A Labour-led government means we will see a number of changes to the employment law landscape. Some of their policies likely to affect you include:

Changes to minimum employment rights

  • Minimum wage will increase to $16.50 per hour from 1 April 2018.
  • The length of paid parental leave will increase from 18 to 26 weeks from 1 July 2018.
  • 90-day trial periods will be altered, so employers must give reasons for dismissal, and disputes on trial period dismissals heard within 3 weeks.
  • The requirement for rest and meal breaks to be taken at specified time will be restored.
  • Reinstatement will again be the primary remedy for unjustified dismissal claims.
  • Protection for vulnerable workers where there is a sale or transfer of business will be enhanced.
  • Consultation on minimum redundancy compensation will begin.
  • The number of Labour Inspectors is to increase from 55 to 110 over the next three years. 

Collective bargaining

  • A new legislative system of industry and sector collective bargaining to create Fair Pay Agreements that set minimum conditions.
  • New workers will again be employed on the same terms and conditions as provided by an existing collective agreement covering their workplace for the first 30 days.
  • Employers' ability to deduct pay from workers on partial strike will be removed. 

Independent contractors

  • Introduce legal rights for "dependent contractors" who are effectively under the control of an employer, but who do not receive the same protection as employees.
  • Extend the right to organise and bargain collectively to contractors who primarily sell their labour. 

Some of these changes, such as increasing the minimum wage and extending paid parental leave have been well-signalled.  However, others, such as the proposals relating to independent contractors have the potential to fundamentally change the way some businesses operate. 

A third area that could dramatically affect the relationship between employers and employees is the proposal to introduce Fair Pay Agreements, which harks back to the system of national industrial awards that was scrapped in 1990.  Negotiations in an industry would begin once a sufficient percentage of employers or employees called for a Fair Pay Agreement.  An agreement would not be implemented until the majority of workers in an industry decided to support it. 

Whether these proposals are implemented, and to what degree, remains to be seen.  Many of them, such as Fair Pay Agreements, will require considerable planning and legislative drafting to produce a workable process, so for now it is business as usual.  We will keep you updated on these and other changes as they progress through parliament.

In the meantime, if you would like any advice on employment law issues, please contact our team today.

Written by Shima Grice at 00:00




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