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Employment Law Changes On Hold

Employment Law Changes On Hold

Alison Maelzer, Senior Associate at Hesketh Henry recently wrote, “Isn't it funny how one thing influences another? Who would have thought that an Auckland mayoral candidate's lunch date at a large German man's large house would have scuppered the Government's changes to employment laws?

“When National was re-elected in 2011, changes to the employment laws were part of its election platform. The Government introduced the Employment Relations Amendment Bill in June 2013.

After a few changes on its way through select committee, the Bill has been patiently awaiting its second reading, with the Government safe in the knowledge that it had the numbers to get the Bill passed.

“Now of course, John Banks has resigned as an MP, following the High Court's finding with regard to Kim Dotcom's ‘anonymous’ donation to the mayoralty campaign back in 2010. This means that the Government is left with enough votes to govern (with the Maori party's support on confidence and supply) but does not have the numbers to pass the Employment Relations Amendment Bill.

The Prime Minister has been pretty open in admitting that the Bill is unlikely to go through this term, and it is far more likely to be put on the carryover list, awaiting what he hopes will be a third term in government.

“So after all the anticipation of a change to employment laws... well, nothing. We wait.

“Our clients have been getting their ducks in a row to be ready for the (formerly) forthcoming changes to rest and meal breaks, collective bargaining, and strikes and lockouts. I'm sure that the Employment Relations Authority will have been preparing for the changes to the manner and time within which it delivers its determinations.

“So what are the main changes that are on hold? One that a number of our clients have been anticipating is the removal of the '30 day rule' which requires new employees whose work will fall within the coverage of an existing collective agreement to be employed on the terms of that collective for the first 30 days of employment. That rule is still applicable (at least for the short to mid-term future). For those businesses and unions who are currently bargaining or who are expecting to bargain in the near future, the duty of good faith will still mean that they need to conclude a collective agreement (unless there is good reason not to).

“A number of clients have also been eagerly awaiting the changes to the rest and meal break provisions, which will (or perhaps would have!) allowed employers to place restrictions on when and how employees take their breaks.

“So once again, we are in a holding pattern. The strange episode of the mayoral candidate, the mega-German, and a stray cheque or two, has had a significant ripple effect, putting the brakes on .


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