2018, which will be used to develop pay equity legislation.

We expect a Bill to be introduced in the second half of this year, with legislation likely to come into force towards the end of this year/in the first half of 2019. We understand there will be a number of claims progressing in this space once the legislation is in force.

Advice for employers

We recommend that employers take note of the upcoming legislation to ensure their employment agreements, practices and policies are compliant ahead of the changes coming into force. Employers may also wish to consider preparing submissions on any of the upcoming Bills that will affect their workforce.

We are happy to provide further advice on the effect the upcoming changes will have on your business.

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