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Trial periods will help workers not hinder them

Wednesday 23 August 2006

Trial periods will help workers not hinder them

"Opponents of the Employment Relations (Probationary Employment) Amendment Bill who will take to the streets in protest today, should put down their placards and take a closer look at this Bill which will help workers, not hinder them," says Maxim Institute's Legal Counsel, Alex Penk.

"The Bill, sponsored by National MP Dr Wayne Mapp and currently before a Select Committee, would give employers and potential employees the option of a grievance-free 90-day trial period, which could actually help many workers secure a good job."

"Without genuine trial periods, hiring inexperienced, young or unskilled workers, those with criminal convictions or new migrants, can be a risky move for many employers. The Bill would reduce this risk and encourage employers to give these workers a chance, enabling them to get a foot in the door," says Mr Penk.

"New Zealand is out of line with most other OECD countries, the majority of which allow a trial period for new employees in their employment law. In its 2005 Summary of the Economic Survey of New Zealand, the OECD stated that allowing probationary periods could improve the job prospects of "marginal groups of workers". It is time New Zealanders had the opportunity to benefit from such flexibility," Alex Penk says.

"The Bill aims to treat employees fairly and decently by preserving important rights, such as the right to be free from discrimination and to receive holiday pay and sick leave. However, some changes may be needed to make sure the right balance is struck between employers and employees."

"Maxim Institute's written submission on the Bill proposed an amendment to require an employer to give two weeks' notice before terminating a probationary employment. This would ensure that an employee has adequate time to make alternative plans if the relationship is not working out," says Alex Penk.

"Encouraging employers to take a chance on those struggling to break into the workforce deserves New Zealand's support and the support of those claiming to promote workers' rights," says Mr Penk.

Important points to note about the Bill:

* The anti-discrimination provisions in the Human Rights Act 1993 would still apply.
* Trial periods would only apply if employers and employees agreed to this.
* A worker on a 90-day probationary period would have the usual rights regarding sick leave and holiday pay. Other workplace protections, such as health and safety regulations, would still apply.


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