Further changes ahead for the Employment Relations Act 2000

Looking at the year ahead, we're likely to see further reforms to the Employment Relations Act 2000, with the proposed changes anticipated to come into effect in the second half of the year.

One area of the proposed reforms aims to further clarify Part 6A of the Act, which deals with 'vulnerable workers' whose work is affected by restructuring. The proposed changes include:

  • Exempting incoming employers with fewer than 20 employees from complying with Part 6A
  • Requiring outgoing employers to forward individual employee information to the incoming employer
  • Detailing a process to help outgoing and incoming employers to agree how to apportion accrued service-related entitlements of employees, and
  • Adding additional penalties and compliance orders for non-compliance with Part 6A.

Amendments to the collective bargaining regime are also expected, including changes to:

  • Empower the Employment Relations Authority to declare the end of collective bargaining in certain circumstances
  • Allow employers to opt-out of multi-employer bargaining
  • Allow partial pay reductions in cases of partial strike action, and
  • Remove the requirement for non-union members to be employed under the terms and conditions of a collective agreement (where one is in force which covers their work) for the first 30 days of employment.

Other changes include amending the duty of good faith in section 4 to align it more closely with the privacy principles in the Privacy Act 1983, and extending the right to request flexible working arrangements to all employees, from their first day of employment.

More details on the proposed changes can be found at www.dol.govt.nz

Employee's Facebook fallacy

Social networking forums have become the modus operandi of connecting, meeting and communicating for billions of people worldwide. Employees, however, need to realise that what is said in a supposedly private setting online often isn't as private as intended, as has been highlighted in the recent case of Taiapa v Te Runanga o Turanganui A Kiwa1 .

After requesting one week's leave without pay to attend a sporting championship and being granted only three days by his employer, Mr Taiapa reported in sick claiming he had damaged his calf muscle and was unit for work. Regrettably for Mr Taiapa, a colleague saw him leaving town with his family and his employer became aware of a photograph on Facebook showing Mr Taiapa smiling and giving the thumbs up with 'a large female sitting on his knee'.

After an investigation and based on a number of factors, Mr Taiapa was dismissed for serious misconduct by dishonestly taking sick leave. The Employment Relations Authority concluded it was open to a fair and reasonable employer to view Mr Taiapa's actions as dishonest and that they undermined the necessary trust and confidence required in the employment relationship.


1 [2012] NZERA Auckland 252

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