The Government has announced a number of proposed changes to employment laws. The "employment law package" has been designed to increase employment and boost the economy. The Government will draft the proposed changes later this year and aim to implement them by July 2011.

90 Day Trial Period

The 90 day trial period for new employees will extend to all employers. Small employers fewer than 20 employees have since 1 April 2009 been able to hire employees on a 90 day trial. New employees can be dismissed within the first 90 days and cannot raise a personal grievance for unjustified dismissal. However, the mutual duty of good faith still applies.

Personal Grievances

Employer processes will not be subjected to pedantic scrutiny.

The Employment Relations Authority will be able to:

  • filter out vexatious or frivolous claims early on;
  • give priority to mediated cases;
  • penalise behaviour that delays the Authority's process; and
  • move to a more judicial process with the right to cross-examine witnesses.

Unions

Unions will need employer consent for access to the workplace. That consent will not be able to be unreasonably withheld.

Holidays Act

  • Employees will be able to trade in one week's annual leave for cash. Strict conditions would apply to ensure employers could not force employees to do so.
  • Employers and employees can agree to transfer the observance of public holidays to another working day.
  • Penalties will double for employers who breach the Holidays Act.
  • Employers will be able to require an employee to produce proof of any sickness or injury, but this would be at the employer's cost. The current law provides that an employer can require proof after three consecutive sick days.

These changes seem likely to provide further encouragement and certainty for employers. If you need any clarification about any facet of the employment law package, please contact the employment team at Duncan Cotterill.

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.