Employment Legislation Changes 2019

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The Employment Relations Amendment Bill 2018 has passed in Parliament and employers can expect to feel some deja vu as many of the changes roll back legislation passed by the National Government between 2008 - 2017.

 A number of employment law changes are coming into effect this year.

 The first wave of changes come into effect today Monday 1 April 2019, with the second wave coming into effect on 6 May 2019.

 Changes coming in to force on 1 April 2019

  •  Minimum Wage Increase

From 1 April 2019 the minimum wage rate for adults has increased from $16.50 to $17.70 gross per hour.

 The starting-out and training wage rates have increased from $13.20 to $14.16 per hour – remaining at 80% of the adult minimum wage.

  • Domestic Violence Leave

As of 1 April 2019, employees who have completed 6 months continuous service with their current employer will be entitled to 10 days of paid domestic violence leave per year for the purpose of “dealing with the effects of domestic violence”.

 In addition, employees affected by domestic violence can request a short-term (up to two months) variation to their working arrangements. An employer must respond to any such request in writing within 10 working days from the date the request is made.

 Employers will be entitled to request proof that the employee meets the definition of a ‘person affected by domestic violence’. Such proof may be in the form of medical certificates, a court order or a police report.

 Domestic violence leave does not accrue but will renew each year, and it is not paid out if employment ends.

 Changes coming in to force on 6 May 2019

  • 90 day trial period

From 6 May 2019 onward, employers with 20 or more employees will be no longer be able to use the 90 day trial period. However, any trial period which commenced before 6 May and is still active at this date will be valid until the trial period is complete.

Employers with fewer than 20 staff will retain the ability to use the trial period.

The Government’s suggested alternative to the trial period is the ‘probation period’ which is available to employers of any size. The probation period does not affect the application of the law relating to dismissal i.e. where an employer terminates an employee within a probationary period, the employer must follow a fair process and the employee will have the right to take a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal to the Employment Relations Authority.

  • Rest and Meal Breaks

Mandatory rest and meal breaks will be restored as of 6 May 2019. 

The timing and duration of breaks is to be agreed between employers and employees. Failing agreement, legislation will require breaks to be in the middle of the work period (provided this is reasonable and practicable).

The legislation will no longer allow the parties to agree to exchange a break for extra pay or time in lieu.

Employers are required to pay for rest breaks, but there is no requirement to pay for minimum meal breaks.

 A suggested rest and meal break schedule is as follows:

Between 2 – 4 hours - 1 x 10 minute rest break (paid) 

Between 4 – 6 hours - 1 x 10 minute rest break (paid) 1 x 30 minute meal break (unpaid) 

Between 6 – 8 hours -  2 x 10 minute rest break (paid) 1 x 30 minute meal break (unpaid) 

Between 8 – 10 hours - 3 x 10 minute rest break (paid) 1 x 30 minute meal break (unpaid) 

Between 10 - 12 hours - 3 x 10 minute rest break (paid) 2 x 30 minute meal break (unpaid)  

  • Unions / Collective Bargaining

As of 6 May 2019:

  • Employers will be required to allow union delegates reasonable paid time during working hours to perform their duties.

  • Reinstatement of the requirement for parties to conclude bargaining and repealing the provisions that enable the Employment Relations Authority to determine that bargaining has concluded.

  • Reinstatement of the ability of unions to initiate collective bargaining 20 days before an employer can.

  • Requirement for a collective agreement to contain rates of pay and that rates of pay must be agreed during collective bargaining, (96% of existing CEA’s already include this information).

  • Reinstatement of the ’30 Day Rule’ which requires all new employees (who would be covered under the CEA coverage clause) are afforded the same terms and conditions as the applicable collective agreement for the first 30 days of their employment.

  • Employers will be required to provide information about the role and functions of the applicable union when an intended individual employment agreement is given to prospective employees.

Employment Agreements and policy manuals will need to be reviewed and updated to ensure compliance with these changes.  

Knowhow has developed workplace policies and employment agreement provisions relating to the legislative changes to ensure we can assist you with compliance.  

Please contact us at (09) 377 9891 if you require our assistance.

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Joanne Whyte