The Government has announced further reforms to the Employment Relations Act (the "Act") which it proposes to include in legislation, which would come into effect in the second half of 2013.

Those reforms include:

  • Amending the duty of good faith in section 4 of the Act to align it more closely with the privacy principles in the Privacy Act. This would mean that employers would not be required to provide an employee with access to confidential personal information about another person, or evaluative material about the employee concerned, where an employer is proposing to make a decision that will, or is likely to, affect an employee's continued employment.
  • Changes relating to collective bargaining, including not requiring the parties to conclude a collective agreement. Employers will still be required to bargain in good faith with the intention of reaching an agreement, but it will be easier to cease fruitless bargaining where it is clear that agreement will not be reached. It is intendedto provide a process to seek a declaration from the Employment Relations Authority that collective bargaining has concluded.
  • Incorporating the Employment Relations (Rest Breaks and Meal Breaks) Amendment Bill into this Amendment Bill. This will provide employees and employers with more flexibility in determining rest and meal breaks.
  • An extension of the right to request flexible working arrangements for all workers, from their first day on the job.
  • As mentioned in our article, "Supreme Court Decides Vulnerable Workers Right to Bargain for Redundancy Entitlements", amendment is proposed to Part 6A of the Act which provides special protection for specified groups of employees (for example cleaners) when an employer's business undergoes restructuring and the employee's work is assigned to a new employer.

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