New Zealand Law Society - Major workplace law changes from 1 April

Major workplace law changes from 1 April

This article is over 3 years old. More recent information on this subject may exist.

A number of law changes affecting employers and businesses will come into effect on 1 April 2019 or on 6 May 2019.

Employsure Senior Workplace Consultant Ashlea Maley says there are five new and pending changes to employment law which are included in the Employment Relations Amendment Act 2018, the Domestic Violence Victims Protection Act 2018 and the Minimum Wage Order 2019.

From 1 April, employers will also be required to send their payroll information to Inland Revenue whenever they pay their staff.

Payday filing

Mandatory payday filing begins from 1 April. Inland Revenue says around 51,000 employers have already started and the rest have been set up with a payroll account in myIR so they can payday file for the first time in April.

The new law means that from 1 April 2019 employers must file employment information every payday instead of an Employer monthly schedule (IR348), provide new and departing employees' address information as well as their date of birth, and file electronically (from payday compatible software or through myIR) if their annual PAYE/ESCT is $50,000 or more.

The date for payment remains the same at the 20th or the month (or 5th and 20th of the month for twice-monthly filers).

Inland Revenue has a number of guides on the required processes.

Minimum Wage increase

From 1 April 2019, the Adult Minimum Wage will increase by $1.20 per hour to $17.70 an hour. The Starting-out and Training Minimum Wage rates will increase from $13.20 to $14.16 per hour; remaining at 80% of the Adult Minimum Wage.

“For any adult employees not currently earning at least $17.70 an hour, this pay increase is a variation to their employment contract. You may need to provide them with a variation in writing and make the relevant changes to their pay and pay slips,” says Ashlea Maley of Employsure.

“Being fully aware of the wage increases is something that is vitally important to running a business. Employees have to be paid at least the minimum hourly wage rate for every hour worked.”

Reinstatement of set meal and rest breaks

Rest and meal break rules will be introduced from 6 May 2019. There is a return to more regulation about the timing, frequency and duration of breaks.

“Employers and employees will need to mutually agree when breaks are to be taken. This agreement could be outlined in the employment contract, in a roster or in another system,” Ms Maley says.

“If there is no agreement set out, the law will require the breaks to be in the middle of the work period, so long as it’s reasonable and practicable to do so. Employers must pay for minimum rest breaks but don’t have to pay for minimum meal breaks.”

It’s also important to remember an employee must be given their entitled breaks: breaks cannot be exchanged for extra pay or time in lieu.

Limiting of 90-day trials

From 6 May 2019, an amended section 67A of the Employment Relations Act 2000 will mean 90-day trial periods will be restricted to businesses with fewer than 20 employees.

“If you want to use a 90 day trial period for a new employee, it remains crucial that, before starting work for you, the employee has signed an employment agreement containing such a clause,” Ashlea Malley says.

Larger businesses with 20 or more employees will no longer be able to use 90 day trial periods. However, they may continue to use probationary periods to assess an employee’s skills against the role’s responsibilities.

Domestic Violence Leave

From 1 April 2019, victims affected by domestic violence will have the right to request a short-term (up to two months) variation of their working arrangements. This could include variation to days and hours of work, place of work, and duties. Requests can only be refused by an employer on certain grounds.

“If you receive a request in writing, you must respond to it within ten working days. If you wish to request proof of the issue (such as a medical certificate, court order or police report), you must ask for this within three working days of receiving the request.," Ms Malley says.

An employee who has been working for an employer for more than six months will also be entitled to ten paid days leave to deal with effects of domestic violence on themselves or a child.

“If you are in any doubt about how to respond to an employee, please seek appropriate workplace specialist advice without delay.”

Union powers and collective bargaining

The 30-day rule will come back from 6 May 2019. This means that for the first 30 days, new employees must be employed under terms consistent with the collective agreement. The employer and employee may however agree more favourable terms than the collective.

There are also changes to the law relating to paid time for union delegates to represent employees.

New provisions in the Employment Relations Act 2000 will give union representatives the right to enter workplaces without consent from 6 May, provided the employees are covered under, or bargaining towards, a collective agreement.

“Union representatives can only enter your workplace for certain purposes, must be respectful of normal operating hours, and follow health, safety and security procedures. Where no collective agreement or bargaining exists, union representatives still need to seek consent before entering your workplace,” Ashlea Malley says.