Employment law changes coming our way, what you need to know

Upcoming Employment Law Changes

employment-law-NZ


In the next few months, many of the employment law changes enacted in 2018 will come into force.  

We set out below a summary of the changes to ensure your compliance ready and your practices are up to scratch.

Trial periods for medium to large employers  

From 06 May 2019, medium to large employers (those with 20 or more employees) will no longer be able to enter into employment agreements that include trial periods.  Larger Employers will however still be able to include probationary period clauses in their employment agreements.  

The most significant difference between a trial period and a probationary period is that dismissal in reliance on the probationary period clause will not act a bar to prevent an employee from pursuing a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal.  While the employment institutions have recognised that the purpose of a probationary period is to assess an employee’s suitability for a role, it has been made clear that the employer will still need to have a good reason for the dismissal and follow a fair process.  

For larger businesses, we do recommend including a probationary period clause.   

Rest and meal breaks

From 06 May 2019, we return to compulsory rest and meal breaks.  Broadly, employees will be entitled to paid 10-minute breaks every four hours and unpaid 30-minute meal breaks for work over four hours. The timing of the breaks must be agreed with the employee. If agreement cannot be reached, the break should be taken in the middle of the relevant work period (i.e. for an employee working 9-5: 10 am, 1 pm and 3 pm) unless that is not reasonable and practicable.   

Domestic Violence - Victims Protection Act 2018.  

From 01 April 2019, an employee who is a person who is affected by domestic violence will be entitled to:  

  • Up to 10 days’ paid leave per year (provided they meet the service required which is the same as for sick and bereavement leave);

  • A right to request short term flexible working.  

The paid leave may be taken and the short-term flexible working requested for the purpose of dealing with the effects on the employee of being a person affected by domestic violence.  Domestic violence need not have occurred during the employee’s employment.

Employers may require the employee to produce proof that they are a person affected by domestic violence.  The Act does not specify what the proof should be. However, it is likely that the following will be considered to be acceptable proof:  documentation from the police; a health professional; support staff at a women’s refuge (or similar); or a government department.

In addition, employers must not unlawfully discriminate against an employee because that employee is a job candidate is or is suspected or assumed to be a person affected by domestic violence.  

We have prepared a policy which reflects the minimum requirements under the legislation.  https://www.cinchhr.co.nz/domestic-violence-policy

My view around introducing policies like this is as a good employer, it's important to ensure employees are encouraged to speak up about problems they may be dealing with outside of work.  This won’t be achieved by simply dropping in a new workplace Policy and being done with it. Instead, you should be thinking about how you can actively communicate and embed into their workplace a culture that makes people feel safe and supported in relation to Domestic Violence.

You might want to offer a bit of extra training and education to your people, to bring them up to speed. If you have a program for diversity or wellness, update it to include your business' new responsibilities. A good resource is Shine’s "DVFREE" programme and workplace learning module.

Also remember, you have to provide info about support services to anybody who requests domestic violence leave. Put some guidelines in place for when and how this should happen.


Your Checklist:

Domestic Violence entitlements

  • Ensure employment agreements entered into, on and after 01 April 2019 should reference the entitlement to domestic violence leave.  Please give us a call and we can provide you with the necessary clauses to update your current agreements.. 0800 246 241

  • Introduce a policy on domestic violence – go to https://www.cinchhr.co.nz/domestic-violence-policy

Trial periods v probationary periods

  • Do I employ 20 or more employees?

  • If no, no action required.

  • If yes, then from 06 May 2019 you will no longer be able to enter into an employment agreement with a trial period clause.  You should update your employment agreement to include a probationary period clause instead of a trial period clause.

Rest and meal breaks

  • Am I already complying with the requirement to allow employees a 10-minute paid rest break for every four hours work and an unpaid meal break for over four hours work?  

  • If no, make arrangements to ensure compliance with this obligation on and from 06 May 2019.

If you would like to find out more about the Employment Law changes, don’t hesitate to give us a call on 0800 246 241