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Labour’s new employment policy agenda unworkable

Media statement Wednesday, August 31st, 2005

Labour’s new employment policy agenda unworkable

The third major round of employment law changes unveiled yesterday as policy for another term under Labour are unworkable, says David Lowe, Employment Services Manager for the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern).

“Labour’s planned employment changes may seem fine and dandy except to the businesses paying for them, and which have to make them work,” Mr Lowe said.

“Whoever wrote this agenda has no understanding of how business operates, especially smaller businesses, and its unworkable.

“Many of the changes are of the same ilk as last year’s. These are failing because they were rail roaded through Parliament, ignoring employers’ warnings they wouldn’t work.

“In fact one of the policies is to correct the huge mistake when last year they made so called vulnerable workers the least protected of all workers.

“Employers warned that would happen; here we are again trying to leak more warnings the same type of thing will happen under this latest round of ‘fine tuning’.

“Under the Labour’s employment relations policies business and jobs will be harmed from the extra compliance and costs of the following:

1. When an employee changes jobs, their employer would be obliged to write out a cheque to the new employer to cover annual leave, sick leave and bereavement leave. We have no idea, for example, how any employer could calculate the value of sick leave said to be owing. What is the liability if the sick leave was never going to be taken and no cost ever incurred?

2. Labour plans to force employers to keep staff of contractors found not to be doing their jobs properly. Eg. under Labour a kindergarten that sacked a cleaning company because its cleaners were not doing the job would be forced to keep the same cleaners on to clean their premises.

3. Self-employed business people would become entitled to the same rights as a company’s other staff if they were lucky enough to get the company to offer them a lot of work.

4. If the planned review of redundancy leads to new legislation, businesses would be obliged to provide for that liability in their books. As a result some could become technically insolvent.

5. Meal breaks, though not an issue at present, have to be tailored to individual workplaces. A café for example, has entirely different needs to a manufacturing plant.

6. No word on Labour support for the Green’s Flexible Working Hours Bill. This would force employers to agree to an employees request to change their hours of work.

“Labour Minister Paul Swain indicated at the Business New Zealand Election Conference last week that the legislative changes to employment law were largely complete. This new policy indicates he is poorly informed as the latest policy agenda has major ramifications.

“It is disappointing neither Labour nor National have recognized the special employment compliance burden faced by small businesses.

“It has got so hard some of them are just not bothering at all with employment law requirements. Any relief would be very welcome.”

ENDS

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