New Zealand Law Society - Legislation for fairer workplaces announced

Legislation for fairer workplaces announced

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The Government has revealed the details of a new bill to amend the Employment Relations Act 2000.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway says the bill is designed to provide greater protections to workers, especially vulnerable workers, and strengthen the role of collective bargaining in the workplace to ensure fair wages and conditions.

“Making life better for working New Zealanders is a fundamental value for the Labour-led Government,” says Mr Lees-Galloway.

“Too many working New Zealanders are missing out on the benefits of economic growth under the current employment relations system.

“Good employment law strikes a balance between employers and workers. Under the previous Government the balance tipped away from fair working conditions for workers. We will restore that balance.  

“Many of the changes in the bill are focused on lifting wages through collective bargaining.

“We will also reinstate key minimum standards and protections to employees, such as the right to prescribed meal and rest breaks and limiting the use of 90 day trial periods to businesses with fewer than 20 employees.”

Mr Lees-Galloway says the legislation is expected to have its first reading in early February.

Rights for employees

  • Restoration of statutory rest and meal breaks.  
  • Restriction of 90 day trial periods to SME employers (less than 20 employees).  
  • Reinstatement will be restored as the primary remedy to unfair dismissal.  
  • Further protections for employees in the “vulnerable industries” (Part 6A).  

Collective bargaining and union rights

  • Restoration of the duty to conclude bargaining unless there is a good reason not to.  
  • Restoration of the earlier initiation timeframes for unions in collective bargaining.
  • Removal of the MECA opt out where employers can refuse to bargain for a multi-employer collective agreement.
  • Restoration of the 30 day rule where for the first 30 days new employees must be employed under terms consistent with the collective agreement.
  • Repeal of partial strike pay deductions where employers can garnish wages for low level industrial action.  
  • Restoration of union access without prior employer consent.

New proposals  

  • A requirement to include pay rates in collective agreements.  
  • A requirement for employers to provide reasonable paid time for union delegates to represent other workers (for example in collective bargaining)
  • A requirement for employers to pass on information about unions in the workplace to prospective employees along with a form for the employee to indicate whether they want to be a member.
  • Greater protections against discrimination for union members including an extension of the 12 month threshold to 18 months relating to discrimination based on union activities and new protections against discrimination on the basis of being a union member.