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Labour Minister’s May Day reminder

Labour Minister’s May Day reminder

Labour Minister Margaret Wilson has marked May Day with a reminder of the continued gains being made for New Zealand workers under the Labour-led government.

“Monday of next week sees the changes to our health and safety legislation come into force,” she said. “The changes ensure employees have the opportunity to participate in health and safety processes in their workplaces. Only through the co-operation of employees and employers can we ever hope to turn around this country’s appalling health and safety record.”

Margaret Wilson said the government has kept faith with the low paid by regularly boosting both the adult and youth minimum wage.

Increases in minimum wage rates on 24 March this year has seen the adult rate rise to $8.50 an hour and the youth rate to $6.80 per hour. This is the fourth annual increase since 1999 when the rates were $7 and $4.20 respectively.

Low-income working families were benefiting most from the Paid Parental Leave entitlements that came into force last year, Margaret Wilson said. Since July 1 when the scheme started, more than $45 million has been paid out, and over 15,000 people have successfully applied for Paid Parental Leave.

Margaret Wilson said the government’s Holidays Bill, which is currently before Select Committee, provides that employees who work on a public holiday must be paid at rate and a half. Employees will also continue to receive a day in lieu where the day is a normal working day.

“We are also strengthening special leave entitlements to ensure employees have clear and separate entitlements to sick and bereavement leave. These changes are consistent with our commitment to promoting work-life balance.“

There are plans to establish an inquiry into work-life balance and the government is also currently considering options to protect the rights of employees in situations of sale or transfer of business and contracting out.

We are also looking at the introduction of measures to address the gender pay gap, Margaret Wilson said.

“New Zealand women currently earn 84.3 per cent of the average hourly earnings of males. Lower incomes over a lifetime create barriers to women achieving their economic aspirations and continue to represent systemic discrimination.

“We are also committed to giving everyone and every group a fair go in employment. In October last year we appointed an EEO Commissioner who is responsible for providing advice and leadership on EEO matters, including developing guidelines and voluntary codes of practice.”

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