There have been multiple changes to New Zealand's employment
law framework. The biggest of these, changes to the Employment
Relations Act, take effect from today. But there are some other
changes too which employers will benefit from being aware of.
Here is a summary of what employers need to know.
Changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000
Changes to the Employment Relations Act 2000 take effect from 6
March 2015. In summary, what it means for employers is this:
Where there is a union presence in the workplace, employers do
not now have to offer the terms of the collective agreement to new
employees for the first 30 days of employment.
Employers can opt out of multi-employer bargaining and can also
seek a declaration that collective bargaining has concluded, when
deadlock has been reached, subject to the continuing obligation to
act in good faith.
Rules around rest breaks and meal breaks have eased in favour
of more flexible arrangements.
The right to request flexible working arrangements have been
extended to all employees, not just those with dependants. There is
no limit to when or how often an employee can request flexible
If an employer receives a request for flexible working
arrangements, the time frame for considering that request is
reduced from 3 months to one. The request can be refused by the
employer on the basis that flexible working cannot be accommodated
on one of the grounds set out in the Act.
Changes to protection of continuity of employment, most
significantly, exempting companies with 20 employees or less from
the requirement to provide continued employment to 'vulnerable
employees' in a restructure.
Other changes include pay deductions for employees who take
part in partial strikes, the requirement for a notice of strike,
clarification regarding release of confidential information and
timeframes within which the Employment Relations Authority must
provide a determination.
This all means that it is a good time to update your employment
agreements to ensure that all recent amendments have been
Minimum Wage Increase
From 1 April 2015 the adult minimum wage will increase by 50c
per hour to $14.75.
Paid Parental Leave Extended
Parental leave payments are extended from 14 to 16 weeks from 1
"Mondayising" of Public
Waitangi and ANZAC day have been 'Mondayised'. If they
fall on a Saturday or Sunday (which is not otherwise a working
day), they will be treated as falling on the following Monday. The
first occurrence of this will be ANZAC day which is on 25 April
2015 so the following Monday, 27 April 2015, will be treated as a
As with other public holidays, if a public holiday falls on a
day that would normally be a working day, the employee is entitled
not to work and be paid. If the day of the public holiday is not
normally a working day for the employee, the employee is entitled
to be paid time and a half for working that day.
Privacy Principles and the Use of Personal
Hammond v Credit Union Baywide has quickly become known
as "the cake case" and is a recent decision of the Human
Rights Review Tribunal in which a former employee was awarded
$168,000.00 following a breach of her privacy. The employee posted
a picture of a cake iced with swear words aimed at her former
employer on Facebook. The privacy settings on her Facebook page
were set to only show friends.
The ex-employer obtained a copy of the post and distributed that
information to recruitment agencies and the employee's new
employers. The Human Rights Review Tribunal found these steps were
taken with the express intent of ensuring the employee would not
find employment in the area, of terminating her new employment, and
with the intent of portraying her in a poor light.
This case serves as a warning to all employers to be very
careful about the way in which they use personal information of
prospective, current and former employees. The Privacy Act does not
allow unrestrained use of personal information and this case
demonstrates that the tribunal will be prepared to compensate a
person for a severe breach of their privacy.
Certainly, if there is a "heat of the moment"
situation, it is prudent to stop and think about privacy
obligations. If you are not sure, don't do it.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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