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Employment Law Changes

Employment Law Changes

Employment Law Changes

Friday 31 May, 2019

The introduction of the Labour government has seen a recent shake up to employment legislation.  Many of the changes are a restoration of standards and protections for employees as well as being intended to promote and strengthen collective bargaining and union rights in the workplace. 

The changes came in two waves, with the second set of changes taking effect on 6 May 2019.  The changes likely to have the greatest impact on employees and employers alike are the restoration of stipulated rest and meal breaks, limiting the use of 90-day trial periods and the introduction of domestic violence leave. 

The Employment Relations Act 2000 now stipulates the duration and number of rest and meal breaks that an employee, at minimum, is entitled to in a working day.  Employers may agree the timing of breaks with the employee, but where agreement cannot be reached the timing set out in the Act will prevail.

Employers with 20 or more employees are no longer entitled to use 90-day trial periods.  A probationary period may be used as an alternative, but there are some important differences between the two. There is a process for terminating employment when relying on a probationary period and it is important that the process is followed, as an employee is not barred from bringing a personal grievance in respect of such a dismissal. 

Domestic violence leave is a new concept but operates much the same as sick and bereavement leave.  Employees become entitled to 10 days of domestic violence leave after completing six months of continuous employment.  The leave may be taken by an employee who is “a person affected by domestic violence” but any untaken leave on termination is not paid out.  As well as leave, employees affected by domestic violence may seek variations to their working arrangements for up to two months to help them deal with the affects.

Given the recent updates, now is a good time to review your employment agreements and policies.  Please contact a member of the employment team if you would like assistance with a review and update of your employment documents.