New Zealand Law Society - Bill changing employment law passes

Bill changing employment law passes

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Parliament has given a third reading to the Employment Relations Amendment Bill.

The purpose of the bill is to restore key minimum standards and protections for employees, and to implement changes to promote and strengthen collective bargaining and union rights in the workplace.

A number of the provisions in the bill will come into force on 6 May 2019. The sections relating to discrimination in relation to union membership and involvement in union activities will come into force 6 months after the Royal asset. The remainder of the bill comes into force on the day after the Royal assent.

The bill was introduced on 29 January 2019 by Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

Among the changes made by the bill:

A new definition for "wages", which includes amounts payable for services for time, piece work, or wholly or in part by way of commission.

Union delegates are entitled to reasonable paid time to represent employees.

A union which is party to a collective agreement may, at any time, request an employer which is party to the agreement to provide information about the role and functions of the union to prospective employees.

The duty of good faith requires parties to conclude collective agreements unless there is a genuine reason not to. Collective agreements are required to include rates of wages or salary.

Certain obligations are imposed on employers in respect of new employees who are not union members.

Some changes are made to matters which do not affect the validity of a notice of strike.

Small to medium sized employers (with fewer then 20 employees when the employment agreement is entered into) and new employees may agree to a trial employment period of up to 90 days.

There are changes to the provisions relating to entitlement to rest breaks and meal breaks.

There are changes to the provisions relating to restructuring. These include contracting in, contracting out, and subsequent contracting.