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Minister at odds with her department's advice

Tuesday, August 22nd, 2006

Labour Minister at odds with her department's advice: probationary employment debate

A breakfast debate today on Wayne Mapp's probationary employment Bill exposed the Minister of Labour's understanding of the Employment Relations Act 2000 on the issue.

At the debate hosted by the Employers & Manufacturers Association (Northern), Minister Ruth Dyson said Section 67 of the Employment Relations Act 2000 already allows employers to treat people differently during the probationary period.

The Minister said that with the probationary period currently provided, the employer can tell the employee what they are doing wrong, give them a chance to explain and improve, and if they still don't measure up, dismiss them.

But the Department of Labour's info line (tel 0800 209020) service tells callers there is, in effect, no difference between a probationer under the ERA and any other employee.

The debate between two MP's for the Bill - Wayne Mapp and Rodney Hide - and two against - Minister Ruth Dyson and the Greens Sue Bradford - was in front of a capacity audience of 160.

"Our legal advice is that Minister Dyson's explanation of the current legal provision for a probationary period is not correct", said EMA's chief executive, Alasdair Thompson.

"Susan-Jane Davies, head of EMA Legal, pointed out that Section 67(1)(b) Employment Relations Act 200 says:

"Neither the fact that the probation or trial period is specified, nor what is specified in respect of it, affects the application of the law relating to unjustified dismissal to a situation where the employee is dismissed during or at the end of the probation period."


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