The Government last night succeeded in passing one of the most important pieces of their legislative agenda, the Employment Relations Amendment Bill. The Bill strengthens the legal rights of employees, enhances the workplace power of unions, and bans larger employers from using 90-day trial periods.
The Bill has been the subject of considerable media attention as it has progressed through Parliament this year, and the Government has overcome trenchant opposition from the National Party and business advocacy groups.
However, opponents of the Bill won a few victories in the late stages before the Bill was passed. The New Zealand First Party, whose votes were required for the Government to pass the Bill, indicated last week that they thought the Bill went too far in favour of unions. NZ First leader Winston Peters described the Bill then as “a work in progress”. The final Bill reflects two key concessions:
Union officials will not be able to freely access a workplace without obtaining consent from the employer (unless there is a collective covering their work, or where bargaining is underway); and
Employers will now be able to object to Multi-Employer Collective Agreements (MECAs), if they have ‘reasonable grounds’ to do so.
Most of the Bill’s provisions come into force 6 May 2019. We recommend that employers consider whether their employment agreements, practices and policies are compliant ahead of the changes coming into force. We are happy to provide advice on what effect the Bill will have on your business.