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Good and Bad in Employment Bill

4 December 2003 PR 247/03

Good And Bad In Employment Bill

At first glance there is good and bad for farmers in the Employment Relations Law Reform Bill, said Charlie Pedersen, Vice President, Federated Farmers of New Zealand (Inc).

The Bill, tabled in Parliament today, extends to contractors a free mediation service currently available only to employees.

"New Zealand farmers use a lot of contractors, especially in dairying which has 4,000 sharemilkers. The ability for them to access the mediation service is a positive move," said Mr Pedersen.

Mediators are employed by the Employment Relations Service as one of a range of free services to help people to resolve their employment relationship problems quickly and effectively.

However farmers who employ staff will not be happy about another change which will increase the difficulty of terminating an employment contract.

At present, if an employer dismisses a staff member and he or she takes a personal grievance, the judge tends to consider only the process of the termination.

Assuming the Bill become law, the judge will be required to consider reasons for termination in addition to process.

"The greater the risks to terminating staff, the greater the disincentive to hire new staff, especially young people with no track record of employment," he said.

"Given the differences of experience between a judge and a farmer, the judge cannot pretend to walk in the employer's shoes and say what is fair in hindsight."

Federated Farmers will oppose this section of the Bill when it is opened for public submissions. Otherwise there is a risk of fewer employment opportunities in farming, Mr Pedersen said.


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